Monday, 18 January 2010
FIDEL ON HAITI: ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS, FOCUSES ON CUBA's HEALTH SUPPORT FOR HAITI
Reflections of Fidel The lesson of Haiti
Translated by Granma International
TWO days ago, at almost six o’clock in the evening Cuban
time and when, given its geographical location, night had
already fallen in Haiti, television stations began to
broadcast the news that a violent earthquake – measuring
7.3 on the Richter scale – had severely struck
Port-au-Prince. The seismic phenomenon originated from a
tectonic fault located in the sea just 15 kilometers from
the Haitian capital, a city where 80% of the population
inhabit fragile homes built of adobe and mud.
The news continued almost without interruption for hours.
There was no footage, but it was confirmed that many public
buildings, hospitals, schools and more solidly-constructed
facilities were reported collapsed. I have read that an
earthquake of the magnitude of 7.3 is equivalent to the
energy released by an explosion of 400,000 tons of TNT.
Tragic descriptions were transmitted. Wounded people in the
streets were crying out for medical help, surrounded by
ruins under which their relatives were buried. No one,
however, was able to broadcast a single image for several
The news took all of us by surprise. Many of us have
frequently heard about hurricanes and severe flooding in
Haiti, but were not aware of the fact that this neighboring
country ran the risk of a massive earthquake. It has come
to light on this occasion that 200 years ago, a massive
earthquake similarly affected this city, which would have
been the home of just a few thousand inhabitants at that
At midnight, there was still no mention of an approximate
figure in terms of victims. High-ranking United Nations
officials and several heads of government discussed the
moving events and announced that they would send emergency
brigades to help. Given that MINUSTAH (United Stabilization
Mission in Haiti) troops are deployed there – UN forces
from various countries – some defense ministers were
talking about possible casualties among their personnel.
It was only yesterday, Wednesday morning, when the sad news
began to arrive of enormous human losses among the
population, and even institutions such as the United
Nations mentioned that some of their buildings in that
country had collapsed, a word that does not say anything in
itself but could mean a lot.
For hours, increasingly more traumatic news continued to
arrive about the situation in this sister nation. Figures
related to the number of fatal victims were discussed,
which fluctuated, according to various versions, between
30,000 and 100,000. The images are devastating; it is
evident that the catastrophic event has been given
widespread coverage around the world, and many governments,
sincerely moved by the disaster, are making efforts to
cooperate according to their resources.
The tragedy has genuinely moved a significant number of
people, particularly those in which that quality is innate.
But perhaps very few of them have stopped to consider why
Haiti is such a poor country. Why does almost 50% of its
population depend on family remittances sent from abroad?
Why not analyze the realities that led Haiti to its current
situation and this enormous suffering as well?
The most curious aspect of this story is that no one has
said a single word to recall the fact that Haiti was the
first country in which 400,000 Africans, enslaved and
trafficked by Europeans, rose up against 30,000 white slave
masters on the sugar and coffee plantations, thus
undertaking the first great social revolution in our
hemisphere. Pages of insurmountable glory were written
there. Napoleon’s most eminent general was defeated there.
Haiti is the net product of colonialism and imperialism, of
more than one century of the employment of its human
resources in the toughest forms of work, of military
interventions and the extraction of its natural resources.
This historic oversight would not be so serious if it were
not for the real fact that Haiti constitutes the disgrace
of our era, in a world where the exploitation and pillage
of the vast majority of the planet’s inhabitants prevails.
Billions of people in Latin American, Africa and Asia are
suffering similar shortages although perhaps not to such a
degree as in the case of Haiti.
Situations like that of that country should not exist in
any part of the planet, where tens of thousands of cities
and towns abound in similar or worse conditions, by virtue
of an unjust international economic and political order
imposed on the world. The world population is not only
threatened by natural disasters such as that of Haiti,
which is a just a pallid shadow of what could take place in
the planet as a result of climate change, which really was
the object of ridicule, derision, and deception in
It is only just to say to all the countries and
institutions that have lost citizens or personnel because
of the natural disaster in Haiti: we do not doubt that in
this case, the greatest effort will be made to save human
lives and alleviate the pain of this long-suffering people.
We cannot blame them for the natural phenomenon that has
taken place there, even if we do not agree with the policy
adopted with Haiti.
But I have to express the opinion that it is now time to
look for real and lasting solutions for that sister nation.
In the field of healthcare and other areas, Cuba – despite
being a poor and blockaded country – has been cooperating
with the Haitian people for many years. Around 400 doctors
and healthcare experts are offering their services free of
charge to the Haitian people. Our doctors are working every
day in 227 of the country’s 337 communes. On the other
hand, at least 400 young Haitians have trained as doctors
in our homeland. They will now work with the reinforcement
brigade which traveled there yesterday to save lives in
this critical situation. Thus, without any special effort
being made, up to 1,000 doctors and healthcare experts can
be mobilized, almost all of whom are already there willing
to cooperate with any other state that wishes to save the
lives of the Haitian people and rehabilitate the injured.
Another significant number of young Haitians are currently
studying medicine in Cuba.
We are also cooperating with the Haitian people in other
areas within our reach. However, there can be no other form
of cooperation worthy of being described as such than
fighting in the field of ideas and political action in
order to put an end to the limitless tragedy suffered by a
large number of nations such as Haiti.
The head of our medical brigade reported: "The situation is
difficult, but we have already started saving lives." He
made that statement in a succinct message hours after his
arrival yesterday in Port-au-Prince with additional medical
Later that night, he reported that Cuban doctors and ELAM’s
Haitian graduates were being deployed throughout the
country. They had already seen more than 1,000 patients in
Port-au-Prince, immediately establishing and putting into
operation a hospital that had not collapsed and using field
hospitals where necessary. They were preparing to swiftly
set up other centers for emergency care.
We feel a wholesome pride for the cooperation that, in
these tragic instances, Cuba doctors and young Haitian
doctors who trained in Cuba are offering our brothers and
sisters in Haiti!
Fidel Castro Ruz
January 14, 2009 8:25 p.m.