Wednesday, October 26, 2011

UN General Assembly condemn the US's Blockade of Cuba

For the 20th year in a row, the UN General Assembly has voted to condemn the United States’ 50-year-old economic embargo on Cuba. How did the votes turn out this year?
YES (against embargo) – 186
NO (in favor of embargo) – 2

Last year there were 187 votes in favor of ending  U.S. sanctions on Cuba, two against (Israel and the U.S.) and three abstentions (Palau, Marshall Islands, and Micronesia).  Again, we are reminded of the fact that the rest of the world is against us for our policy towards Cuba.

Statements from 2011 UN General Assembly Vote on Cuban Embargo

“Since 1996, the Government of Australia has consistently supported General Assembly resolutions calling for an end to the trade embargo against Cuba. Australia has no trade or economic legislation or measures which restricts or discourages trade or investment to or from Cuba.”


“The Brazilian Government has consistently opposed the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against Cuba. Accordingly, Brazil has also continued to foster and pursue a growing economic relationship with Cuba.”

“The maintenance of the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba is inconsistent with the dynamic regional policy that has recently been marked by the return of Cuba to dialogue and cooperation forums of the Americas.”


“This [embargo] is not only a serious violation of the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and of relevant United Nations resolutions, but also a source of immense economic and financial losses for Cuba. It is an impediment to efforts by the Cuban people to eradicate poverty, to promote their economic and social development and to attain the Millennium Development Goals, it impairs the Cuban people’s right to survival and development, and it adversely affects normal economic, commercial and financial relations between Cuba and other countries.”

“China hopes that the United States, in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and relevant United Nations resolutions, will put an end as soon as possible to its blockade against Cuba and it also hopes that relations between the two countries will continue to improve, thus promoting stability and development in the entire Latin American and Caribbean region.”


“The Government of Colombia will continue the political support it has always given Cuba, and reaffirms that in conformity with its obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and international law.”

Costa Rica

“The Government of Costa Rica wishes to reiterate that it has not enacted or applied laws intended to enforce the economic embargo against Cuba, and that it is complying with United Nations General Assembly resolution 65/6.”

El Salvador

"Reiterating its support for the Latin American and Caribbean consensus and the solidarity of the majority of United Nations Member States in their endorsement of General Assembly resolution 65/6, the Republic of El Salvador calls for the elimination of these measures against the Republic of Cuba and reports, in accordance with the above-mentioned resolution, that it has never promulgated or applied laws or measures the extraterritorial effects of which would affect the sovereignty of the Republic of Cuba and its citizens."

European Union

“…the European Union and its member States have been clearly expressing their opposition to the extraterritorial extension of the United States embargo, such as that contained in the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 and the Helms-Burton Act of 1996.”

Holy See

“The Holy See has never drawn up or applied economic, commercial or financial laws or measures against Cuba.”


“Honduras, in fulfilment of its obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and international law, has refrained from promulgating laws and regulatory provisions that might affect its trade relations with Cuba.”


“Japan shares the concern, arising from the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 (known as the Helms-Burton Act) and the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, that, if application of such legislation causes undue hardship in relation to the economic activities of the enterprises or nationals of a third party, the legislation is likely to run counter to international law regarding the extraterritorial application of domestic laws.”


“Mexico emphasizes that [the embargo] has serious humanitarian consequences that are contrary to international law and, moreover, signify the abandonment of diplomacy and dialogue as the appropriate ways of settling disputes between States.”

“The Government of Mexico has also consistently opposed Cuba’s economic and political-diplomatic isolation. It has therefore firmly supported Cuba’s inclusion in all regional integration machinery in order to promote economic and commercial exchange, cooperation and development.”

Russian Federation

“The blockade against Cuba, which has endured for almost half a century, has manifestly demonstrated its inability to influence the Cuban people in their sovereign choice of a model of development. The sole consequences of the sanctions that have been imposed are the worsening living conditions of the Cuban people, the erection of artificial barriers to the growth of the country’s economy and encroachments upon the rights and interests of third countries.” 

“We are convinced that [lifting the embargo],unlike the discriminatory practice of economic “strangulation”, will help ensure the success of the progressive social and economic reforms currently being implemented by the Cuban authorities.”

World Food Programme 

“The United States embargo continues to severely limit trade and has a direct impact on the capacity and efficiency of Cuba’s logistics infrastructure, […] food processing and agricultural production. The efficiency of the food-based social safety nets of the Cuban Government’s, which are instrumental to household food security, is thereby negatively affected. This year, the effect is even more crippling because of the combined factors of rising food prices and persistent drought in Cuba.”

World Health Organization

“In the health sector, the consequences of the embargo have a negative multiplier effect on the cost of basic everyday health products, on the difficulties in acquiring health products, on the availability of basic services and, therefore, on the overall living conditions of the population.”

“The embargo also stunts public health development in Cuba by preventing the country’s access to loans and donations from international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, as well as by limiting its access to philanthropic contributions and donations from civil society in the United States.”

“The embargo affects the individual health care of all people, regardless of age or gender, through its impact on Cuba’s unified health system institutions, research facilities, epidemiological surveillance institutions and disease control agencies.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Unchartered Cuba: A "Sister-Country" in “Globalized Times”

 (Dr. Balseiro with members of NSCuba and presenting at Dalhousie)

Dr. Jorge T. Balseiro Estevez visited Halifax as part of a 14 city Canada wide tour including also Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, Gatineau, Toronto, Kingston, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Nanaimo, Victoria, Winnipeg and Windsor. 
During his presentation at Dalhousie University in Halifax on October 19th, Dr. Balseiro talked about some stepping stones on the history of the Cuban Missions. He said they started with the Cuban experience in helping Chileans affected by the earthquake of 1960, and also benefitted from what they learned while helping Argelians in the aftermath of the 1963 earthquake, and from what they learned during the many helping missions to Africa and Central America during the 1970s and 1980s. Today, medical solidarity and cooperation is Cuba´s way of providing health care and it is very much rooted in who they are as a nation. Cubans have projects with 48 countries and more than a fifth (22%) of Cuban doctors work outside of Cuba and in projects of medical solidarity and cooperation like the one implemented in Haiti.  

Dr. Balseiro, a psychiatrist by training, explained that at the time of the arrival of Cubans in Haiti in 1998, right after hurricane Georges caused 230 deaths, the destruction of 80% of the crops and left 167 000 people homeless, Cubans had nothing in place and had to start from scratch. They were so busy with the project that they survived their first month on canned sardines and tuna. They could not trust the food supply which was probably contaminated, but also they had no time to cook for themselves.

At one point, he remembered, Canadian and American military offered the Cuban Mission protection thinking that they needed it. We Cubans did not accept it, he said, because we felt protected by the people of Haiti who made us feel safe and at home. What many people outside of Haiti and Cuba do not know is that Cuban doctors have been so crucial to Haiti that Haiti’s President René Preval had referred to them as “second only to God.” Cuban doctors know this, feel value; they know Haitians welcome their efforts and appreciate the work they do now for more than 10 years.

On the aftermath of the earthquake that caused so much destruction in Haiti in 2010, Cubans already had much experience in Haiti and have developed strong links with the Haitian people. Dr. Balseiro was part of the emergency response and remembers how people were in shock after the earthquake. Helpers had to be creative, he said, find ways to deal with a traumatized population even with very limited resources. Shock, he explained, is a normal response to traumatic events and providing supports for children, adolescents and adults to help them overcome the trauma experienced became a big part of the work Cubans did. The worse, he remembers, was the cholera epidemic that followed; they had to face it with limited supplies of oxygen bottles which forced them to rationing oxygen among patients if they were to ensure everybody a chance at survival. He shared proudly that they managed so well these challenges that they did not lose a single patient.

Despite the valuable work that for more than a decade Cubans are doing in Haiti many people ignores their presence there. It is not common knowledge. Most people ignore the work Cubans have done or their dedication. The work of Cubans helping Haiti continues to be a very well kept secret, and one that most of us are unlikely to learn as long as we read the international press. The same press that often highlights the role Americans, Canadians and MSF (Doctors Without Borders) have played in Haiti, fails to mention the Cuban presence there. And yet, Cuban effectiveness is difficult to hide when you go through the data which proves their work unmatched by anyone else and their help not only more extensive in time and effort but also more efficient in resource management.

“In general, international news reports ignored Cuba’s efforts. By March 24, CNN for example, had 601 reports on their news website regarding the earthquake in Haiti — of which only 18 (briefly) referenced Cuban assistance. Similarly, between them the New York Times and the Washington Post had 750 posts regarding the earthquake and relief efforts, though not a single one discusses in any detail any Cuban support.” [1]

Nevertheless, Cuba continues working in Haiti as it has been doing since 1998, implementing a very effective approach in dealing with the public health issue Haiti faces. Cuba provides not only hundreds of doctors to attend to Haiti’s medical needs, and it has committed to do so for as long as Haiti needs it, but it also provides medical training through ELAM (Latin America School of Medicine) which ensures that in the future Haiti will have its own medical personnel. In fact, the first group of medical students started their training in May 1999, and these days graduates and students from ELAM are part of the effort and work together with other medical personnel in Haiti. [2]

The table below [3] points to the effectiveness of the Cuban effort. Cubans have managed with almost half the personnel to treat more than 4 times the number of patients and to perform almost twice the number of surgeries that MSF (Doctors Without Borders) had  –not mentioning the greater amount of resources available to MSF.

Comparative Medical Contributions in Haiti by March 23, 2010. 
No. of Staff
No. of Patients Treated
No. of Surgeries

Important statistics about the specifics of the Cuban medical mission in Haiti include number of visits to the doctor, doctors visits to patients, attended births, surgeries, vaccinations, and lives saved, as in the table below.[4] These numbers are an eye opener as it puts in perspective the size of the service provided by Cuban medical personnel and helps see more clearly how Haitians benefit. 

Selected Statistics on Cuban Medical Cooperation, Dec. 1998-May 2007 [5]
Visits to the doctor
Doctor visits to patients
Attended births
Major and minor surgeries
Lives saved (emergency)

Data [5] on health indicators for improvements in public health also highlight the success Cubans have Haiti; there are marked improvements in infant, child and maternal mortality as well as on life expectancy since Cuban arrived in 1998.  

Improvements in Public Health in Haiti, 1999-2007 
Health Indicator
Infant Mortality, per 1,000 live births
Child Mortality Under 5 per 1,000
Maternal Mortality per 100,000 live births
Life Expectancy (years)

Furthermore, Cuba, together with ALBA (Alianza Bolivariana para los pueblos de Nuestra America), has presented a project to the World Health Organization focusing on the reconstruction of health care in Haiti. This project counts with the support of Brazil while it is run by Cubans; it includes hospitals, polyclinics, medical schools and a comprehensive approach to health and yet, it has not been reported by the media.  

Thus, although Cubans have worked hard and well in Haiti, their approach has been successful, Haitians value the work they do and Haitian authorities have recognized their success publicly and internationally, we rarely learn about it from the Media. Why is it that the press ignores the relevant role Cuba plays in Haiti? Why do we rarely heard for example that the President of Haiti and its Prime Minister publicly acknowledge Cuban help as “second” to none. Why is it that there is no mention, nor recognition for the support and solidarity Cuba and members of the ALBA coalition have provided to Haiti? Why is it that most people know nothing, or next to nothing, about how Cubans have helped since 1998, and continue to help, in the reconstruction of health care in Haiti? 

I am not about to post the answers to these questions, but I believe it is crucial to ask them –as they need to be considered and explored. Is there any reason why we should not know about the Cuban role in Haiti? Is there anything problematic about us knowing how Cuba helps?

I have my theory and believe that Cuba, although a small country, has selected its own path: it has chosen to establish relationships with others based on solidarity and support rather than on self-interest and revenue. Now, a small country like Cuba, facing so many challenges to its survival, and not allowing these challenges to define. or limit how it defines, its identity and instead chooses to struggle and find creative ways to overcome whatever limitations, it is a noteworthy country. Cuba works at "making it" without losing sight of the vision it has built for itself, without forgetting “the country it aspires to become.”  Now, a country like that can no longer be considered "small;" it can certainly become an example to others.

I believe, that a country with big dreams can be perceived as dangerous particularly at times like these we live, times were “globalizing is everything." Worse, a country proud enough to be different, unique even, and in the process of becoming more, rather than less, in tune with its own uniqueness, can be problematic for those who rule, or aspire to rule, the world. Global tyrants of today and the future have plans for turning us all into “more of the same;” they would not want, or allow, us to aspire to be “different.”  Maybe, because of this Cuba has to be omitted, ignored, left unknown to many of us. Maybe this is why Cuba has to be presented as “bad” or the "enemy" whenever possible. We are not allowed to have big dreams, to dream big projects for a unifying humanity working for the well being of all its members. We are only allowed their “nightmares of a global nature," their visions of a world working only for a few and leaving the majority of us behind.

Nora Fernández

[1] Cuban Medical Aid to Haiti: One of the World’s Best Kept Secrets, EJ Kirk & JM Kirk,
[2] Cuban Medical Aid to Haiti: One of the World’s Best Kept Secrets, EJ Kirk & JM Kirk,,. 
[3] Cuban Medical Aid to Haiti: One of the World’s Best Kept Secrets, EJ Kirk & JM Kirk, 
[4]  Anna Kovac, “Cuba Trains Hundred of Haitian Doctors to Make a Difference,” August 6, 2007. Located on the MEDICC website (February 2, 2010). In: Cuban Medical Aid to Haiti: One of the World’s Best Kept Secrets, EJ Kirk & JM Kirk,   .
[5]  Cuban Medical Aid to Haiti: One of the World’s Best Kept Secrets, EJ Kirk & JM Kirk, -See entry for “Haiti” on the Pan American Health Organization website, found at, accessed February 2 2010.

Monday, October 24, 2011

HavanaFax is back!

Avi Garcia, Jorge Chicoy, Silvio Pupo, Dismer Hachzavarria and Augusto Enriquez are here from Havana. They will performing for a month, teaching and promoting the Los Primos Project. And, on Saturday, October 29 they will be performing together with Augusto Enriquez at King Theatre at Annapolis Royal.
  • Sunday Jazz – Oct 23 
Chicoy and Avi, Silvio and David Burton will be at Stayners from 5 to 9.

  • Wednesday – Oct 26

The Guitar event of the year (even better than Jeff Beck)
                    Jorge Chicoy – guitar
                    Geordie Haley – guitar
                    Scott Macmillan – guitar
                    Al Sutherland – guitar
                    David Burton – drums
                    Jamie Gatti – bass

Yes that’s right 4 world class guitar players on stage at the same time. 

  • Thursday – Oct 27
HavanaFax Clinic and Concert at St FX in Antigonish

  • Friday – Oct 28
Los Primos Project to receive the Musica Viva Award from the Nova Scotia Music Educators Association at their annual conference with is in Antigonish this year. The honour is in recognition of the contribution to music education that 14 years of Los Primos has given to music students in Nova Scotia.
HavanaFax at Piper’s Pub from 9 to 12.

  • Saturday – Oct 29
Latin Groove with Augusto Enriquez at Kings Theatre in Annapolis Royal
Los Primos Project Presents
ECMA winning band from Havana and Halifax
HavanaFax  featuring Cuban Superstar Augusto Enriquez

Everyone one in Cuba knows Augusto Enriquez. He is a fixture on the Cuban music scene. He has recorded dozens of CD’s including a tribute to Benny Moré. You can see his Italian produced video at this you tube link...

Augusto spends a lot of time touring in Europe, particularly Italy where he even performed with Pavarotti…

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cuba helping Haiti


Public lecture on Cuba's Medical Assistance to Haiti 
by Dr. Jorge Tomas Balseiro Estevez, 
Member of Cuba's Medical Mission to Haiti

7pm, Wednesday, October 19
Room 303
Dalhousie Student Union Building
Dalhousie University
6136 University Avenue, Halifax

A free event sponsored by the Canadian Network On Cuba (CNC), Nova Scotia Cuba Association (NSCUBA), Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), and the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group (NSPIRG).

Cuban Doctor on Canada Wide Tour to Speak on 
Cuba's Humanitarian Medical Mission

From October 13 to November 6, 2011 Dr. Jorge Tomas Balseiro Estevez, a member of Cuba's medical internationalist mission to Haiti, will speak in more than a dozen cities from Halifax to Victoria.

Dr. Balseiro exemplifies Cuba's extensive and unprecedented solidarity with the peoples of the world, illustrating what can be achieved when self-serving interests do not direct the aid provided.

Dr. Balseiro has extensive experience in Cuba's many medical internationalist missions across the globe. From 1988-89, he worked as Director of the Cuban civilian Hospital in the Republic of Angola. In 2004-2006 he worked as a clinical psychiatrist in the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation of the Republic of Guyana.

In 2008 as a member of the Henry Reeve Brigade in Haiti, he was director of the Hospital de Campana de Leogane. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010, Dr. Balseiro worked extensively with Cuban technical and medical personnel giving emergency aid. They were soon joined by the arrival of a group of more than 50 Latin American doctors, trained at the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba. Dr. Balseiro also participated in rescue missions of hurricanes Ike and Paloma in his own country in 2008.

Dr. Balseiro was Provincial Director of Public Health of the Province of Camaguey, Cuba from 2000 to 2003. Currently, he is the Director of the University Psychiatric Hospital of Camaguey. Dr. Balseiro has authored numerous articles on mental health issues that have appeared in a variety Cuban and international magazines. He trained internationally in Hungary, Mexico, Guyana and in Cuba in different topics of mental health and mental health and disasters.

Dr. Balseiro is 55 years old and speaks Spanish and English.

The tour is organized by the Canadian Network on Cuba (CNC). CNC spokesperson Isaac Saney says Dr. Balseiro's work and service illustrate Cuba's collective commitment to building and strengthening genuine ties of friendship and solidarity among the world's peoples, of which Cuba's medical mission in Haiti is distinctive

"Cuba's medical internationalist mission in Haiti is a profound challenge to those who argue that relations among the world's nations and peoples are - and can only be - determined by self-interest, the pursuit of power and wealth," Saney points out. "Cuba provides the example that it is possible to build relations based on genuine solidarity and social justice: demonstrating the positive alternatives which permit people to realize their deepest aspirations, and that another better world is possible," he said.

For information contact:; cell: 902-449-4967

Backgrounder: Cuba In Haiti

At the time of the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, 402 Cuban internationalists, 302 of them medical personnel, had already been helping the Haitian people. "The Cubans did not wait for the earth tremor to offer their help. They were already working along with us long before," former Haitian President René Préval said.

Cuba's cooperation with Haiti began in 1998, after Hurricane George hit Haiti. It has amplified since the January 2010 earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people, wounded more than 300,000 and displaced more than 500,000.

Since the earthquake, Cuban cooperation has grown to 1,304 persons, with 679 Cubans, and 625 graduates and students from 26 other countries, trained and educated free of cost at Cuba's Latin American School of Medicine. Cuban doctors immediately responded to the cholera epidemic following the earthquake, saving thousands of Haitians. The cholera lethality rate in Haiti is 2.07 per cent, whereas for the sick people assisted by the Cuban Medical Brigade is 0.48 per cent. The Haitian President declared that the people of Haiti view the Cuban physicians as extremely important, "second only to God."

The Cuban medical mission has treated more than 300,000 patients, performing more than 8,000 surgeries. Cuban assistance encompasses more than just the provision of immediate medical attention. It is now also focused on strengthening and rebuilding the Haitian healthcare system. Toward those ends, the Cuban medical and paramedical internationalists work in 56 hospitals and healthcare centres, and have installed and equipped 30 rooms, in which more than 85,000 patients have been treated.
Immediately following the earthquake in Haiti, the Canadian Network on Cuba initiated a fundraising campaign - Cuba for Haiti - to donate to Cuba's efforts in medical support to Haiti. To date the campaign chaired by Professor Keith Ellis has raised and sent to Cuba, over $295,000.00.

The head of the Cuban Cooperation Brigade in Haiti, Lorenzo Somarraba, stated that there are currently 1,300 Cuban health workers in that nation including 312 doctors, out of which 247 graduated from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) who come from 20 different countries.