Venezuela Receives Humanitarian Aid From UN, WHO, Russia

Vice President Delcy Rodriguez received the aid from U.N., WHO and Russian officials.
Vice President Delcy Rodriguez received the aid from U.N., WHO and Russian officials. | Photo: teleSUR

The aid includes health supplies for water control and education, as well as 28,000 personal protective equipment for health workers, oxygen concentrators, pediatric beds, and hygiene kits.

April 9 (teleSUR) Venezuela received Wednesday about 90 tons of humanitarian aid from the United Nations, World Health Organization, PanAmerican Health Organization, and Russia.

“On behalf of President Nicolas Maduro, we thank the United Nations, the director of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Russian Federation led by Ambassador Sergey Melik-Bagdasarov, who has strengthened bilateral relations, for this humanitarian aid,” Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said during the reception ceremony. 

The aid includes health supplies for water control and education, as well as 28,000 personal protective equipment for health workers, oxygen concentrators, pediatric beds, and hygiene kits. From Russia, the Latin American nation received 20,000 kits to test for COVID-19.

The United Nations delegate in Venezuela Herve Ludovic de Lys mentioned it is the first humanitarian shipment by the international organization to the South American country while thanking the country’s authorities for the joint coordination and work. 

“Humanitarian aid will be distributed to 14 hospitals and 50 outpatient clinics and CDI (…) as the U.N. we are requesting US$61 billion for the prevention and combat of COVID-19 in Venezuela,” de Lys added.

The country’s Vice President stressed that despite the illegal economic and commercial blockade imposed by the United States against Venezuela, they continue to effectively combat the global pandemic “the blockade prevents Venezuela from accessing its resources financial … this humanitarian aid is the largest the country is receiving,” she concluded.

As of Wednesday, Venezuela’s authorities announced that there are 167 cases and nine dead. 

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Cuba’s solidarity with Lesotho wears white

Cuba Lesotho

By Manuel Vazquez de la Torre Maseru

April 9 (Prensa Latina) Although Lesotho has not yet reported Covid-19 cases, Cuba´s medical brigade in this African nation does not neglect any preventive action in its work to serve the needy local population.

As Yamisleydis Ruiz Marache, head of the Cuban medical mission, explained to Prensa Latina, 13 of the 14 Cuban doctors in this country are working at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, in O.P.D. of Medicine, Pediatrics, Gynecology, Surgery and Emergency Room.

The other specialist works at Home Health Center, located in this capital too, at an out-patient department of Medicine.

But regardless of specialty or physical location, all Cuban health workers are using the strongly recommended prevention means to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, such as face shields (masks), gloves, hand-washing, and the use of alcohol-based solutions.

Cuba’s current medical collaboration with Lesotho has been established on April 2, 2002, in Havana, by a health agreement between the ministers of health of both nations, Ruiz Marache said. Cuba Lesotho

Then, some priorities for cooperation to comprehensive primary and secondary healthcare, technical assistance, education and training of human resources, administration and management of health programs, among others, were conducted.

In addition, it was established that a group of Cuban doctors would provide medical services in regions where specialized healthcare provided to population does not exist, or is poor.

In this way, on July 25, 2002, the first 17 Cuban doctors arrived in Lesotho. This medical brigade reached 40 members, most of them specialists in General Comprehensive Medicine.

Thus, at the end of December 2017, a total of six Cuban medical brigades have provided their services in Lesotho: about 90 doctors in 16 years.

During this period, Ruiz Marache recalled, 5,358 major surgeries and 7,553 deliveries have been conducted, and over 26,000 lives have been treated and saved.

Now, he announces, new agreements already signed will allow to increase the toll of Cuban doctors in Lesotho.


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Bucking U.S. Pressure, Coronavirus-Afflicted Countries Welcome Aid From Cuba

Cuban doctors and medical professionals pose with a photo of Fidel Castro before departing for Italy.
Cuban doctors and medical professionals pose with a photo of Fidel Castro before departing for Italy to assist with the coronavirus outbreak in the country, Havana, Cuba, March 21, 2020 (AP photo by Ismael Francisco).

April 9 (World Politics Review) Cuba has long promoted its high-quality health care system by sending medical professionals to treat patients in other countries, “a show of soft power that also earns billions in badly needed hard currency,” as the Associated Press recently put it. While some right-wing governments in Latin America have sent their Cuban doctors packing in recent years, Havana is seeing a new surge in demand for its help as a result of the spread of COVID-19. In an email interview with WPR, John Kirk, a professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, discusses Cuba’s response to the coronavirus pandemic both domestically and overseas.

World Politics Review: How has Cuba accelerated its overseas medical assistance program during the coronavirus pandemic? What kind of impact are Cuban doctors having in affected countries?

John Kirk: Cuba’s overseas medical assistance has actually been reduced significantly in recent years, as right-wing governments in Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil have terminated their agreements with Cuba. In all, some 9,000 medical personnel have returned to Cuba from overseas since 2018. In addition, the government led by Raul Castro has emphasized economic pragmatism in recent years, leading to a reduction in overseas aid missions.

In the course of just three weeks in March, the situation changed dramatically. Cuba sent 800 medical personnel to 16 different countries, mainly in Latin America and the Caribbean, responding to requests for assistance from their governments. There is recent precedent for this. In 2014, Cuba sent 250 medical professionals to West Africa in response to a request from the World Health Organization for medical assistance to fight the Ebola outbreak. It was the first country to do so then, and now, it is one of the only countries in the world to send doctors and nurses abroad to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

It is too early to tell what the impact has been in the affected countries, but Cuban medical staff are known for their professionalism. I personally witnessed their dedication and compassion in 2009, when I accompanied a group of Cuban medical personnel to El Salvador, to assist with relief efforts after Hurricane Ida. I presume that the same qualities will be present when they travel to assist countries stricken by COVID-19.

WPR: How have the Trump administration’s efforts to pressure the government in Havana affected Cuba’s medical assistance program?

Kirk: Cuba is facing severe economic challenges. In 2018, its two largest sources of hard currency, the export of professional services and tourism, brought in approximately $6 billion and $3 billion, respectively. Both have decreased this year, largely as a result of economic sanctions that have been reimposed by President Donald Trump. To make matters worse, Havana’s major regional ally and trading partner, Venezuela, is mired in an economic crisis. Cuba relies on Venezuela for cheap supplies of fuel, but deliveries have become erratic, causing shortages on the island.

Despite the economic pressure it faces, Cuba has a reservoir of medical personnel who are helping to tackle COVID-19 in many countries. Cuban doctors are now working in two European countries, Italy and Andorra, for the first time, illustrating the growing global acceptance of Cuban medical aid.

If anything, the current pandemic has shown the need for greater multilateral collaboration—not the kinds of unilateral “maximum pressure” campaigns the Trump administration has taken against governments it dislikes. Should the WHO consider establishing a large medical force on standby for any future pandemics, Cuba has the ability to assist.

WPR: The United States has criticized Cuba’s medical assistance program, especially for what it claims are poor working conditions for doctors overseas. How fair are these claims?

Kirk: The Trump administration has indeed been very critical of Cuba’s overseas medical assistance program. Last month, the State Department criticized Havana for exposing its workers to “egregious labor conditions” and urged governments receiving help from Cuba to “scrutinize agreements and end labor abuses.” In reality, Cuban doctors’ salaries are quite low at approximately $80 per month, though they receive more when working abroad. But it is also important to remember that all schooling in Cuba, including medical school, is free. I interviewed 270 Cuban medical personnel over a 12-year period for a book, “Healthcare without Borders: Understanding Cuban Medical Internationalism.” None of the respondents felt that they had been forced to work abroad.

When countries pay for Cuban medical services, the government in Havana pays approximately 25 percent of the money received to the doctor or nurse, with the remainder going to support the national health care system on the island. The system is completely free and of good quality. The infant mortality rate in Cuba is 4 per 1,000 live births, and the mortality rate for children under 5 years old is 5 per 1,000—lower than in the United States. Studies comparing the two countries’ health care systems have found that Cuba achieves similar health outcomes as the U.S., at a fraction of the cost.

WPR: How is Cuba handling its own coronavirus outbreak? Does the increased number of doctors overseas raise any concerns about the Cuban health system’s capacity to respond to a spike in cases on the island?

Kirk: Cuba is handling the coronavirus outbreak well, largely because of its traditions of social discipline, experience with natural disasters such as flooding and hurricanes, and extensive civil defense capability. Almost all flights to and from the island have been stopped. Strict measures are in place to enforce social isolation, while schools are shuttered and workers have been told to stay home. Two areas with high infection rates, in Havana and the western city of Pinar del Rio, have been locked down. So far, there have been 515 confrimed cases and 15 deaths from COVID-19.

Cuba has an extensive health care-reporting system, and a centralized database of all weekly reports from family doctors throughout the island. The data are analyzed daily at provincial and national levels, providing a detailed summary of health care in each district in the country. This centralized information can be used to marshal medical support where it is most needed.

One of the fundamental pillars of the Cuban medical system is its preventive approach to public health. Some 28,000 medical sciences students have spent the last week going door-to-door across the country, interviewing Cubans in their homes as part of a government-sponsored program to proactively detect coronavirus cases. By April 7, they had completed surveys of over 9 million Cubans. The information gathered was then passed to local family doctors for follow-up.

Cuba also has the highest density of physicians in the world. Its ratio of medical professionals to patients is roughly three times better than the U.S. In Havana alone, there are over 2,000 small doctors’ offices, known as consultorios, as well as 68,000 health care personnel and three hospitals solely for COVID-19 patients. In total, Cuba has 95,000 physicians and 85,000 nurses. Having 1 percent of its medical personnel abroad working in the campaign against COVID-19 has made little difference on the delivery of health care in Cuba.

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FMLN calls for ending US blockade against Cuba

San Salvador, April 7 (Prensa Latina) El Salvador’s parliamentary left appealed on Tuesday to humanitarian reasons for the United States to lift its unjust blockade against Cuba, in the context of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The Farabundo Marti for National Liberation (FMLN) caucus thus supported the call of the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres for ending the economic sanctions against different nations such as Cuba.

‘The economic, commercial and financial US blockade which has been imposed on Cuba since 1962 is one of the greatest atrocities in force to date,’ FMLN reiterated.

FMLN deputies denounced ‘this ridiculous blockade’ is the main drawback for Cuba to get medical supplies, technology and food, which makes it harder for it to receive and provide international aid.

‘We ask the US President and his Congress that take into account this particular context and immediately suspend all sanctions that affect the Cuban people,’ the statement added.


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Panamanian Committee assesses solidarity of Cuban health workers

Cuban health workers

Panama, Apr 8 (Prensa Latina) Cuban health workers bring hope to other peoples, the Panamanian Coordinating Committee of solidarity with the Caribbean island stated, upon assessing the current gesture made by hundreds of members of the ‘army in white coats.’

The text recognizes ‘the expressions of gratitude, joy and hope around the world to the army in white coats, with which Cuba is assisting other peoples in these times of health crisis and offers decently its solidarity to save humanity.’

The document highlighted the generosity and greatness of spirit of the Cuban government and people, which rises above the selfish, hostile and illegal policy of the blockade the United States has maintained for more than 60 years, only to achieve its social revolution and demonstrating that a better world is possible.

Upon assessing the Cuban system, the Coordinating Committee highlighted that this ‘radiant, but perfectible socialism, which many of our peoples aspire to for themselves, guarantees peaceful coexistence and harmonizes the capital with work, so that their wealth is shared with equity among its population.’

The document recognized that this distribution is carried out without distinction of race, creed or social background, and they considered it ‘inversely proportional to the unjust neoliberal system, which imperialism, better known as democracy, poses to us as a way of life.’


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Cuba co-sponsored resolution in favor of solidarity to confront COVID-19

Cuba co-sponsored resolution in favor of solidarity to confront COVID-19

April 8 (Radio Rebelde) The United Nations General Assembly recently approved the Resolution entitled “Global solidarity to fight the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19)”, which was proposed by a group of countries, including Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and co-sponsored by Cuba.

The text, which was adopted by tacit consensus, is a call for unity, solidarity and international cooperation to tackle this pandemic, which has caused considerable loss of life and suffering, reports the Cubaminrex website.

Cuba was among the states that co-sponsored the draft resolution, in line with the humanist and solidarity-based foreign policy that characterizes the Cuban Revolution; which has been evident since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak with the dispatch to different countries of brigades of the International Contingent of doctors specialized in disaster situations and serious “Henry Reeve” epidemics, at the request of their governments.

It is regrettable that some international press agencies, in recent days, have once again tried to tarnish Cuba’s image by spreading the false news that the country had not supported this resolution and had not adhered to the international commitment endorsed in it, continues the text published on the official website of the Cuban Foreign Ministry.

In that same false list, Venezuela was also included, which also co-sponsored and supported that resolution.

Cuba has demonstrated its total commitment and solidarity in this difficult situation that the world is going through, not only by selflessly contributing the experience and knowledge of our doctors on the ground, but also by welcoming ships and aircraft in humanitarian situations that have been denied by other countries in our region, which the major international media do not talk about or say very little about.

A great media silence also seeks to hide the effects of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba for almost 60 years, which is particularly criminal in the current situation, since it makes it difficult or prevents Cuba from acquiring the medicines, equipment and medical supplies needed to fight the pandemic.

It is also intentionally overlooked that for 28 consecutive years the overwhelming majority of the international community has demanded in the United Nations General Assembly the cessation of this criminal policy, while Washington turns a deaf ear.

Today, more than ever, humanity needs unity, cooperation and solidarity to defeat the pandemic.

That is why the United Nations Secretary-General, other prominent voices and political organizations have demanded the end of economic sanctions against countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, among others, in order to facilitate their access to the resources needed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

It is time that the United States, for humanitarian reasons and in the name of the freedom and human rights that it claims to defend, listens to this call and puts an end to unilateral sanctions that harm and cause suffering to peoples


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Cuban President calls for discipline in view of new epidemic phase


Havana, Apr 8 (Prensa Latina) Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel reiterated today the call for social discipline after the country announced the beginning of the limited native transmission phase of the new coronavirus, which caused Covid-19.

The president said on his Twitter account that in view of the new epidemiological stage, Cuba is taking extreme measures, but he explained the need to ‘vaccinate ourselves with the only thing we have so far: discipline, cooperation and solidarity. That is the vaccine of this time.

The head of state also echoes a comment published Wednesday in the Granma newspaper under the title Rigorous care to avoid regrets, which refers to the importance of complying with health measures or otherwise the irresponsible will have to face the consequences of their actions before the law.

Following the confirmation of cases not connected to travelers who arrived from abroad in small towns or institutions, the Cuban authorities are going to extremes the protocol to stop the spread of the Covid-19.

The steps to be taken include the adoption of quarantines at specific locations, the expansion of laboratory capacity as well as the availability of beds in hospitals and particularly in intensive care units.

Also, the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption in stores is suspended, as well as the closure of bars and restaurants, and the authorization of the latter for the production of take-away food.

Similarly, each territory must assess the working activities that are not essential for their temporary closure and instead, the main economic activities.

The nation’s Public Health Ministry announced on Tuesday 46 new confirmed cases with the Covid-19, the highest number recorded since the first reports.

The nation has accumulated 396 patients positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, 1,752 admitted under epidemiological surveillance, of which 1,182 are suspected.


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Medical brigade in Andorra provides services, says Cuban FM

Havana, Apr 8 (Prensa Latina) Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez today ratified that all the doctors and nurses of the island’s brigade in Andorra are incorporated in the health care against the Covid-19.

The foreign minister added that among them is the aid worker whose test had been positive at one point, but on repeating the test he was confirmed as negative for SARS CoV-2, and he was able to join his colleagues.

At the end of March, the Caribbean nation sent a brigade of 39 professionals from the Henry Reeve contingent, which specializes in disaster situations and serious epidemics, to the European country to support the advance of the pandemic.

This collaboration was very well received by the citizens of that principality, who since the arrival of the Cubans have shown their sympathy through gestures such as collective applause and the broadcast of the Cuban anthem.

Earlier, at the airport in Madrid, Spain, taxi drivers and terminal workers also gave the health workers a standing ovation during their passage to the place of their location.

Andorra requested the presence of its professionals in the face of the increase in the number of cases of Covid-19, which now exceeds 540 infections and twenty deaths.

This territory, with about 76,000 inhabitants and an area of 468 square kilometers, has the aggravating factor of sharing borders with Spain and France, two of the nations punished by the novel coronavirus.

Other countries have also asked for help from Cuba, to fight the disease, to which the Caribbean government has responded with the departure of 15 brigades and around 700 professionals.


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Italian friendship association condemns US blockade against Cuba

Rome, Apr 7 (Prensa Latina) The Italy Cuba National Friendship Association (ANAIC) on Tuesday condemned the economic, commercial and financial blockade against countries like Cuba, in an open violation of international law.

In a communiqué published here, the ANAIC charged that the Government of the United States seeks, ‘under false and pretentious motivations’ and in a disguised manner, ‘to overthrow the political and social systems, by challenging the most basic rules of international law and each country’s sovereignty, including the States affected by the extraterritoriality of those imposed measures.’

In its press release, sent to national and international institutions, the association particularly calls on the Italian Government ‘to commit effectively its diplomacy on the United States to achieve the immediate and definite elimination of the punitive measures against other countries’.

The ANAIC recalled that ‘Italy, along with nearly all nations, has repeatedly supported at the United Nations General Assembly the elimination of the blockade’ in all its forms, and that the European Union itself has also voted ‘against the anachronistic upholding of the blockade against Cuba’.

It pointed out that those coercive measures are upheld in an already dramatic context due to the Covid-19 pandemic that has hit nearly all nations in the world.

Those intimidating measures prevent the countries affected by ‘unilateral and illegal sanctions from buying medicines, medical equipment and the inputs necessary to deal with pandemic safely,’ the ANAIC stressed in its communiqué.


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Intellectuals, Artists Issue Letter in Defense of Venezuela

In a politically motivated move, the Trump administration filed criminal charges against President Maduro and other officials in Venezuela.
In a politically motivated move, the Trump administration filed criminal charges against President Maduro and other officials in Venezuela. | Photo: EFE

“It is outrageous that the U.S. Administration is sending resources against Venezuela for war while being disorganized and inept at getting lifesaving equipment,” the letter reads.

April 7 (teleSUR) The United States (U.S.) chapter of the Cuban Network in Defense of Humanity issued Tuesday a letter expressing  their “heartfelt solidarity with the people of Venezuela and its only legitimate President Nicolas Maduro Moros in this hour of danger.”

The text came as a response to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s open letter to the people of the U.S., in which he denounced U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats of war against the South American country. 

Intellectuals and artists signed the document condemning the ever-increasing aggressions suffered by the Venezuelan people at the hands of Trump’s administration, at a time when the world is trying to partner in the fight against a fast-spreading and deadly virus.

In a politically motivated move, the Trump administration filed criminal charges against President Maduro and other officials in Venezuela, it deployed naval vessels and other military assets off the coast of the South American nation and increased its illegal economic sanctions while the people continue to pay a heavy price and the country’s economy is strangled.

“It is outrageous that the U.S. Administration is sending resources against Venezuela for war while being disorganized and inept at getting lifesaving equipment such as ventilators, beds, and even facemasks to its own population and medical workers on the frontlines,” the signatories wrote.

In his letter to the people of the U.S. issued on April 5, Maduro said that Venezuelan people do not want an armed conflict and will not accept war threats. He urged citizens in the North American country not to believe in the false and unfounded reasons, including the counter-narcotics operation, that Trump is using to attack Venezuela.

The head of state stated that the country cannot accept blockades either, nor the intention to install an international guardianship that violates the sovereignty and sabotages the advances of last year in the political dialogue between the government and a large part of the Venezuelan opposition.

After showing solidarity with the U.S. people that are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic, he called on the people of the country to hold their leaders accountable and compel them to focus their attention and resources on the necessary and urgent fight against the pandemic instead of trying to intimidate Venezuela.

“I ask you, with your heart in your hands, not to allow your country to be drawn, once again, to another endless conflict, another Vietnam or another Iraq, but this time closer to home,” President Maduro concluded.

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