“Barbados is a sovereign country and we make decisions in the interest of the country just like other countries large and small. We have engaged the nurses from Cuba. Barbados had diplomatic relations with Cuba when other countries were trying to do the same . . . and we are not going to buckle under the pressure of any other nation,” said Minister of Health Lt Col Jeffrey Bostic.
Addressing a meeting of the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in St Phillip on Sunday evening, Bostic said that Bridgetown would maintain its policy of being “friends of all, satellites of none”. He said “Barbados is a sovereign country and we make decisions in the interest of our country just like other countries large and small, make all of their decisions in the interest of their countries.”
He said Barbados was doing what was in the interest of its people and the nurses would remain here “because we expect we will have more cases and we are a tourism-based country which depended on almost 40 per cent of GDP”.
“We have engaged the nurses from Cuba. Barbados had diplomatic relations from the 1970s with Cuba when other countries were trying to do the same thing, put pressure, and we are not going to buckle under the pressure of any other nation. We are doing what is in the interest of our people. The nurses will remain here because we expect that we will have more cases,” he said.
In response to the current pandemic, Cuba dispatched 28 contingents of medical personnel to help 26 countries, in addition to the more than 28-thousand Cuban doctors, nurses and health professionals who were already overseas before the pandemic.
The US government has also been using pressure and threats against countries to force them to cancel these medical cooperation agreements.
However, Bostic noted that Barbados is in need of the professional assistance from the Cuban health practitioners who will also play a pivotal role as Barbados welcomes tourists, including from COVID-19 hot spot countries, to the island.
“We are a tourism-based country which is 40 per cent or so of our GDP, if not more. I don’t think people in the United States really understand that we cannot, at this point in time, do without tourism and the tentacles of tourism have reached deep and far; from people braiding hair on the beach… There are so many people impacted and affected by this, and the only way that we can facilitate or allow tourism is if we have a capacity to deal with a spread, and those 100 Cuban nurses, that is what they are here for.
“They are not here free, the Government of Barbados is paying for the service, they have them in several countries of the world and we will continue to do what is in the interest of Barbados, on behalf of the people of Barbados,” Bostic said.
Florida Republican Senator Rick Scott has introduced a new bill that would target countries that hire Cuban doctors through the medical missions controlled by the island's government.
The Cut Profits to the Cuban Regime Act requires the State Department to publish the list of countries that contract the doctors through the Cuban government and to consider that as a factor in their ranking in the State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons report.
Scott is being supported by Florida and Texas Republicans, Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. He said the Cuban Government was participating “in the human trafficking of doctors” and that any country that requests medical assistance from Cuba is aiding such efforts.
Rubio also called the missions “a form of modern-day human trafficking,” but the Cuban Government, which has almost 30,000 healthcare workers contracted in more than 50 countries, including several Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries, has dismissed the accusations and insists that the missions are examples of cooperation and solidarity.
Bostic said that Barbados was doing what was in the interest of its people and the nurses would remain here “because we expect we will have more cases and we are a tourism-based country which depended on almost 40 per cent of GDP”.
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