By: Ramona Wadi
As the U.S. continues its defunding of international organisations, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) is next in line, as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared his country’s funding conditional upon “U.S. values”. The mismanagement of funds, particularly at UN institutions, is a well-known occurrence. However, the corruption existing at international institutions reflects the obscure, or non-existent process, of accountability, which capitalism encourages in order to maintain the monopoly over human rights rhetoric.
Under U.S. President Donald Trump, pointing out corruption is becoming a veneer under which the U.S. can manipulate the trajectory of human rights violations. The PAHO has not been singled out for its affiliation to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which Trump recently defunded, but for the organisation’s role in facilitating the Cuban revolutionary doctors’ internationalist approach to aiding countries during the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. has intensified its vilification of Cuban doctors – a source of pride for Cuba – as the country’s version of alleged forced labour. A briefing by the U.S. State Department describes Cuba as facilitating human trafficking. Cuban officials have rejected the U.S. insinuations, contrasting Trump’s mismanagement with the Cuban model of medical practice; the latter efficient enough to cater for both Cubans and countries abroad.
Fidel Castro envisaged healthcare as a human right – a view shared by Argentine revolutionary and medic Ernesto Che Guevara. In his early travels across Latin America in 1951, Che’s observations of medical practice and community relations led him to envisage a different system comprising of health awareness and preventive medicine. The Cuban Revolution eliminated all prestige associated with the medical profession, with the best doctors leaving Cuba for the U.S. Nevertheless, the model envisaged by Che, which brought medical practice to all parts of the island, has proved successful, to the point that Cuba’s healthcare system, despite the illegal blockade enforced by the U.S. on the island, managed to cater not only for the Cuban people’s needs, but also regionally and internationally.
Cuba’s healthcare system is intricately woven with its internationalist approach. Besides exposing the failings in a capitalist system that contributed to the death toll in Western countries, the world was also offered a glimpse into the Cuban medical model. The medical brigades reached out internationally, while in their country, Cubans benefited from rigorous checks and door to door medical visits, thus illustrating how community relations were integrated into the Cuban approach to medicine. The not-for profit model inspired by the Cuban revolution thrived despite U.S. efforts to destabilise Cuba economically and politically, partly due to the education system which is also based upon the revolutionary principles of internationalism.
It is worth noting that the UN, despite its role in destroying the environment through its promotion of wars and plunder, is now calling for recognition of the “interdependence between humanity and biodiversity”, which, as UNESCO Director General Azulay stated, “is so profound that the latter’s vulnerabilities are our own.”
In this regard, Cuba also sets an example. The plunder of natural resources was perpetually referenced by Fidel in his speeches, which regularly emphasised the consequences of war and capitalist economies. Despite the U.S. sanctions on the island, in 2019 Cuba was declared the most sustainably developed country by anthropologist Dr Jason Hickel.
U.S. threats, therefore, do have the potential to create the space for additional human rights violations, in particular when it comes to institutions that are dependent upon the same corruption to thrive. However, Pompeo’s posturing also puts the U.S. in stark contrast with Cuba and its commitment to humanity – a principle which, despite Fidel’s death, remains ingrained within the island’s political and education system.