The response of socialist Cuba to the global SARS-CoV2 pandemic has been outstanding both domestically and for its international contribution. That a small island nation, subjected to hundreds of years of colonialism and imperialism and, since the Revolution of 1959, six decades of the criminal United States blockade, can play such an exemplary role is due to Cuba’s socialist system. The central plan directs national resources according to a development strategy which prioritises human welfare and community participation, not private profit. HELEN YAFFE reports.
At 2.10am on 30 April, the Cuban embassy in Washington was attacked by a hail of machine gun fire. 32 bullets from an AK-47 peppered the entrance to the building and a statue of Jose Marti. No one was injured, though seven people were inside the building. The terrorist was Alexander Alazo Baró, a Cuban-born man who moved to Mexico in 2003 before seeking asylum in the US in 2010. The attack was carefully planned: Alazo reconnoitred the embassy two weeks before; he draped himself in a US flag to avoid being gunned down by police; he attempted to burn a Cuban flag on which was scrawled ‘Trump 2020’. Instead of cooperating and condemning this terrorist attack on Cuba’s diplomatic mission, the US government has added Cuba to a list of countries that are not cooperating with US anti-terrorism activities.
We Are Cuba: How a Revolutionary People Have Survived in a Post-Soviet World
Helen Yaffe, Yale Press, 2020, 363pp. £18.99 RRP or £15.99 inc p&p from FRFI.
Drawing on extensive inter-view documentation with Cubans from all walks of life, We Are Cuba: How a Revolutionary People Have Survived in a Post-Soviet World offers a remarkable insight into why and how Cuban socialism was able to survive after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Helen Yaffe eclipses the literature that has tried to answer these questions within a reductive framework based primarily on the political aspects of Cuban socialism with a focus on the Castro brothers. Looking at both the economic history and political economy of Cuba, We Are Cuba incorporates a deeper analysis by examining the impacts of underdevelopment, imperialism, crisis and isolation in terms of Cuba’s development strategy, medical science, international solidarity, energy and environment to find how the revolutionary Cuban people survived a period critics were sure would destroy them.
In late January 2020, the Chinese National Health Commission selected a Cuban anti-viral drug, Interferon Alfa 2b, among the treatments it would use for Covid-19 patients. This drug has been produced in Cuba by the Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) since 1986 and in China since 2003 by the Cuban-Chinese biotech joint venture ChangHeber. It has shown its efficacy and safety in the therapy of viral diseases including dengue, Hepatitis B and C, shingles and HIV-AIDS. Because it interferes with viral multiplication within cells, it has also been used in the treatment of different types of carcinomas. Dr Luis Herrera Martinez, who led the team which first made the Cuban anti-viral drug in the 1980s, explained, ‘its use prevents aggravation and complications in patients, reaching that stage that ultimately can result in death.’ By March 2020, as China prioritised the drug, authorities around the world were requesting the Cuban product. Helen Yaffe reports.
I am running a marathon – in one mile laps – this Sunday 10 May from 10am. I will be streaming live updates:
Please donate via the Go Cardless link here: (** see note below)
Why not get involved and get sponsored to run your own mile laps, posting your videos too!
Cuba is making a huge contribution worldwide to fighting the pandemic - Cuban medical teams are currently working in 60 countries. Cuba has sent 14 additional brigades of medical specialists abroad specifically to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Italy, South Africa, Nicaragua, St Kitts and Grenadines, Granada, Jamaica, Venezuela, with delegations preparing to go to Congo. Cuba's life-saving drug Interferon Alpha 2B is already being distributed and administrated to Covid-19 patients. Cuba received the stricken British cruise ship MS Braemar when the US, the Bahamas and no other country in the region would. It treated its passengers and ensured passage home for those who could travel. This is a shining example of socialist internationalism.
Yet due to illegal unilateral sanctions,, Cuba cannot buy new ventilators or repair old ones because the companies that previously supplied ventilators were acquired by a US company (Vyaire Medical Inc). The US blockade imposed on Cuba forbids any type of trading, even of medical items in the middle of this Covid-19 pandemic.
Cuban institutions in health, research and academia have come together to repair old ventilators and to build new devices to support infected patients. Half of all the funds I raise will be given to the Cubanos en UK appeal to support Cuba in building ventilators, adding to the donations already made by Rock Around the Blockade. The rest of the funds will be used to support our urgent solidarity work here in Britain, helping us to organise action against the blockade and produce a new pamphlet to raise awareness about Cuba here in Britain.
Donate, share and watch my sweaty face getting redder with each lap!
Thank you so much to everyone who liked, shared and donated to Sunday's 'Marathon for Cuba'. 46.7 kilometres completed (29 miles)! You can see the videos uploaded as part of the run on our facebook. Any final donations can be sent via Go Cardless here:
Whilst we are still collecting in the final donations, we have already made a £350 payment to Cubanos en UK's emergency ventilator appeal, and will send on any final cash collected. Their appeal has nearly reached it's goal so please keep sharing and helping them smash their £25,000 target.
Rock Around the Blockade will use the remaining half of donations to campaign against the US blockade and build solidarity with Cuba Socialista here in Britain. We are producing a new edition of our pamphlet 'The streets are ours!' which will cover the fundamentals of Cuba's 60 year revolution and why we need to defend it from the escalating threat of economic warfare and intervention.
Watch this space for meetings, protests, campaigns and events
Viva Cuba! Smash the blockade!
Rock around the Blockade is supporting this fundraising campaign to buy equipment for ventilators for Cuban patients with Covid-19. They are blocked from purchasing new machines by the illegal, punitive US blockade. Please donate what you can and share widely.
When times are hard, that is when we most need generosity, kindness and compassion. We appeal to that generosity, that makes us better people, as we turn to you in asking for help. We need to buy components to build ventilators to support COVID-19 patients with medical complications in Cuba.
As you may know, Cuba cannot buy new ventilators or repair old ones because the companies that previously supplied ventilators to Cuba were acquired by a US company (Vyaire Medical Inc). The US blockade imposed on Cuba forbids any type of trading, even of medical items in the middle of this pandemic. However, people still need to be treated and saved.
Cuban institutions in health, research and academia have come together to repair old ventilators and to build new devices to support infected patients. Funds from this appeal will support Cuba in building ventilators using designs that the international community has kindly made available for free on the web. Specifically, funds from this campaign will be used to support building ventilators using the design of the MIT Emergency Ventilator (E-Vent) Project. For this project, Cuban scientists are in close contact with, and studying, the experiences of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Free University of Brussels), UCLA, and McGill University. In this way, -through collaboration, open-source and solidarity- we can work around the US blockade of Cuba and help sick people.
We – you and me – can save patients in Cuba by contributing to this campaign.
This is an urgent request. We need to raise £25 000. Time is short, people are dying.
Until the £25K target is not reached, we cannot use the funds. Please, make your contribution today.
Dr Miriam Palacios-Callender & Dr Valia Rodriguez-Rodriguez
Dr Miriam Palacios-Callender is a Cuban scientist resident in the United Kingdom
Dr Valia Rodriguez Rodriguez is a Cuban medical doctor and academic currently residing in the United Kingdom.
Rock Around The Blockade, campaign of the Revolutionary Communist Group, condemns the escalation of US aggression against Venezuela and Cuba in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Trump administration's deployment of navy destroyers to patrol the Caribbean near Venezuela on 1 April is a declaration of war and the latest move in protracted efforts to overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution. The US military deployment is part of a wider manoeuvre planned for the whole region involving aircraft and ground units, adding to deployments to Guyana and a major new military pact with Brazil, Venezuela's hostile neighbours. These actions will amount to the largest US military deployment in the region in the last 30 years.
We reject the heinous accusations that Venezuela is a narco-state and the vile bounty Trump has placed on President Nicolas Maduro's head. Evidence from the United States' own Department of Defence concludes that Venezuela is not a prime transit country for drugs, with the majority of US supply originating from Colombia, channelled via the pacific to other US allies in central America before being smuggled north across the US border. Furthermore, Trump's reference to 'malign actors' seeking to exploit the coronavirus situation as a further justification is ludicrous. It is the US that is now the epicentre of the pandemic thanks to a lax response in which the Trump administration prioritised private interests over social health. It is the US that is the 'malign actor' exploiting the pandemic for its own gain by ramping up sanctions and hostilities on countries across the globe.
A map produced by the US Southern Command shows the main drug-smuggling routes in Latin America connecting Colombia and Ecuador with Guatemala and Mexico via the Pacific Ocean.
Crushing US sanctions are estimated to have cost Venezuela $120 billion since 2014. Human rights expert Alfred de Zayas, who as UN rapporteur visited Venezuela in 2017, estimates these measures have killed over 100,000 as imports of key medicines and healthcare equipment have been blocked. Defying the UN call to suspend all sanctions in the battle against the virus, the US has blocked an emergency IMF loan being granted to Venezuela and has vowed to ramp up sanctions until President Nicolas Maduro resigns and Venezuela terminates all agreements with Russia and Cuba. This would require the total surrender of the Bolivarian Revolution and the social and political gains that have been won by the working and impoverished classes in the fight for socialism for over the last 20 years. Trump is weaponising sanctions in the covid-19 pandemic in the hope of crushing movements for socialism.
The PSUV government headed by Maduro has made clear that they will meet aggression full on. In a letter to the US people, Maduro wrote 'I wholeheartedly ask you not to allow your country to be dragged once again into another unending conflict, another Vietnam, another Iraq, but this time, closer to home.'
The Trump administration has also been busy smearing outstanding contribution of socialist Cuba in fighting the pandemic, peddling lies about 'slave doctors' and pressuring other countries to reject practical assistance from Cuban medical teams working in 60 countries. Cuba has sent 14 brigades of medical specialists abroad specifically to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. While the US offers vast amounts of money for exclusive access in the scramble to produce a vaccine, Cuba's life-saving drug Interferon Alpha 2B is already being distributed and administrated to Covid-19 patients. Cuba received the stricken British cruise ship MS Braemar and treated its passengers. Meanwhile, US sanctions have blocked the delivery of Chinese donations of testing kits, masks and ventilators to the island. In the face of the US blockade which costs Cuba some $12 million a day, socialist internationalism is prevailing against US imperialist bullying. We must join the international demand to end the illegal US blockade of Cuba. Rock Around The Blockade and the Revolutionary Communist Group demand:
Hands off Cuba! Hands off Venezuela! An attack on the fight for socialism in Latin America is an attack on the fight for socialism everywhere!
Take action! Demand an end to the extra-territorial application of the US blockade of Cuba in Britain. Demand an end to British support for US sanctions on Venezuela. Release Venezuela's gold with-held in the Bank of England. Complain to:
Dominic Raab – Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Dominic Raab MP House of Commons London SW1A 0AA.