[Marxism] Cuba a major benefactor to strife-torn Haiti

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sun Apr 25 09:29:53 MDT 2004

(There's so much false, distorted and generally rotten news
coverage about Cuba in the media, it's all the more pleasing
when we find the occasionally good reporting such as this.

(To learn more about Cuba's medial aid programs read here:

"South Carolina's Home Page"

Posted on Sun, Apr. 25, 2004
Cuba a major benefactor to strife-torn Haiti
Special to The State


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -Killings and chaos have been the
main news out of this poorest nation in the Western
Hemisphere in recent months.

But something positive is happening. The problem is its
source - Cuba, which turns off many folks automatically.

What's positive is aid from Fidel Castro's nation, whose
eastern tip is only 48 miles across the water from
northwest Haiti.

Cuba isn't coughing up any money, says Cuban ambassador to
Haiti Rolando A. Gomez Gonzales. But, he adds, "There are
579 Cuban health specialists in Haiti now, most of them

"We can't offer financial assistance because we're also a
blocked country" - a reference to the U.S. embargo on Cuba
- "but we can give our human resources."

Haiti is in a Maryland-sized country of 8.5 million people
with fewer than 2,000 physicians total, concentrated mainly
in its capital.

In addition, says Gomez, "Our collaboration supports
veterinary services. Cuba is training 628 Haitian doctors
in Haiti and Cuba. We have a program to combat illiteracy
here. We've revived the abandoned Haitian sugar industry,
and we're aiding the fishing industry by stocking 7 million
fish and hope to reach 15 million a year."

Gomez says 705 Cubans are working in Haiti. "The
cooperation isn't motivated by ideology or politics. We're
helping the Haitian people who've suffered so much in the
last 200 years."


Cuba had no diplomatic relations with Haiti after Castro
took over at the start of 1959.

"There were hardly any contacts" during Haiti's Duvalier
dictatorships, Gomez says, even though many people in
eastern Cuba are descended from Haitians who crossed the

The Duvaliers were overthrown in early 1986, and relations
between Cuba and Haiti resumed in 1996, at the end of
Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's first term.

"Today, it's different," says Gomez. "After 1996, both
countries began intergovernmental cooperation ... to combat
the extreme poverty here."

Gomez adds: "We're working in 95 percent of Haiti's 133
municipalities. We consider our cooperation exemplary. It's
disinterested, unconditional support."

Haitian public health services "have no specialists in the
main cities - no surgery, no anesthesia, no obstetrics,"
Gomez says

That may be one reason Haiti's infant mortality rate -
deaths in the first year of life - is about 93 per 1,000
live births. Cuban and U.S. rates: 7 per 1,000 births.

In a press conference at the United Nations in New York,
Cuba's permanent representative, Orlando Requeijo Gual,
said Cuban doctors provide health care for 75 percent of

He says Cuban medical efforts saved nearly 86,000 Haitian
lives in the last five years. In early March, for example,
a Cuban medical team set up a canvas hospital next to
Port-au-Prince's University Hospital and, in five days,
helped 406 patients, 33 with gunshot wounds, the U.N.
representative says. This came after a Feb. 11 Cuban
shipment of 12.2 tons of medicines.

Gomez says Haiti pays the salaries and transportation costs
of the experts it sends to Haiti. It also provides food and
lodging, and $100 a month per person as "spending money."

Cuban professors are on Haitian faculties and Haitians are
on scholarships at Cuba's Santiago de Cuba university. "We
have a triangular program to fight AIDS with France and
other programs with the Pan American Health Organization
and UNAID," says Gomez.


Cubans arriving in Haiti learn Creole, the Haitian
language, in about three to four months, Gomez adds.

Gomez says Cuba spends $520,000 a year to supply its
experts to Haiti, a tiny sum compared to what U.S. State
Department Lou Fintor says the United States spends.

"The U.S. is the largest donor since Aristide was restored
to power (in 1994), making more than $850 million in donor
funds available to Haiti in fiscal years 1995 to 2003,"
Fintor said, speaking by phone from Washington. "All U.S.
grants in 2003 totaled more than $70 million to promote
health care, nutrition, education, sustainable agriculture,
micro-enterprise and democracy programs."

Haitian Embassy spokesman John Kozyn, speaking by phone
from Washington, says "most of that (U.S.) money has been
funneled through NGOs and PVOs" - non-government
organizations and private voluntary organizations.

Kozyn says the money "does not go to the government," it
mostly goes through outfits like Catholic Relief Services
or Lutheran and Baptist projects.

Aristide's recent ouster isn't likely to affect Cuban aid
to Haiti, says Requeijo Gual.

. Cuban workers have been instrumental in reconstruction of
a big sugar mill at Darbonne.

. 20 Cuban veterinarians and technicians are putting
together a sanitary control program while training Haitian

. 10 Cuban technicians are helping with a national
aquaculture program.

. Eleven Cuban agricultural specialists are working as part
of the Food and Agriculture Organization's food security

. Cuba also is cooperating in a road-building program.

Cubans also are pushing literacy in Haiti, where 49 percent
of the citizens are illiterate, according to Cuba's
Fernando Fernandez Rodriguez.

Normally a university teacher at Holguin, Cuba, Fernandez
has been in Haiti since October 2002, leading 20 other
Cubans "training Haitians who run the national literacy

The Haitians conduct radio classes "at homes, workplaces,
schoolrooms," says Fernandez.

"We finished a term last July, taught literacy to 109,000
people," he said. "This is very significant because all
other literacy programs here have failed. Now, we're giving
literacy to a quarter-million people who must learn to read
and write in Creole."

William Steif, a retired journalist, lives in Blythewood.



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