Juan Juan Almeida, 26 March 2015 — The online Brazilian portal Jornal Da Band denounced the social welfare program Más Médicos (More Doctors), which is aimed at the most needy sectors of the Brazilian population, and deploys Cuban doctors to places where the Brazilian physicians do not want to work, as having been conceived as a way to transfer resources to the Island’s regime, and as an economic boost.
Thought-provoking, but it seems to me simplistic to view in this type of humanitarian invasion just a simple economic undercurrent. It is necessary to know that Cuban involvement in healthcare started in the Algeria of 1963, when a health crisis and trachoma epidemic were ferociously taking over the Algerian territory. The Cuban ambassador at the time, Commander Jorge “Papito” Serguera, proposed to the Algerian health minister, a certain Mr. Bumasa, to confront the situation with aid of Cuban doctors.
The Algerians accepted this proposal, and Seguera took his idea to Havana and spoke with Manuel “Barbarroja” Piñeiro, who in turn presented it to Fidel Castro. The latter, with canine astuteness, smelled the opportunity to penetrate through other fronts into African territory.
Algerian public health was strengthened, the pandemic was eliminated, and the work of Cuban medical personnel spread rapidly through Africa to the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Central America, South America and the Caribbean–acting as a force to promote multi-million-dollar contracts and take control of strategic countries such as Qatar, China, South Africa, Venezuela and Brazil.
At this time, Cuban medical personnel are present in 66 countries of the world — 40 of which receive the service at no cost, and another 26 which pay for it and generate revenues above and beyond a staightforward social program. The most conservative figures reported by the official media show that the exportation of these volunteer workers — who include physicians, ophthalmologists, healthcare technicians and service personnel — brings in more than $5.5 billion annually, which makes it the principal line item in the Cuban economy.
Even so, besides the clear economic and humanitarian factors, the Cuban health program has other objectives.
If it is true that Cuban doctors, as overseas volunteer workers, tend to a population of scarce resources, it is also true that they offer very diligent services to certain members of families that are not so disadvantaged.
Jornal Da Band will be surprised to know the extensive list of important political figures, influential personalities and world celebrities who have been patients in the Island. But, why mention them? I feel that, to quote Che’s sadly famous missive, “There is no point in scribbling pages.” And the crushing truth is that the Cuban volunteers, besides being professionals, also know how to be persons, how to develop friendships, and to break the almost inhuman distance that certain medical protocols create between doctor and patient.
It is not necessary to explain that healthcare requires commitment. I myself do not belong to that group that is willing to dedicate their lives to the noble cause of the homeland, but I would gladly give it for who would save my child, a friend, or an ill relative. Therefore, politically speaking, even more than ideology and making money, the Cuban medical missions have as their primary objective creating an army of the grateful spread throughout the world, who occupy an important place in the social sphere, who remain motivated and invisible, but ever at the ready to take action and speak favorably about Cuban medicine, the Cuban Revolution, and its hysterical leaders. Oops, the spell-checker played a trick on me! I meant to say, “historical.”
The Cuban medical programs have basic objectives: political, economic, humanitarian and caregiving.
Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison