In a statement, the OECS expressed its deep appreciation to the Republic of Cuba for the medical support provided to six (6) member countries of the Organisation to assist with efforts to combat the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the OECS and wider Caribbean region.
“The provision of specialised health care through the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigades has not only augmented the scarce medical resources of OECS Member States but has provided assurance to the general populations of the region’s capacity to fight and manage COVID-19,” the OECS said.
The statement pointed out that “four hundred and seventy-three (473) Cuban medical personnel are working alongside their Caribbean counterparts in eight countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines) to assist in managing the spread of COVID-19.”
“Cuba’s support to the health sector in the Caribbean has a long and exemplary history that has benefitted numerous Caribbean citizens. One noted invaluable assistance to the region is “Operation Milagro” – a programme which provides free eye medical treatment to OECS nationals requiring interventions to prevent blindness or to restore vision,” the statement continued.
“These conditions include cataract, diabetic retinopathy and other reversible types of visual impairment. The OECS acknowledges with gratitude the extensive global contributions of Cuba, particularly in the fields of health and disaster management, this in spite of its material limitations and the economic hardships resulting from US imposed sanctions,” the OECS pointed out.
“The Organisation notes with deep concern and repudiates the recent bill introduced by Republican Senator Rick Scott which classifies Cuba’s humanitarian assistance as “human trafficking” and seeks to extend punitive measures against countries accepting this medical assistance.
“The OECS Authority greatly values the work of the Henry Reeve Medical Brigades and has reiterated its desire to work with ALL friendly Governments that offer tangible support in the face of the grave existential threat posed to lives and livelihoods in the small island states of the Caribbean,” the statement concluded.
On June 17, the three Senators introduced in the US Senate, the “Cut Profits to the Cuban Regime Act,” which, if it is adopted, will penalise any government, worldwide, that contracts with the Cuban government for the provision of medical personnel. Since many Caribbean governments have such contracts with Cuba, they all stand to be targeted.
If passed the Bill will impose “a requirement that the Department of State publishes the list of countries that contract with the government of Cuba for their medical missions program,” and that the contracts be considered “as a factor in considering that country’s ranking for Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report” among other measures.
An article by the Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the OAS, Sir Ronald Sanders quotes Rick Scott as saying “Any country that requests medical assistance from Cuba is aiding their human trafficking efforts”, because, in his view, Cuban medical personnel sent abroad are “forced labour”.
“Caribbean countries have had no experience that substantiates this opinion. Indeed, Cuban medical personnel have conducted themselves with professionalism, integrating well with local medical teams, and passing on their knowledge and experience, ” Sir Ronald said.
“Caribbean countries have no basis for believing that the medical personnel are “forced labour”. But, if the government of any country believes this claim to be true, there are international bodies to which it can be taken, and evidence proffered in support of a decision to uphold the allegation. Caribbean representatives would have encouraged the Senators to pursue such a definitive course of action, which all governments would have respected. One attempt to internationalise this claim by a private European-funded group came to nothing,” The Antiguan diplomat pointed out.
“Had they had the chance to do so, Caribbean representatives would have reminded the three Senators that COVID-19, in addition to being a public health emergency, is wrecking the economies of Caribbean countries, some more severely than others but all without exception. They are now confronted with their greatest economic challenge. Government revenues have dropped drastically, expenditures have increased extraordinarily, and employment and poverty are expanding rapidly. In all this, there has been a poor response from richer countries that could have helped,” Ambassador Sanders concluded.
- Countries: Caribbean