January 19, 2010

Cuba's solidarity with Haiti

From Cuba's Granma newspaper
Left: Cuban Doctors were already in Haiti

Desolation and Death

PORT-AU-PRINCE, January 14.— Haitian Prime Minister Jean Max-Berllerive said
that one of the reasons for the high number of fatalities caused by the
January 12 earthquake is the serious degree of poverty, which forces many
families to live in precarious housing and extremely crowded conditions.

[image: Desolation and Death]The population of the Haitian capital underwent
another day of anguish on Thursday, in the midst of the chaos and desolation
caused by the collapse of a large part of the city, Prensa Latina reported.

The magnitude of the tragedy, which has yet to be assessed with precision,
is greater than authorities’ capacities, the prime minister stated in a
press conference.

"We lack a response to an event like this. We are depending on international
aid for dealing with this disaster."

Beginning on Tuesday night, other countries in the region and elsewhere in
the world, as well as international organizations, announced the
mobilization of emergency resources to aid victims.

It was learned that Cuban Joel Melo Torres, who was receiving medical
attention in Port-au-Prince and had been reported in a serious condition,
has been flown from that city to Santiago de Cuba, where he is being treated
at the Juan Bruno Zayas clinical-surgical hospital. Two other Cubans who
were slightly injured, Alberto Bravo Carbonell, director of the education
brigade, and Alina Almeida Rivera, from the same brigade, also returned to

Cuban doctors in Haiti have continued to work, almost without rest and as of
late Thursday night had attended to 1,987 patients and carried out 111 major
and 60 minor surgeries in an improvised field hospital, according to


ON Wednesday morning, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla
received his counterpart from the Republic of Suriname, Lygia Louise Irene
Kraag-Keteldijk, who is on an official visit to our country.

As part of official talks between the two ministers, Rodríguez gave a
detailed explanation of the situation of Cuban cooperation workers in the
sister Republic of Haiti after the terrible earthquake that occurred on

In that context, he clarified that there are currently "403 Cuban
cooperative personnel, 334 of whom are working in the heath sector as
doctors and paramedics," in the devastated country. He said they had been
able to confirm the status of all those working "within the city of
Port-au-Prince. Only two of them received very slight injuries, and the
others have confirmed that they are all right."

"We are verifying the situation and gathering complete information about
cooperative workers in other parts of the country. We have been able to
locate the majority of them and they are fine," he assured.

The minister added that victims have been receiving medical attention from
the Cuban brigade since the earthquake struck. He noted that "they are now
working in two campaign hospitals in our medical personnel’s accommodation

He said that plans are underway to more emergency aid to the sister
Caribbean nation, consisting of "a quantity of medicine and heath materials.
An additional number of doctors are to travel there."

"Our ambassador and other *compañeros* working in Port-au-Prince spent the
entire night and early morning touring the city to contact our compatriots
there because communication lines have collapsed. Equally, "the team from
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working tirelessly to coordinate the
response from all of our institutions."
The Cuban foreign affairs minister reiterated Cuba’s disposition to
participate in any CARICOM effort. "In this context we are in contact with
the CARICOM mission and we will certainly work together there to provide
assistance to the Haitian people."

The lesson of Haiti

TWO days ago, at almost six o’clock in the evening Cuban time and when,
given its geographical location, night had already fallen in Haiti,
television stations began to broadcast the news that a violent earthquake –
measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale – had severely struck Port-au-Prince. The
seismic phenomenon originated from a tectonic fault located in the sea just
15 kilometers from the Haitian capital, a city where 80% of the population
inhabit fragile homes built of adobe and mud.

The news continued almost without interruption for hours. There was no
footage, but it was confirmed that many public buildings, hospitals, schools
and more solidly-constructed facilities were reported collapsed. I have read
that an earthquake of the magnitude of 7.3 is equivalent to the energy
released by an explosion of 400,000 tons of TNT.

Tragic descriptions were transmitted. Wounded people in the streets were
crying out for medical help, surrounded by ruins under which their relatives
were buried. No one, however, was able to broadcast a single image for
several hours.

The news took all of us by surprise. Many of us have frequently heard about
hurricanes and severe flooding in Haiti, but were not aware of the fact that
this neighboring country ran the risk of a massive earthquake. It has come
to light on this occasion that 200 years ago, a massive earthquake similarly
affected this city, which would have been the home of just a few thousand
inhabitants at that time.

At midnight, there was still no mention of an approximate figure in terms of
victims. High-ranking United Nations officials and several heads of
government discussed the moving events and announced that they would send
emergency brigades to help. Given that MINUSTAH (United Stabilization
Mission in Haiti) troops are deployed there – UN forces from various
countries – some defense ministers were talking about possible casualties
among their personnel.

It was only yesterday, Wednesday morning, when the sad news began to arrive
of enormous human losses among the population, and even institutions such as
the United Nations mentioned that some of their buildings in that country
had collapsed, a word that does not say anything in itself but could mean a

For hours, increasingly more traumatic news continued to arrive about the
situation in this sister nation. Figures related to the number of fatal
victims were discussed, which fluctuated, according to various versions,
between 30,000 and 100,000. The images are devastating; it is evident that
the catastrophic event has been given widespread coverage around the world,
and many governments, sincerely moved by the disaster, are making efforts to
cooperate according to their resources.

The tragedy has genuinely moved a significant number of people, particularly
those in which that quality is innate. But perhaps very few of them have
stopped to consider why Haiti is such a poor country. Why does almost 50% of
its population depend on family remittances sent from abroad? Why not
analyze the realities that led Haiti to its current situation and this
enormous suffering as well?

The most curious aspect of this story is that no one has said a single word
to recall the fact that Haiti was the first country in which 400,000
Africans, enslaved and trafficked by Europeans, rose up against 30,000 white
slave masters on the sugar and coffee plantations, thus undertaking the
first great social revolution in our hemisphere. Pages of insurmountable
glory were written there. Napoleon’s most eminent general was defeated
there. Haiti is the net product of colonialism and imperialism, of more than
one century of the employment of its human resources in the toughest forms
of work, of military interventions and the extraction of its natural

This historic oversight would not be so serious if it were not for the real
fact that Haiti constitutes the disgrace of our era, in a world where the
exploitation and pillage of the vast majority of the planet’s inhabitants

Billions of people in Latin American, Africa and Asia are suffering similar
shortages although perhaps not to such a degree as in the case of Haiti.

Situations like that of that country should not exist in any part of the
planet, where tens of thousands of cities and towns abound in similar or
worse conditions, by virtue of an unjust international economic and
political order imposed on the world. The world population is not only
threatened by natural disasters such as that of Haiti, which is a just a
pallid shadow of what could take place in the planet as a result of climate
change, which really was the object of ridicule, derision, and deception in

It is only just to say to all the countries and institutions that have lost
citizens or personnel because of the natural disaster in Haiti: we do not
doubt that in this case, the greatest effort will be made to save human
lives and alleviate the pain of this long-suffering people. We cannot blame
them for the natural phenomenon that has taken place there, even if we do
not agree with the policy adopted with Haiti.

But I have to express the opinion that it is now time to look for real and
lasting solutions for that sister nation.

In the field of healthcare and other areas, Cuba – despite being a poor and
blockaded country – has been cooperating with the Haitian people for many
years. Around 400 doctors and healthcare experts are offering their services
free of charge to the Haitian people. Our doctors are working every day in
227 of the country’s 337 communes. On the other hand, at least 400 young
Haitians have trained as doctors in our homeland. They will now work with
the reinforcement brigade which traveled there yesterday to save lives in
this critical situation. Thus, without any special effort being made, up to
1,000 doctors and healthcare experts can be mobilized, almost all of whom
are already there willing to cooperate with any other state that wishes to
save the lives of the Haitian people and rehabilitate the injured.

Another significant number of young Haitians are currently studying medicine
in Cuba.

We are also cooperating with the Haitian people in other areas within our
reach. However, there can be no other form of cooperation worthy of being
described as such than fighting in the field of ideas and political action
in order to put an end to the limitless tragedy suffered by a large number
of nations such as Haiti.

The head of our medical brigade reported: "The situation is difficult, but
we have already started saving lives." He made that statement in a succinct
message hours after his arrival yesterday in Port-au-Prince with additional
medical reinforcements.

Later that night, he reported that Cuban doctors and ELAM’s Haitian
graduates were being deployed throughout the country. They had already seen
more than 1,000 patients in Port-au-Prince, immediately establishing and
putting into operation a hospital that had not collapsed and using field
hospitals where necessary. They were preparing to swiftly set up other
centers for emergency care.

We feel a wholesome pride for the cooperation that, in these tragic
instances, Cuba doctors and young Haitian doctors who trained in Cuba are
offering our brothers and sisters in Haiti!

Fidel Castro Ruz
January 14, 2009
8:25 p.m.

Translated by Granma International

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