Despite the Embargo, 10 Million Syringes Are En Route to Cuba from the U.S.

A volunteer participant in Phase 3 of the Abdala vaccine trial in Santiago de Cuba. (Sierra Maestra)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 17 June 2021 – To immunize the Cuban population against Covid-19, along with those foreigners going for the “mojito with vaccine” vacation deal, the authorities have figured that between 20 and 25 million syringes will be needed. It is a goal could be within reach, given the donations – almost half the number and despite the embargo – that are coming from the U.S.

It is “Washington’s cruel and immoral embargo,” which is invoked by Edward Asner, American actor and member of Global Health Partners (GHP), an organization based in New York that is coordinating the donations. According to a recent statement by GHP, “the initiative is being handled through the Saving Lives campaign and includes dozens of local and national organizations – including MEDICC, DSA, CodePink [among those promoting the Nobel Peace Prize award to the Henry Reeve medical Brigade], IFCO, and the Center for Cuban Studies.” The group foresees taking around 10 million syringes in  containers to “relieve the shortage caused by the U.S. embargo.”

Paradoxically, the association – which since its founding in the mid-70s, has launched various campaigns to fund medical projects in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala in addition to Cuba – relies on a U.S. Department of Commerce export permit to realize the donations. The embargo impedes the ability of the Cuban state to buy the material, but at the same time, the American government itself facilitates the acquisition of the product without one cent being paid.

Asner – winner of multiple Grammies and Emmies, U.S. Army veteran, and fervent socialist – details in his fundraising letter the importance of thanking the Island for all it does for the world through its medical missions and pharmaceutical products. “With this track record and their solidarity, we are in an ideal position to make this syringe campaign a success,” Asner argues.

According to GHP calculations, a donation of $ 1,000 would enable the shipment of 28,571 hospital-grade syringes, $360 would be enough to vaccinate 10,265 people, and $150 would finance the transport of 4,285 syringes to the island’s health centers. To encourage giving, the organization reminds the reader that donations to this cause are tax-deductible.

According to Asner, GHP has already delivered to Cuba more than $190-million dollars in medicines and medical supplies that are in short supply – thus confirming that the distribution is ongoing, despite the embargo.

Europe is expected to send a shipment of similar volume.  Europe is believed to be in a position to imminently supply an additional 10-million syringes, the result of a campaign coordinated by the solidarity network mediCuba-Europe, based in Agno (Switzerland) and the participation of member organizations from thirteen European States (Germany, Sweden, Italy , Ireland, France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Finland, Norway, Spain and Austria). In addition, there are partner organizations from three other countries, the UK, Denmark and the Netherlands.

“The Cuban Ministry of Public Health has placed an order for 10 million syringes and needles for a total price of $800,000 euros, which we hope to finance thanks to European solidarity and the collaboration of the Swiss Embassy in Cuba (SDC),” reads the introductory text of this initiative.

This is the third campaign GHP have carried out since March 2020. Previously, the network has raised more than 600,000 euros together with 250,000 Swiss francs (about 230,000 euros) from that country’s embassy, in Cuba with which they have acquired fans, laboratory reagents for PCR [polymerase chain reaction] tests, and laboratory equipment for the production of vaccines on the Island.

Now, for the syringes campaign, the same embassy has raised about 380,000 Swiss francs, and members of the GHP network continue to gather support. The latest known data has been provided by Sodepaz, a promoter in Spain that aims to supply three million syringes, and on June 10 placed at 2,643,000 the number it can send with its collection. In the European context, the goal of the 10 million may have been exceeded, since as of April 27, it had already garnered 6,500,000 syringes.

MediCuba-Europa boasts that their shipments have contributed recently to the development of five vaccine candidates. “This is a considerable achievement of the health system and of national scientific institutions, which demonstrates not only the high level of quality and strong professional commitment of the island’s research community, but also the will and tenacity of the authorities to guarantee health care and services to the entire population, despite a precarious economic situation exacerbated by the deepening of economic, financial, and commercial measures imposed by the Government of the United States of America – that is, the illegal, arbitrary blockade, inhumane and against international law, as the United Nations General Assembly remembers it every year,” they argue.

The Island’s government has not wanted for aid from Latin America either. Albeit more modest, the region’s campaigns have managed to collect almost five million syringes from different countries, as confirmed to Prensa Latina by Humberto Pérez of the board of the Martiana Association of Cuban Residents of Panama (AMCRP).

The Panamanian organization raised money from Cubans, pro-Castro groups, unions, politicians, businessmen, and parties in countries such as El Salvador, Bolivia, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Chile, and Uruguay.

“On April 3, we sounded the call in Panama, based on an idea that emerged in Canada last year,” said Pérez, who collected 900,000 syringes from his country alone that have already been arriving in Cuba.

Thus the idea proceeded from the north of the continent, which has also collected almost two million more of the product. The campaign started in Canada on January 8 and already by April 1 the Canadian Network of Solidarity with Cuba announced the arrival of 1,920,000 syringes.

Nor is Argentina absent, having on June 1 sent a shipment of 380,000 syringes and 359,000 needles to Havana. “The contribution of the Argentine Movement of Solidarity with Cuba (MasCuba), the Union of Cuban Residents in Argentina (URCA) and other groups sensitized to the Cuban cause, was fundamental to the ability of carrying out this work, which is of a deeply human nature,” said the Cuban official press.

Although possibly one of the most peculiar campaigns is the one that comes from a pro-Castro YouTuber and blogger known as Guajiro Citadino, who raised about $10K for syringes through a project which, curiously, he named “Patria o Muerte” [“Homeland or Death“].

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison    


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