On 1 August, Rock Around the Blockade held a successful online meeting on 'How Cuba has Covid 19 under control'. Nearly 150 people tuned in to listen and watch presentations and films from the three panellists:
Dr Helen Yaffe, author of 'We Are Cuba - How a Revolutionary People Have Survived in a Post-Soviet World' who spoke about the features of Cuba's socialist development which have contributed to the capacity for an effective domestic and international response to Covid-19.
Dr Valia Rodriguez, a Cuban clinical neurophysiologist and cognitive neuroscientist, teaching and researching at Aston University in Birmingham, gave detailed information about public healthcare services, facilities and structure developed since the Cuban Revolution. Testament to this, Cuba's domestic death toll from Covid-19 stood at just 87 by the end of July.
Ed Augustin, from Belly of the Beast, an independent group of journalists and filmographers based in Cuba who have been chronicling life on the island, especially in the fight against Covid 19 and who focus on people-centred stories, providing a platform for Cuban voices so often excluded by the mainstream media. Several of their fantastic short videos were presented as part of the session.
The response of socialist Cuba to the global SARS-CoV2 pandemic has been outstanding both domestically and for its international contribution. That a small island nation, subjected to hundreds of years of colonialism and imperialism and, since the Revolution of 1959, six decades of the criminal United States blockade, can play such an exemplary role is due to Cuba’s socialist system. The central plan directs national resources according to a development strategy which prioritises human welfare and community participation, not private profit. HELEN YAFFE reports.
At 2.10am on 30 April, the Cuban embassy in Washington was attacked by a hail of machine gun fire. 32 bullets from an AK-47 peppered the entrance to the building and a statue of Jose Marti. No one was injured, though seven people were inside the building. The terrorist was Alexander Alazo Baró, a Cuban-born man who moved to Mexico in 2003 before seeking asylum in the US in 2010. The attack was carefully planned: Alazo reconnoitred the embassy two weeks before; he draped himself in a US flag to avoid being gunned down by police; he attempted to burn a Cuban flag on which was scrawled ‘Trump 2020’. Instead of cooperating and condemning this terrorist attack on Cuba’s diplomatic mission, the US government has added Cuba to a list of countries that are not cooperating with US anti-terrorism activities.
We Are Cuba: How a Revolutionary People Have Survived in a Post-Soviet World
Helen Yaffe, Yale Press, 2020, 363pp. £18.99 RRP or £15.99 inc p&p from FRFI.
Drawing on extensive inter-view documentation with Cubans from all walks of life, We Are Cuba: How a Revolutionary People Have Survived in a Post-Soviet World offers a remarkable insight into why and how Cuban socialism was able to survive after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Helen Yaffe eclipses the literature that has tried to answer these questions within a reductive framework based primarily on the political aspects of Cuban socialism with a focus on the Castro brothers. Looking at both the economic history and political economy of Cuba, We Are Cuba incorporates a deeper analysis by examining the impacts of underdevelopment, imperialism, crisis and isolation in terms of Cuba’s development strategy, medical science, international solidarity, energy and environment to find how the revolutionary Cuban people survived a period critics were sure would destroy them.
In late January 2020, the Chinese National Health Commission selected a Cuban anti-viral drug, Interferon Alfa 2b, among the treatments it would use for Covid-19 patients. This drug has been produced in Cuba by the Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) since 1986 and in China since 2003 by the Cuban-Chinese biotech joint venture ChangHeber. It has shown its efficacy and safety in the therapy of viral diseases including dengue, Hepatitis B and C, shingles and HIV-AIDS. Because it interferes with viral multiplication within cells, it has also been used in the treatment of different types of carcinomas. Dr Luis Herrera Martinez, who led the team which first made the Cuban anti-viral drug in the 1980s, explained, ‘its use prevents aggravation and complications in patients, reaching that stage that ultimately can result in death.’ By March 2020, as China prioritised the drug, authorities around the world were requesting the Cuban product. Helen Yaffe reports.
I am running a marathon – in one mile laps – this Sunday 10 May from 10am. I will be streaming live updates:
Please donate via the Go Cardless link here: (** see note below)
Why not get involved and get sponsored to run your own mile laps, posting your videos too!
Cuba is making a huge contribution worldwide to fighting the pandemic - Cuban medical teams are currently working in 60 countries. Cuba has sent 14 additional brigades of medical specialists abroad specifically to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Italy, South Africa, Nicaragua, St Kitts and Grenadines, Granada, Jamaica, Venezuela, with delegations preparing to go to Congo. Cuba's life-saving drug Interferon Alpha 2B is already being distributed and administrated to Covid-19 patients. Cuba received the stricken British cruise ship MS Braemar when the US, the Bahamas and no other country in the region would. It treated its passengers and ensured passage home for those who could travel. This is a shining example of socialist internationalism.
Yet due to illegal unilateral sanctions,, Cuba cannot buy new ventilators or repair old ones because the companies that previously supplied ventilators were acquired by a US company (Vyaire Medical Inc). The US blockade imposed on Cuba forbids any type of trading, even of medical items in the middle of this Covid-19 pandemic.
Cuban institutions in health, research and academia have come together to repair old ventilators and to build new devices to support infected patients. Half of all the funds I raise will be given to the Cubanos en UK appeal to support Cuba in building ventilators, adding to the donations already made by Rock Around the Blockade. The rest of the funds will be used to support our urgent solidarity work here in Britain, helping us to organise action against the blockade and produce a new pamphlet to raise awareness about Cuba here in Britain.
Donate, share and watch my sweaty face getting redder with each lap!
Thank you so much to everyone who liked, shared and donated to Sunday's 'Marathon for Cuba'. 46.7 kilometres completed (29 miles)! You can see the videos uploaded as part of the run on our facebook. Any final donations can be sent via Go Cardless here:
Whilst we are still collecting in the final donations, we have already made a £350 payment to Cubanos en UK's emergency ventilator appeal, and will send on any final cash collected. Their appeal has nearly reached it's goal so please keep sharing and helping them smash their £25,000 target.
Rock Around the Blockade will use the remaining half of donations to campaign against the US blockade and build solidarity with Cuba Socialista here in Britain. We are producing a new edition of our pamphlet 'The streets are ours!' which will cover the fundamentals of Cuba's 60 year revolution and why we need to defend it from the escalating threat of economic warfare and intervention.
Watch this space for meetings, protests, campaigns and events
Viva Cuba! Smash the blockade!
Rock around the Blockade is supporting this fundraising campaign to buy equipment for ventilators for Cuban patients with Covid-19. They are blocked from purchasing new machines by the illegal, punitive US blockade. Please donate what you can and share widely.
When times are hard, that is when we most need generosity, kindness and compassion. We appeal to that generosity, that makes us better people, as we turn to you in asking for help. We need to buy components to build ventilators to support COVID-19 patients with medical complications in Cuba.
As you may know, Cuba cannot buy new ventilators or repair old ones because the companies that previously supplied ventilators to Cuba were acquired by a US company (Vyaire Medical Inc). The US blockade imposed on Cuba forbids any type of trading, even of medical items in the middle of this pandemic. However, people still need to be treated and saved.
Cuban institutions in health, research and academia have come together to repair old ventilators and to build new devices to support infected patients. Funds from this appeal will support Cuba in building ventilators using designs that the international community has kindly made available for free on the web. Specifically, funds from this campaign will be used to support building ventilators using the design of the MIT Emergency Ventilator (E-Vent) Project. For this project, Cuban scientists are in close contact with, and studying, the experiences of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Free University of Brussels), UCLA, and McGill University. In this way, -through collaboration, open-source and solidarity- we can work around the US blockade of Cuba and help sick people.
We – you and me – can save patients in Cuba by contributing to this campaign.
This is an urgent request. We need to raise £25 000. Time is short, people are dying.
Until the £25K target is not reached, we cannot use the funds. Please, make your contribution today.
Dr Miriam Palacios-Callender & Dr Valia Rodriguez-Rodriguez
Dr Miriam Palacios-Callender is a Cuban scientist resident in the United Kingdom
Dr Valia Rodriguez Rodriguez is a Cuban medical doctor and academic currently residing in the United Kingdom.