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Trafficking in persons or how to treat people?

medico cubanoWhen most people in Bayamo were still asleep early Sunday morning, September 1, the young doctor Zoila Verdecia left home in her white coat, on the way to one more shift in the emergency room.“I left Samuelito, asleep, out cold. School starts tomorrow, and there’s still a lot to do. Any clothes were fine at the childcare center, but now in preschool, there’s the uniform, the backpack, notebook covers. When I arrive, whatever time it is, I’ll take care of that, but for now it’s the emergency room, the health of the people can’t wait .”

Leaning on the urban garden fence, foreman César Santí listens to her as he advances with a bunch of green beans in hand, just picked from the beds.

“Take these, doctor, so you can keep moving. You’re headed to your Sunday shift. How many Cuban doctors, here and outside the country, are doing the same thing today? Then Trump and his cronies come along spending millions to show that they are “slaves,” victims of “trafficking.” No way…”

“Thank you, César», Zoila says as she hurries on, but turning around after just three steps, she goes back to add, “What you were saying… this is pure cynicism from that government.”

Alongside the Bayamo urban garden, veteran José Antonio Martínez and César continue the discussion: “This Trump is a crazy! All they have left is money, like always. They think they can buy anything, even to deny something evident. Cuba shares, serves, shows solidarity. So to attack us, the United States is obliged to invent something. Paying to fabricate lies about Cuba´s international collaboration is absurd and unacceptable.”

On this Sunday morning, the day before millions of children returned to schools where they are educated to become people of good will, without paying a penny, César concluded the reflection: “They spend millions to put Cuba on trial, when the whole world is witness to Cuba’s truth and the great U.S. lie.”CUBAN COLLABORATORS, A LIVING EXAMPLE OF SOLIDARITY AND LOVE”It’s logical that imperialism does not like us, because while their system destroys and plunders, Cuban collaborators in dozens of countries help millions and are blessed by the peoples of the world,” said Milagros López Frank, an outstanding nurse in Cienfuegos, with 37 years in the health care field and an internationalist collaborator in Angola between 2008 and 2011, and in Guatemala from 2015 to 2017.

She insists that Washington’s lies don´t matter because the truth is written by peoples of the world, and Cuban doctors, nurses, and technicians are loved by poor people in many countries, seeing in them the only possibility they have to get better when they’re sick.

Milagros passionately supports the Foreign Ministry’s recent statement condemning new U.S. measures against Cuba and asks herself if the empire would be capable of sending healthcare professionals to favelas, to villages in the Amazon, jungle settlements – everywhere Cubans go.

The question is rhetorical, she clarifies. She knows the answer. Only Cuba has the combination of altruism, love, and humanism (and skill) to take on such a noble task.

“We do more than cure patients in Latin America, Africa and Asia; we also educate for health, fundamental for marginalized populations.”

Julio Marcial Hidalgo, studying Management of Socio-cultural Development at the University of Cienfuegos, insists on the irrationality of a system, which has plundered the world’s human and material resources, accusing one of the planet´s most generous countries of trafficking in persons and slavery.

He emphasizes the importance of knowing history. The United States established itself as an empire with annexations, purchases, and appropriation of huge areas. It’s armies have landed on all continents and the harm done local populations was no more than “collateral damage,” he adds. Meanwhile, he continues, our country -poor and blockaded by the U.S. – shares and shows solidarity.


The daughter of a patient who no longer lives in Cuba, once told him, “Doctor, if you lived in the United States, you would be a millionaire,” but Higinio Hernández, a maxillofacial surgeon from Pinar del Río insisted that neither the lectures he presented in Switzerland and Germany, or his missions in Guyana and Venezuela, would ever make him forget his roots.

He didn’t hesitate to respond, “If I were born somewhere else – Black, from a poor family – I would probably not be a doctor today.” With more than 30 years of experience. Dr. Hernández has, in addition to his surgical and teaching mastery, the gratitude of thousands of patients, as the best testimony to his dedication.

Maria is a name we hear in countless stories, but that is what people called the woman in the Venezuelan state of Mérida who lived 10 years with neuralgic pain, which he could only treat with analgesics and acupuncture. But he doesn’t remember the name of the patient whose eyelids he surgically repaired, or the elderly woman whose face he reconstructed.

“I cannot accept anyone questioning the quality of Cuban medicine, or the humanist training of our professionals,” he said, referring to the U.S. campaign.

“We are not anyone’s slaves, and we are not forced to work in other countries. Fidel said once that being an internationalist is repaying our debt to humanity, and I agree with him. That’s why we are proud to be able to help other peoples, and proud that our medicine is not based on mercantile interests, but on the vocation to serve human beings.”

A specialist in Internal Medicine since 1991, Dr. Juan Carlos Hernández had a similar thought: “I have completed missions in South Africa, Botswana, Dominica, and I can say that I have worked hard, but I have never felt oppressed or enslaved. On the contrary, one develops as a doctor and learns,” he stated.

His specialty means that he must often deal with death, face to face. “In South Africa I met many patients with HIV, who had no way to buy the little medicine that existed at that time to treat the disease.”Dr. Miriela Mesa still keeps in touch with patients she assisted for three years in Venezuela: “People are generally grateful. Outside of Cuba, one works just like we do here or maybe a little more, but no one pressures us to go; there isn’t a single doctor who leaves the country against their will.

”This is the case of Nora María Lemus, who despite her vast experience as a specialist in Comprehensive General Medicine and Geriatrics and Gerontology, at León Cuervo Rubio Hospital in the city of Pinar del Río, has never had the desire to work outside of Cuba.

“Now that my children are grown, I may do it, but at the time, when it was proposed, I explained that for family reasons I was not a good fit, and they understood.“No one has ever questioned my decision, and no one has ever reprimanded me.

On the contrary, I maintain my position and all my prerogatives as a doctor.”This September 2, when Cuban schools open their doors for a new school year, other doors in many corners of the world also open to extend the supportive and generous arm of Cuba to the dispossessed.

And of course, most internationalist doctors work in conditions that are not the best. It is not possible to install an ideal clinic on stilts driven into the banks of a river in Amazonia, or within stone walls on a cold Andean slope that provide some protection for villagers.

Just as the habit does not make the monk, it is not the luxury hospital that determines the quality of medical care. No one will be, for example, more of a doctor than the one who saved hundreds in Haiti from death, under a tent set up amidst the rubble and dust in the air, after the terrible earthquake; or the doctor who overcame “by the skin of his teeth” an Ebola infection while saving others, and then returned to the front line of battle, to risk his second chance at life to give his love to others.

If this is the accusation, and altruism a crime, then Cuba is guilty. Their millions are wasted. Money that goes out into the world to buy lies, can never buy health or the sanctity of true medicine.


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