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Last Friday Raul Castro, brother of Cuba revolutionary leader and late President Fidel Castro, announced his retirement as Leader of the Communist Party. This party has governed Cuba since 1959 and has withstood economic sanctions by several United States (U.S) presidents that sought to cripple the economy in the hope that communism will fall. Arguably those sanctions did have some success in hindering the Cuban people from unleashing their full potentials and building the type of economy they fought for during Fidel Castro led revolution and overthrow of the Batista government.
The Barack Obama administration broke the long-held tradition of sanction arguing that it has outlived its usefulness and has not changed Cuba’s communist ideology but brought direct suffering and deprivation to the people. Some feel that the U.S is still smarting from the 1961 failed “Bay of Pigs” invasion into Cuba, that had the support of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Cuban-exiled paramilitary groups.
It was during the Obama presidency it was announced (April 2015) the U.S will remove Cuba from its list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Obama also opened avenues to Cuba, facilitating flights to the island and money transfer from the U.S. This U.S-Cuba relation was built during the presidency of Raul Castro but was reversed in the Donald Trump administration.
In spite of U.S economic sanctions Cuba has been a friend of many, including marginalised peoples around the world. Cuba has been a great ally of Guyana and over the years successive governments and the people have benefitted from bilateral cooperation. Guyana continues to benefit from education and training in different health fields and sick Guyanese have been able to visit Cuba for advanced medical treatment.
Cuba is known to have an outstanding health system and in the earlier period of the pandemic allied have benefitted from its medical prowess. Cuba medical teams were welcomed in Europe, Caribbean, South America, Latin America, and Africa. They volunteered their service to any country, across the globe, that needed their assistance. It was said they went to 40 countries across five continents.
Responding to the Government of Cuba’s generosity people showed their gratitude in so many ways. These included welcoming the teams from the airport tarmac as they deplaned clutching their red, white and blue flag, and medical bags all dressed in white, a colour that symbolises the healthcare profession, and earning them the sobriquet, ‘white coat army.” According to the Cuba Ministry of Foreign Affairs the government was able to send more than 600,000 medical doctors, nurses and technicians abroad to fight the coronavirus.
The online guardian newspaper reported “While some two dozen missions are provided free of cost by Havana, other countries where the doctors are deployed pay Cuba for the medical services, bringing in US $6.3 billion (£4.8bn) annually, Havana’s largest source of foreign currency.” This medical outreach is arguably the most impressive international medical diplomacy seen thus far in response to the global pandemic. So admired was the service provided by even states within the U.S were willing to have them.
The success of Cuba, even if some count it only in their quality of healthcare provided to citizens and shared with the world, the infrastructure was the making of the Castro brothers. Now that the only living one has stepped down from political leadership this is the first time in 62 years a Castro is not at the helm of political leadership on the island.