HAVANA, March 28th (CNN) Cuba is offering to send doctors to more countries struggling with the coronavirus. But don’t accept their help, the US State Department says. As health care systems around the world are strained to the point of collapse, Cuban health care “brigades” have been invited to assist medical workers in Italy, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Suriname, Jamaica and Grenada.
On Tuesday, Cuban officials released a video of a field hospital its health care workers had built-in Lombardy, Italy, one of the regions hit hardest by the coronavirus.
Cuba saw hundreds of doctors sent home from medical missions in Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia in recent years, after the US criticized Cuba’s medical assistance programs, accusing them of exploiting health care workers and spreading propaganda. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Extremely effective at disaster relief
Like many institutions in Cuba, the local health care system has seen better days. But the hyper centralization of the Cuban government, which has been so disastrous for the island’s economy, makes Cuba extremely effective at disaster relief. And while health professionals on the island operate on a shoestring, the system is geared to preventing disease rather than waiting to treat it.
Soon all the government resources were focused on the pandemic. Currently, Cuba has 57 confirmed cases with 1,479 other people who are hospitalized and being monitored for symptoms of the coronavirus.
The MS Braemar docked in the Port of Mariel, site of the boatlift of refugees fleeing the island to the US in 1980, and Cuban health workers carried out the risky, daylong operation of transporting more than 600 cruise ship passengers from the port to the runaway at Havana’s airport, where four charter planes to England were waiting.
“The sanctions have a more generalized and deadly direct effect by contributing to a more generalized scarcity of life-saving medicine and equipment because they exacerbate an economic downturn,” Weisbrot wrote to CNN in an email. “This means more scarcities of vital medical needs and supplies and more deaths.”
If Trump did offer Cuba any sanctions relief, it would fly in the face of his policy of dismantling the Obama administration’s opening to Cuba. Trump has also made clear he believes a tough on Cuba posture wins votes with Florida’s conservative Cuban American community.