Cuban Police Arrest Several Mothers for Demanding Medical Attention for Their Children

Some of the women who protested this Friday in front of the Ministry of Public Health. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 November 2023 — A dozen mothers of minors with chronic and difficult-to-treat illnesses demanded this Friday, in front of the headquarters of the Ministry of Public Health in Havana, better quality medical care for their children, chanting: “No more communism, we want a solution.” Some of the women – including those from Pinar del Río and Mayabeque – were arrested before they could demonstrate on the corner of 23 and N, according to activist Diasniurka Salcedo Verdecia, who reported the protest in a direct Facebook broadcast.

“We are demanding that there be a better quality of life for all these vulnerable children who are not cared for by the dictatorship. All these children are dying because of a dictatorship,” Salcedo claimed on behalf of the mothers.

After being questioned by an official who identified himself as Fernando, a worker at the Ministry, Salcedo demanded that, before any negotiation, the Police allow the release of the detained mothers. The women, she explained, were traveling in a vehicle that was intercepted at the corner of 23 and M, one block before reaching the place of the protest. “If we’re not doing anything wrong, why are they arresting the mothers who were on the other corner?” she asked.

The only thing I ask for is a humanitarian visa. I want to get Damir out of Cuba. In Cuba there is no solution for Damir. My son lives with a protective helmet because he has a hole in his head

The women who did manage to reach the ministerial headquarters also refused to enter the interior of the building to “be attended to,” as requested by Fernando, an official, until the detainees were present.

One of the mothers who took part in the protest said that Frida, who intended to attend the demonstration, “has two policemen outside her house and they won’t let her out.”

The women also reported Internet cuts and telephone problems that prevented them from broadcasting the demonstration through other channels, in addition to Salcedo’s. This is the case of the mother of Geobel Damir Ortiz Ramírez, age 9, a resident in San Miguel del Padrón, for whom she claims a humanitarian visa that would allow him to be treated abroad.

“The only thing I ask for is a humanitarian visa. I want to get Damir out of Cuba. In Cuba there is no solution for Damir. My son lives with a protective helmet because he has a hole in his head,” the woman said while showing her son to the camera. As she explained, the minor has a brain tumor that spans from his right eye to the posterior area of his head and “is opening his skull,” she said.

Another woman presented a photo of her daughter, who has been waiting for an esophageal transplant for five years. “My daughter has been without a medical diet for two years, even though she can’t eat by mouth, because the pediatrician says she doesn’t meet the requirements. We also don’t have the supplies to help her,” she said. This woman also requested a humanitarian visa so that her daughter could “be cared for, have a good diet and have surgery.”

Salcedo also conveyed the moment when “a man with a red jacket” arrested her husband, who was also part of the protest in the vicinity of the ministry. “See, they’re taking my husband. That’s how they act; this is a dictatorship. I’m not going to move from here,” she asserted.

I have eight children and a bad housing situation. I have appealed to all the institutions, but they bounce me around from here to there

Seconds later, another mother arrived, from Mayabeque, with seven of her eight children. “I have eight children and a bad housing situation. I have appealed to all the institutions, but they bounce me around from here to there. We also need food,” she lamented.

The presence of the protest on social networks was cut short. Shortly after the live broadcast ended, Salcedo posted on her Facebook profile that she was no longer able to transmit. Since then, the situation of women in front of the ministry has been uncertain.

A video posted on the social network X by Yamila La Hija de Maceo, showed a caravan of motorcycles and state cars. According to the activist, they were State Security vehicles heading to the Ministry of Public Health. She didn’t offer more details.

Despite this situation and the multiple complaints against the Cuban health system on social networks, an article published this Friday in the official newspaper Escambray celebrated the story of Andrew, a boy from Sancti Spíritus who was about to lose a leg after being run over by a water truck. The speed with which, according to the newspaper, the doctors acted, saved the child’s life and demonstrated the professionalism of the system, which works, like everything on the Island, “thanks to the Revolution” and despite the U.S. blockade.

The Public Health crisis in Cuba, a country where patients are required to provide the supplies they need for the slightest treatment, has reached a critical point in recent months. The training of new health workers, indispensable to guarantee relief in a context of an unstoppable exodus of professionals, is also progressing poorly.

Addiel Marrón, a Holguin doctor who graduated just a year ago, complained on his Facebook profile on Wednesday that “the sacrifice of six years of study is not worth it.” According to the young man, the emigration of his colleagues and the difficult conditions in which he must work, in addition to the poor salary, make the beginning of his professional career bitter. “The only thing I am proud of is that I was able to give my parents the satisfaction of having graduated and having the knowledge to save a life.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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