19. April 2009 · Categories: Politics · Tags: , ,

With each passing day since Barack Obama took the White House I feel like America is becoming more and more the champion of democracy and humanity that we have for the past eight years only pretended to be. In his latest roll-back of oppressive laws passed by the Bush Administration, President Obama has lifted the law that says Cuban-Americans can only visit their relatives in Cuba once every three years. Now, these people can visit their families in Cuba as much as they want. Another victory for love, family values and freedom.

In response to Florida representatives, Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, who say that easing travel restrictions is a “serious mistake” that will embolden the Cuban dictatorship “to further isolate, imprison and brutalize pro-democracy activists” I point out that we’ve been putting up restrictions on Cuban travel and trade since 1962 and yet according to Amnesty International, there are still hundreds of political prisoners in Cuba, so it would seem that keeping Americans apart from their families in Cuba isn’t going to defeat the tyranny there. Maybe it’s about time we stop trying to fight tyranny with tyranny.

Besides, these two congressmen don’t even offer any logical explanation as to how easing travel restrictions would actually embolden the Cuban dictatorship. Are these two conservative politicians just emotionally pissed off people who want the U.S. to keep a cold shoulder to Cuba out of political spite? Seriously, who needs that kind of policy?

So in the absence of any logic coming from the Florida peanut gallery, I will offer my own approximation… the only logical connection I can think of… that increased travel between the US and Cuba may increase the flow of American ideas and culture which may inspire some Cuban people to push harder for some of what we have that they don’t have, and if the Cuban government becomes emboldened, it would be in reaction to such increased demand which we should expect in any push toward democracy anyway.

Tough luck Lincoln and Diaz-Balart, the days where your view that families should suffer under oppression for the sake of playing tit-for-tat politics could rely on the alliance of an equally petty and tyrannical president are over.

28. July 2004 · Categories: Politics · Tags:

As a perspective enthusiast, I am often intrigued with the way the prevailing winds of rhetoric can simply blow vision aside and render people blind to certain realities. One such example; Cuban medical exports. I found out about the Cuban surge in medical exports and humanitarian aid through small trickles of information in the cracks of the internet that smell like conspiracy theories.

Still, after some persistence I have discovered a facet of Cuba that I have to admire. I think the Cuban medical trend is amazing given what they have to work with… First, a Marxist regime, complete with inefficient management and antiquated technology. Second, uncompromising trade embargoes imposed by the US which forbids all other countries in the world from trading or associating with Cuba in any way. Third, the disappearance of their only source of external support, the Soviet Union.

Still, despite all this, Cuba has managed to turn itself into a healthcare superpower that has developed the only meningitis B vaccine available, exports the world’s most effective hepatitis B vaccine to more than 30 countries, developed the first synthetic vaccine for the prevention of pneumonia and meningitis, which is much cheaper than what is offered by Western pharmaceutical companies, and is poised to provide anti-cancer therapies to the European market by 2008. Cuban R&D is also working on a new cholera vaccine and seeking to match the efforts of Western countries in the race to find the first vaccine against Aids. The country of only 11 million people, now boasts 52 scientific research institutes in the capital and more than 12,000 scientists on the whole island. (Source – Yale Center for the Study of Globalization)

In addition to developing and exporting products, Cuba has been providing medical services, free of charge, to nations all around the world as humanitarian aid. The system is capable of maintaining more than 16,000 health professionals working in Third World nations.

For instance, when Hurricane Mitch struck Central America in 1998, Guatemala and Honduras asked Havana for help. Within 72 hours, the first Cuban doctors arrived. 1,700 Cubans have worked among these people since then, tending their needs. According to Guatemalan sources, in this time, they have managed to bring childhood death rates down from 40.2 per thousand to 13.8 per thousand live births, and they have saved 157,226 lives. (Source – http://www.pww.org/article/articleprint/4878/)

And yet the average American knows nothing about this. I recently mentioned this to some friends of mine. They thought I was pulling their leg. The contrast between a super-effective biotech industry and the sluggish and inefficient state-controlled economy just doesn’t make for a believable story. But what strikes me is the scarcity of information in American media. Any positive light on Cuba simply seems taboo in the American culture. Do a Google search on Cuban medicine and you get a result set of unofficial chat forums, foreign sites, Marxist sites and conspiracy sites.

Still, I was able to find a few reliable sources such as the official UN press conference on Haiti humanitarian aid that notes the astounding accomplishments of Cuban doctors and support technicians dispatched to Hati. (Source – http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2004/CanadaPressCfc.doc.htm)

…A testimonial from an American who suffered from retinitis pigmentosa – a degenerative eye-disease often referred to as “night blindness” who was told by American doctors that nothing can be done, so she went to Cuban doctors and was promptly treated with positive results. (Source – http://www.marmer2020.com/pr05.htm)

…Even coverage of a letter from Castro to Bush offering free medical care to save the lives of 3,000 poor U.S. citizens over the next five years as a symbolic gesture in reference to the roughly 3,000 killed in the 9/11 attacks. Bush never responded, probably taking the letter as a stab at the 44 million in the US without medical insurance, which it probably was. Nevertheless, Castro was right when he said, “By a very conservative estimate, dozens of thousands of lives are lost in the U.S. every year because of this, maybe 30 or 40 times the number of people who died in the Twin Towers.” (Source –http://www.cubafriends.ca/news/Free_Health.php

The most interesting confirmation of the Cuban medical industry however comes from a right-wing military geek site that insists that the Cuban medical exports are a weapon for spreading communism. (Source – http://www.strategypage.com/dls/articles/200447.asp)

Now I wouldn’t be surprised if medical support from Cuba came with a little pep talk about socialized medicine, but then again I can’t walk through a single day in America without getting assaulted by commercial ads on the radio, on billboards, public transportation, the t-shirts people wear, websites, e-mail, postal mail, TV, sports venues, even schools… It’s pretty much the same thing, spam. But if I need my life saved by a Cuban doctor, I’m not going to mind a little spam with it. I might even be convinced that socialized medicine is at least worth considering.