We issue out this solidarity statement today, July 26, 2020 to throw our heavy support behind the nomination of the Henry Reeve Cuban Medical Brigade, for this year’s Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuba has taken an active role in extending international solidarity to countries that are hard-hit by the deadly virus. Cuba has sent members of its Henry Reeve Cuban Medical Brigade to more than 30 countries to assist in the fight against the Corona virus.
Thousands of organizations in every corner of the world have showed appreciation to Cuba and supporting the nomination of the Henry Reeve Cuban Medical Brigade for the Norwegian Peace Prize award, for its international solidarity work in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and other life-threatening diseases. But the Trump administration and the neo-cons in Washington are doing everything to undermine this selfless service to humanity. President Trump has even sent a threatening message to countries that accept the help of the highly respected Cuban medics.
What is this Henry Reeve Cuban Medical Brigade? This is a group of Cuban doctors created in September 2005, by Cuban leader, the late Fidel Castro Ruz in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, which stroke the United States on 29 August 2005. At the time, the United States was the first country to have benefitted from the programme, but the unconditional offer of 1, 586 medical professionals from Cuba was rejected by the then Bush administration in Washington, despite the well-documented need of such support for post-Katrina relief efforts.
This was what Fidel Castro had to say a month later after US rejection of Cuba’s offer of humanitarian assistance: “Our country was closest to the area hit by the hurricane and was in the position to send over human and material aid in a matter of hours. It was as if a big American cruise ship with thousands of passengers aboard were sinking in waters close to our coast. We could not remain indifferent.” But the US didn’t respond to the offer of assistance. It didn’t even acknowledge it. We prepared more than 1,500 doctors with all the necessary knowledge, equipment and supplies, who were ready to start work as soon as we entered the country. The US government didn’t accept them, and many people died who could have been saved. That was a sad day for medicine, and for American society.”
Named in honor of a Brooklyn-born US hero who rose to the rank of Brigadier General during Cuba’s struggle for national independent self-rule from Spain, the Henry Reeve Cuban Medical Brigade has since its inception worked in a number of countries worldwide. The work of the Brigade is possible through the Biogenetic Engineering and Research Center in Havana-a scientific project initiated by the late Cuban leader, Fidel Castro with the sole aim of helping to alleviate human suffering in the world. This rich innovative idea led to the establishment of the Latin America School of Medicine (ELAM). This was achieved in the midst of a destructive blockade imposed on the Island by the US government. Since its establishment in 2005, ELAM has trained over 40 thousand students from 79 countries, who later returned home to provide noble services to poor and vulnerable communities.
In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, in January 2010 the Cuban doctors had, had to work alongside US and other foreign medics in an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation. In some of the most remote and neglected parts of the world, where foreign powers have “brain drained” away most of the medical expertise, Cuban personnel become visible to help fill a desperate humanitarian need. For more than half a century since the imposition of the barbaric, inhumane, unjust and diabolic US blockade in 1962, some 150,000 Cuban professionals have provided selfless services overseas, and today, 45,000 of them are trained doctors, the rest nurses and other specialists are spread across more than 70 countries. Now Elam is training many more from foreign countries, under Cuban international humanitarian solidarity with the world’s poor.
“Since I am an optimist, I think this world can be saved, in spite of the mistakes made, in spite of the immense, hegemonic powers that have been created, because I believe ideas prevail over force.…
Our country does not drop bombs on other peoples, nor does it send thousands of planes to bomb cities; our country does not possess nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, or biological weapons. Our country's tens of thousands of scientists and doctors have been educated in the idea of saving lives. It would absolutely contradict this concept to put a scientist or a doctor to work to produce substances, bacteria or viruses to kill other human beings.
Allegations that Cuba is doing research on biological weapons have even been made. In our country, research is conducted to cure diseases as severe as meningococcal meningitis and hepatitis, to produce vaccines with genetic engineering techniques, or, something of great importance, to discover vaccines or therapeutic formulas through molecular immunology; some of which can prevent and others cure. We are moving forward along this path. This is the pride of our doctors and our research centers.
Tens of thousands of Cuban doctors have provided internationalist services in the most remote and inhospitable places. I once said that we could not and would never carry out preventive or surprise attacks against any dark corner of the world; but rather that our country could send needed doctors to the darkest corners of the world. Doctors, not bombs. Doctors, not smart weapons”. Excerpts from Fidel Castro’s historic speech in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2003!
In the last 15 years, over 45, 000 of members of the Henry Reeve Cuban Medical Brigade have volunteered to provide their international humanitarian health service delivery system in all regions of the world, including North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle-east, Europe and Asia.
The heroic performance of the Brigade in 2014 in the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia that were badly hit by the devastating Ebola pandemic was only a reminder to all and sundry that Cuba is a force to reckon with when it comes to saving human lives. On the appeal made by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Cuba was the first country to respond to control the spread of Ebola and save lives in the West African sub-region. In January 2014 former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, summed up this contribution accurately: “They are always the first to arrive and the last to leave- and they always remain after the crisis. Cuba has a lot to show the entire world …”
In recognition of this, the main Norwegian Labor Union Federation once nominated the Henry Reeve Cuban Medical Brigade for the award of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize in 2015. However, the prize was given to two other very worthy candidates who were outstanding in their fight for the rights of children : Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi.
Cuba’s contribution to saving lives cannot be underestimated; for a small and poor Island to share it resources with others, deploying thousands of Cuban medical personnel to provide assistance across the world, places the Caribbean nation top among others. This is made possible only because Cuba has built up its own high quality health-care system, and its supply of highly trained doctors and other health professionals, to the point that it has far more doctors relative to its population than what others like the United States has. The Cuban medical system has adopted a preventive public health approach, which has allowed Cuba to surpass many more wealthy countries on numerous measures of quality of health and health care. Doctors and health-care workers in Cuba receive absolutely free training, and patients receive absolutely free services as well.
Not bothered by the malicious campaign against its international humanitarian service, Cuba’s solidarity is continuing in the midst of the current health crisis-Corona virus pandemic. By means of a strong quarantine regime and intensive community outreach, infections and deaths in Cuba as of July 25th have been 2, 469 cases, 87 deaths and 2, 341 recovered, compared to the United States, which has reported 4,248,492 cases, 148,492 deaths and 2,028,361recovered.
It comes as no surprise that Cuba has mobilized its international health solidarity resources to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic in many countries of the world; it is because they are internationally recognized. Cuban researchers are also currently working with their Chinese counterparts to develop a treatment for Covid-19, called “Interferon Alpha-2b Recombinant” (which has been used in Cuba for several years against other diseases). Several French overseas departments geographically close to Cuba have already agreed to receive medical aid from Havana, as have various other countries in the region such as Jamaica, Barbados, Venezuela, Suriname, Grenada and Nicaragua, as well as Africa.
Covid-19 virus pandemic is a dangerous, devastating and unprecedented crisis for many people across the global village, but Cubans are used to living with violent upheavals, whether caused by the ravages of a hurricane or the financial and political blockade imposed by the United States, which has been further strengthened since Donald Trump assumed the mantle of leadership in the US. And of course, there is no risk of seeing Cubans fighting in supermarkets for a few rolls of toilet paper, as they have been living for decades of shortages of essential goods due to US illegal blockade and extraterritorial laws.
Of late, the Trump administration in Washington is employing derogatory claims in its futile attempts to mislead international opinion about the humanitarian service Cuban health workers provide to the people of the world. It erroneously claims that Cuban health workers are being exploited to generate income for the government in Havana, and that therefore countries which host them are engaged in “human trafficking.” Again, Washington has threatened punitive action against any country which contracts with Cuba for professional health-care service delivery. This is why, we asking if the kidnapping of the two Cuban doctors, Landy Rodriguez (a surgeon) and Assel Herrera (an internist) in Kenya, on 12 April, 2019 was not related to President Trump’s aggressive rhetoric towards the selfless service of the Cuban medical workers.
These accusations levied against the Cuban medics are not only false and ridiculous, but project as a heinous crime and crime against humanity. Members of the Henry Reeve Cuban Medical Brigade are willing volunteers, ready to give their selfless service anywhere it is needed to help save lives. Second, the Cuban medics’ services are provided free to the world’s poorest countries, something the US cannot afford to do. And thirdly, and as pointed out by one foreign diplomat: “Cuba has also helped train doctors for the Caribbean nations, and that the United States is offering these countries absolutely no help during the current Covid-19 virus pandemic”. As for the threat on countries that contract with the Cuban medical workers is nothing but an attempt to meddle in the internal matters of other countries.
From the above, it has become common knowledge that demonizing Cuba is another Trump’s expression of hatred for humanity. Only sane-thinking people will follow this madness, after all, the Trump administration has no proper healthcare system for the American people and therefore, its jealous of Cuba can be seen clear in the picture.
After years of official neglect, the time has finally arrived to honor the Henry Reeve Cuban Medical Brigade. There is now a big opportunity to speak out in support of nomination of the Henry Reeve Cuban Medical Brigade for award of this year’s Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize.
A cynic would question why this step was not taken earlier, and would also question the timing as too convenient and expedient during this time of the Corona virus pandemic. What is at stake is symbolism and that is important now.
It is important to note that over 200 Organisations worldwide have taken a symbolic step to nominate the Henry Reeve Cuban Medical Brigade for the 2020 Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize. Earlier, the Hugo Chavez International Foundation for Peace, Friendship and Solidarity (HCIF-PFS) had rejuvenated this idea, but at a single small voice. Now there is a bigger and louder voice drumming from all corners of the world sounding the call for the Nobel Peace Prize this year be awarded to the Cuban medics. This is a clarion call, and should be supported by all good people.
To the Hugo Chavez International Foundation for Peace, Friendship and Solidarity (HCIF-PFS), the nomination of the Henry Reeve Cuban Medical Brigade for the 2020 Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize is not a campaign for ideological supremacy. But a recognition of the 15 years of noble service of the Cuban, to save human lives in the world.
These are but a selection of the distinctive contributions that the Cuban medics have made to save human lives, and to promote the cherished ideals in the Charter of the Nobel Peace Prize. Nobel Peace Prize for the Henry Reeve Cuban Medical Brigade is one of the just and moral path the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee can do to reward the efforts of individuals and states in saving human lives.
Concluding, through this public release statement, the Hugo Chavez International Foundation for Peace, Friendship and Solidarity (HCIF-PFS) wants to add its support and voice for nomination of the Cuban medics to get the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. We are convinced that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the Henry Reeve Cuban Medical Brigade would have a significant impact in supporting peace; promoting human rights and justice.
We pray that the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee will consider recognizing the role of the Cuban health workers in the fight against the deadly Corona virus pandemic, signaling the hope that this decision carries for the future.
Alimamy Bakarr Sankoh
Consular-General and President of the Governing Council
The Hugo Chavez International Foundation for Peace, Friendship and Solidarity (HCIF-PFS)
For and on behalf of the Hugo Chavez International Foundation for Peace, Friendship and Solidarity (HCIF-PFS)