Thursday, March 19, 2020

What the Covid-19 virus revealed about national mindsets across the world and how Cuba came out on top by helping...
In a sign of true global solidarity, writes Ahmed Twaij, Cuba allowed the MS Braemer, a British cruise ship, to dock on Cuban shores despite carrying at least five confirmed coronavirus cases on board and 52 additional passengers showing symptoms. The ship carrying over 600 mainly British passengers had no Cuban nationals on board. Nevertheless, Cuba accepted their plea for help and allowed the MS Braemer to dock. The MS Braemer had been anchored in the Caribbean for five days searching frantically for a place to dock with no positive response. Diplomats from the British Foreign Office urged US officials to allow the ship to dock on American soil but they found obstacles. Cuban officials, however, accepted the request saying stopping the pandemic must be “a shared effort.” The Cuban response added that humans were suffering, and, regardless of the passport they held, they deserved help. Until then Cuba had only five confirmed cases of Covid-19 and was aware that the ship docking could threaten to increase that number exponentially.
This is not the first time the Cuban government and Cuban health care providers stepped in to help during global emergencies: Cuban doctors deployed in West Africa during the Ebola crisis and also during the Haitian earthquake emergency in 2010. This government program which emerged in the wake of the Cuban revolution sending Cuban healthcare professionals across the world during humanitarian situations and crises, has been recently at risk because of the US unrelenting blockade, made more virulent by the Trump Administration.

The coronavirus pandemic is serious and should unite the world. Cuba has for years run a celebrated universal healthcare system with outcomes equal to those of developed countries, argues Twaij, and Cuba has one of the world’s highest life expectancies. On the other hand, Twaij argues, the US continues to push profiteering from coronavirus through a private healthcare system that abandons its most vulnerable citizens. The US health care system early failure to even provide adequate testing kits to its population speaks volumes, he said.  Spain, in a dramatic announcement, nationalized all its private hospitals this week in an effort to contain the impact of the virus and showing privatization is not a good option. A public health care is more effective, affordable and accountable than a private one.  This crisis proves that a nationalized public system works better and keeps citizens safer.
Rather than battling to close borders and fueling xenophobia, by referring to Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus,” the president of the US should show leadership during time of crisis proving he is capable.  Still, Mr. Trump continues to ask for wall building achieving nothing, Twij argues. Is there still room for humanitarian goodness? Remember he says when we treat others, regardless of where they are from, as we would wish to be treated. Well Iran has borne the brunt of US protectionism and sanctions which had accelerated the spread of the virus in the country. One thing to learn about a global world: global economies and global epidemics cannot be treated in isolation. A car bomb in Iraq affects the stock prices in the US. Covid-19 has caused a financial contagion worse than the 2008 credit crunch. This is no longer about making America great again, says Twaij, a theory that has already collapse. It is about saving the world again. If this US Administration fails at this, other countries have proven they can and will step in.  

Brazil’s far-right government requested the return of thousands of Cuban doctors to help fight the coronavirus. Months ago, President Jair Bolsonaro smeared the doctors as “terrorists” and expelled them.

By Ben Norton, Greyzone
The coronavirus pandemic has overwhelmed the health infrastructure of countries around the world. Desperate to contain the deadly virus, hard-hit countries, including even rich European nations like Italy and Britain, have reached out for expert medical help from Cuba, China, and Venezuela.
Even Brazil, currently under the control of a far-right administration that has joined the US in demonizing Cuba’s socialist government, has fallen back on the small nation for much-needed medical support — requesting help from the very same Cuban doctors it expelled months ago.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly called for the restoration of the military dictatorship, threatened his political opponents with violence, and backed terrorist attacks on Venezuela.
Bolsonaro has also taken aim at Cuba, praising the far-right military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet for supposedly preventing Chile from becoming like Havana.
Before Bolsonaro was elected president in 2018, 10,000 doctors Cuban doctors were inside Brazil, working in some of the poorest, most remote regions of the country. Their assistance arrived thanks to an agreement between Havana and the country’s left-wing Workers’ Party government, which sought Cuban help to treat those that the Brazilian health system had long failed to reach.
Throughout his presidential campaign, Bolsonaro slammed the Cuban doctors in his country as a nefarious fifth column, denigrated them as “terrorists,” and pledged to expel them.
When he took power following a US-backed soft coup against the Workers’ Party government, Bolsonaro made good on his promise. He kicked out many of the Cuban doctors, leaving impoverished rural regions without medical personnel.
By February 2020, however, the Brazilian government began to reverse course. The Bolsonaro administration had been unable to find doctors who would serve in these remote areas, so it agreed to allow the 1,800 Cuban doctors who remained in the country to return to the communities they had previously served.
And now, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Brasilia’s right-wing occupant has done a complete about-face.
In a press conference on March 15, Brazilian Secretary of Health João Gabbardo beseeched Cuba to send back the doctors who were expelled to prevent the country’s health system from collapsing as it battled a spreading pandemic.
Gabbardo declared that 5,000 of the Cuban doctors re-deployed to Brazil will be assigned to primary care centers across the massive country.
The Bolsonaro administration’s reversal was particularly embarrassing considering that, just last year, the president claimed the Cuban doctors were not real medical experts, but ideological brain-washers training poor Brazilians to become communist guerrillas.
“The PT [Workers’ Party] sent about 10,000 costumed doctors to Brazil here, in poor places, to create guerrilla cells and indoctrinate people. So much so that, when I arrived, they left, because I was going to go after them,” Bolsonaro claimed in a conspiratorial screed in 2019.
The grim reality of the coronavirus crisis has forced even Cuba’s sworn enemies to seek help from its world-renowned medical system.
Brazil has the fifth-largest economy on Earth, as well as the sixth-biggest population, with more than 210 million people. Cuba, meanwhile, is a relatively poor country with just around 11 million people, and is suffering under a suffocating US sanctions regime. But thanks to its socialist system, Havana has highly skilled and ethically committed doctors to spare – even to nations that have assisted the US bid for regime change against it.
The Workers’ Party responded to the news in an official statement: “President Bolsonaro owes apologies to the Brazilian population and to all the Cuban doctors who were practically expelled from Brazil facing attacks, lies, and fake news.”