Highly skilled medical professionals, with a human touch, in Peru and around the world
In all countries where Cuban doctors are working, may arrive, or will arrive by intergovernmental agreement, the same chorus of intolerant, conservative voices and anonymous “trolls” can be heard, angrily denouncing their presence on social media. The pattern is being repeated in Peru, since the official signing of an agreement to receive Cuban health professionals here.
The arguments are the same as those used in other countries: quotes from Oppenheimer, accusations of slavery, questioning of the doctors’ medical qualifications – all preposterous, to say the least, in terms of statistics, scientific achievements, level of care provided… not to mention the many Peruvians who have studied medicine in Cuba – plus unfounded assertions that the collaborators are coming to spy or train terrorists. The similarity of the attacks is evidently due to a script that is also repeated daily by the U.S. government´s Voice of America radio and TV, and its sub-product “TV Martí” (which outrages Cubans for improperly using the name of our national hero).
Also repeated is the insistence that these collaborators are not needed, since there are plenty of well-prepared doctors in Peru. The latter is certainly true. (I once visited the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana with a group of Peruvian journalists, and the first thing the dean told us was that the Peruvian students were the best.) The current problem is that there are not enough of them and the Medical Association has repeatedly requested the hiring of more doctors, especially since a third of those in public health have been infected with the new coronavirus, or are prevented from working as members of at-risk groups. And needed are not recent graduates, but experienced professionals, no matter where they are from.
This is the first reason the presence of Cuban doctors is desirable. They have decades of experience – the first brigade worked in Algiers in 1963 – in situations of epidemics and other disasters in many countries, with such success and recognition that they have recently been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The detractors, obviously motivated by ideological reasons, inappropriate in times of a serious health emergency such as Peru is experiencing, fail to mention that 26 brigades with a total of 2,500 Cuban collaborators from the Henry Reeve contingent, specialized in disaster situations, are currently fighting COVID-19 in some 30 countries around the world, with governments of different persuasions, and in all cases, their work has been praised.
These brigades joined 28,000 other collaborators already working in 59 countries when the pandemic hit. Dozens of other countries have since requested their presence.
The naysayers falsely claim that Cuban doctors were expelled from Italy, where Lombardy honored them, grateful for their magnificent work in the province with the highest number of infections in the country. The Italian Minister of Public Administration, Fabiona Dadone, described their work as an example of collaboration and solidarity.
In Africa, Cuban doctors did not hesitate to risk their lives to battle Ebola, at the request of then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Former U.S. President Barack Obama supported the operation and praised the performance of the brigade.
Another favorite topic raised by opponents of Cuban solidarity is the withdrawal of the our doctors from Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador, countries where right wing governments, allied with the United States, ended cooperation agreements for purely political reasons. Not even former conservative President Temer dared to end our doctors’ presence across Brazil, and Cuba respected that decision, despite the differences. It was extremist Bolsonaro who ordered their departure.
Officials from the U.S. embassy watched from a car as the Cuban cooperation clinic in La Paz was attacked, after the coup against Evo Morales.
Detractors have called our collaborators victims and slaves – professionals who, trained in humanism and solidarity, consider it normal that the state should allocate part of the economic compensation received to the maintenance of our country’s health system, facing a blockade that makes access to needed equipment and medicines more expensive, if not impossible to acquire.
And those who speak of slavery never say a word about so-called outsourcing of services, a modality in which the employer keeps, and profits from, most of what the contracting party pays for each worker.
The haters fail to mention how it was for the Peruvian people who half a century ago counted on this solidarity, when the first Cuban brigade arrived to assist those affected by the earthquake of May 31, 1970, who also built and left as a legacy five hospitals in several locations.
Nor do they care to be reminded that, in the 1990s, a team of Cuban specialists came to Peru to provide advice during the cholera epidemic, and it does not occur to them to ask what the people of Pisco think of Cuban doctors and nurses’ work after the 2007 earthquake. They left a fully equipped field hospital as a donation.
The memories are fresh in Piura, where Cuban brigades arrived in 2017 to assist the population impacted by floods and diseases that spread rapidly as a result of the standing water and extreme heat.
It is no wonder that the announced cooperation agreement in Peru originated as a result of requests from more than half of regional governments, who know well the island’s prestige in the field of medicine.
Finally, a few lines on the absurd accusation that the Cuban government sends medical missions abroad and leaves its own people unprotected against the coronavirus. Readers may simply take a look at the figures to draw conclusions about Cuba’s efforts to confront the pandemic at home. The reasons our help is requested will be obvious, and our detractors left without words.