‘Turning pandemic into profit’ – U.S. criticizes South Africa for accepting Cuban doctors

Mildred Europa Taylor April 30, 2020
Cuban doctors arrive in SA. Photo: AFP

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has slammed South Africa for receiving Cuban doctors to help fight the coronavirus, saying that the communist island is exploiting its medics and profiting from the pandemic.

“We’ve noticed how the regime in Havana has taken advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to continue its exploitation of Cuban medical workers,” Pompeo told reporters.

“We applaud leaders in Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and other countries, which have refused to turn a blind eye to these abuses by the Cuban regime, and ask all countries to do the same, including places like South Africa and Qatar,” he was quoted by the AFP.

“Governments accepting Cuban doctors must pay them directly. Otherwise, when they pay the regime, they are helping the Cuban government turn a profit on human trafficking.”

South Africa, which has one of the highest numbers of coronavirus infections in Africa, announced on Monday that more than 200 Cuban doctors had arrived in the country. Including epidemiologists, health-care technology engineers, biotechnology experts, and family physicians, these Cuban medics have since been deployed to different provinces by South Africa’s health authorities.

Cuba helped fight white-minority rule in South Africa and has since developed close ties with the Southern African nation. But for about half a century, Western governments and free-market think tanks have had Cuba on their list of countries not worthy of emulating.

The sanctimony of the Western classical liberal thought is now under severe test as the communist island continues to make international headlines for offering up its doctors in international service. 

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuba has sent doctors to several countries, including Italy and France to battle the virus. For a country that has had one of the most notorious revolutions in the world, every citizen has access to quality healthcare.

Cuba’s health care is a basic human right entrenched into the country’s constitution with nine doctors to 1,000 citizens, according to Telesur.

Sadly, doctors do not earn much in Cuba as their economy is struggling. However, doctors are a big export and huge earner for the country and most of the monies made abroad goes to the government. There are approximately 50,000 Cuban doctors working in 67 countries around the world and the Caribbean island makes around $11 billion each year leasing these doctors to foreign countries than it makes through tourism.

During the height of the Ebola outbreak in central and west Africa, Cuba sent medics and supplies to help. In the aftermath of the 2010 Haitian earthquakes when cholera took thousands of lives on the island, Cuba stepped up with doctors and supplies.

Yet, Cuba is not a rich country nor is it a country embracing classical European liberalism. Indeed, Europeans and Americans, at least, those who are not interested in vacationing in Havana, think the least of Cuba.

For decades, U.S. embargoes have sealed opportunities for the Cuban people. The feat Cuba has reached as one of the countries with the highest literacy rates and production of doctors is shocking in view of what the U.S. has sought to prevent.

For the U.S., the problem with Cuba is that late Fidel Castro and the communist party did and do not want “freedom” for their people.

It is true Cuba’s communist party has maintained a stronghanded control that has taken the lives of thousands. Theirs was a secretive, brutal totalitarian leadership that was in part enameled by fear of what “big bad” America will do if Cuba was open to the rest of the world.

Pompeo’s latest words corroborate President Donald Trump’s decision to impose visa restrictions on Cuban officials involved in medical missions. But the Cuban government has, over the years, denied allegations that it is exploiting its medics.

Reacting to Pompeo in a tweet, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said: “The United States lie deliberately when they attack Cuba’s international medical cooperation with lies and slanders”.

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: April 30, 2020


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