Cuban Churches Also Blockaded by the U.S.

The Cuban United Lutheran, Baptist and Evangelical churches have denounced in Havana the innumerable impacts caused in relations with other religious institutions by the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on the island.

In statements to Prensa Latina, Antonio Santana, President of the Cuban Council of Churches, pointed out that the blockade carried out by the White House administration affects the delivery of biblical material to Cuba from solidarity entities of other nations.

The reverend also indicated that within the U.S. territory a large number of devotees are pressing for the elimination of the blockade against Cuba, which has been in force for almost 60 years.

Santana stressed the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the United States, however, he regretted the decline in ties.

Havana and Washington re-established their diplomatic ties in July 2015, leading to high level visits and the signing of some 20 agreements, but Donald Trump's inauguration at the White House in January 2017 represented an escalation in hostility towards the island.

'We present our declaration against the blockade and its essentially pastoral mission emphasizes the comparison of life with death and the damages this U.S. policy causes to society in Cuba', Ismael Laborde, bishop of the United Evangelical Cuban Church, told Prensa Latina.

He added that relations with North American religious institutions are always carried out through third countries, making procedures and twinning with these difficult.

In this regard, Laborde emphasized the heavy visa processes faced by U.S. Lutheran pastors and the obstacles to sending books and materials essential to church activities.

The United Nations General Assembly approved on November 1, for the twenty-seventh consecutive time since 1992, a resolution demanded the end of the blockade against Cuba.

The text was supported by 189 of the 193 member states of the multilateral organization.

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Cuban Mission at UN Warns of US Blockade's Damage

Cuba''s diplomatic mission at UN stressed how the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States, which is now intensifying its actions, is a brake on achieving sustainable development.

That siege is the main obstacle to the development of all Cuban economy's potentialities, the diplomatic representative said through a press release.

The blockade is the main obstacle to the development of the economic, commercial and financial relations between Havana and Washington, and due to its extraterritorial nature, Cuba with the rest of the world, it also stressed.

This policy, which is still in force after 56 years, is a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of the human rights of the Cuban people and is described as an act of genocide, in accordance with the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted in 1948, the Cuban mission said.

At the same time, it ignores the 26 resolutions adopted by the international community within the framework of the UN General Assembly and that dictate the end, without any conditioning, of its actions on Cuba.

This is also reflected in the most recent report on the damage caused by the blockade on Cuba, a mechanism that violates the Charter of the United Nations and International Law, and represents an obstacle to cooperation.

According to that report, only from April 2017 to March 2018, that hostile policy has caused losses to Cuba valued at $4.32 billion USD.

This is so far the most unjust, severe and prolonged system of unilateral sanctions that has been applied against any country, since it was instituted on February 3, 1962, by John F. Kennedy, who served as the 35th president of the United States.

The increase in the negative effects of the worsening of the blockade on the state economy and the non-state sector of the island are evident as of the serious setback in the bilateral relations, imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump and embodied in the memorandum signed on June 16, 2017.

In November 2017, the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Treasury and State issued new regulations and provisions that strengthened the extraterritorial application of the blockade and intensified the persecution of financial transactions and banking and credit operations with Cuba globally.

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First Cuban on Mount Olympus Sent Message against Blockade

A Cuban climbed to the top of Mount Olympus where he displayed a flag of his country as well as a message of condemnation and rejection of the U.S. blockade against Cuba.

Jose Oriol Marrero Martinez, Counselor of the Embassy of Cuba in Greece, thus becomes the first Cuban to reach the top of the mythical mountain, second in height in the Balkans, reports a note of that diplomatic mission.

Today he said that he dedicated that feat to his country and to the anniversary of the 150th anniversary of the War of Independence and the 60th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.

Sources from the Cuban embassy highlighted the extraordinary effort made by Marrero due to the difficulties of the path, considered by specialists long and fraught with dangers, to the point that, according to statistics, less than 50 percent of those who undertake it manage to reach the cusp.

Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and second in the Balkans, with an altitude of 2,922 meters.

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Cuba Denounces Negative Effects of US Blockade on Nephrology

Nephrology has not escaped the negative effects of the economic and financial blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States, the president of the Cuban Scientific Society of Nephrology, Jorge Perez, denounced today.

The technology for hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis is very expensive in the world, and it is not the same to be 90 miles from a very developed and powerful country that is blockading us as to be forced to import everything from Europe and Asia, Perez told Prensa Latina.

However, thanks to our State's political will, we have acquired the best equipment in prestigious world markets, but that undoubtedly implies increased costs, he commented.

Regarding scholarships, our experts have won them, but as funds from most international societies are in the United States, access has been denied to finance a Cuban nephrologist and opportunities have been missed, he added.

However, Perez, who is also the president of the Cuban Congress on Nephrology in 2018, underlined that due to that reason, most nephrologists who have received training abroad have gone to Europe, mainly to France.

Therefore, since the 1960s, Cuban nephrology followed the example of French nephrology to develop dialyses and transplants in Cuba.

At present, more than 1,400 patients live thanks to successful kidney transplants in Cuba, where there are more than 433 nephrologists, 57.3 percent of whom are women.

We are approaching international standards, but we need to improve the early detection program and provide timely and efficient treatment by interacting with risk groups and on the factors that lead to kidney damage, Perez pointed out.

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What the Cuban People Demonstrated

The enemy, its allies and those who domestically pander them were on embers this past May 1st, they were hoping a lack of support to the Revolution and just the opposite occurred. Their hopes disappear in a mist of smoke.  

The people, that which they don’t know at all and which they attempt to substitute by hired mercenaries, gave them another lesson of unity and commitment. They were left with the desires.  

Domestic enemies, those who are used to saying that we are hopeless, indifferent and exhausted, once again their appreciations were mistaken. Against the images broadcasted, the millions of articles filled with lies and naivety neither the opinions of make-believe leaders or intellectuals who sold their pens and thoughts to devious causes are worthless, everything collapses before that tide of people that in the entire country have demonstrated their support to the Revolution.  

What will say now those who have no rights and attempt to speak on behalf of the people and make demands that don't match with the fair goals of the people, those who try to make believe that their personal interests are those of the majority? They just have to acknowledge and remain silent.  

Those who raise up as advocates on behalf of everyone else, perhaps now they can understand that, for the continuity and development of our social project the essential ones are those that without having the high life standards they show, walked by the Revolution Square, that majority that is not tired and will never get tired of having dignity, independence and a homeland of their own. The same majority that in its hands has the capacity not only to assert problems and mistakes, but also of solving them. Perhaps many, perhaps most of them, can’t write in internet, but they do write daily pages of heroism with their work without boasting of intelligence, and together with their dreams they haven’t allowed anyone to steal, they keep pulling our homeland into the future.

The May 1st parade has constituted an example of the Revolution’s strength, it has shown why Cuba, without nuclear weapons, with a population under 11 and half million inhabitants, without large natural resources, a small island, in a globalized world, without having the military power and the economic potential that today determines the influence capacity of nations, be so influential, admired, followed and lover worldwide.  

The intense strength radiating from their moral example, of unity, of endurance and victory against the hostility and blockade of the greatest empire humanity has known, it cannot be counteracted with media campaigns, neither made invisible in the very face of the countries that see us as a beacon of hope, it can’t be destroyed with weapons, that makes feel powerless those who are against us.  

Those who are tired, the skeptic ones, the hopeless, the dark preachers of pessimism and those who think themselves as owners of the absolute truth step aside, you are not the people. The Cuban people is the one who has carried out this feat that is the Revolution, a true epic poem written with the blood and sacrifice of the best sons of this land. This feat that will close inexorably with the achievement of a prosperous and sustainable socialism, moment that will mark the definitive victory over all our enemies.

Cubasi Translation Staff/ Amilkal Labañino Valdés

United Nations Agencies Report on Blockade Damages to Cuba

UN agencies and bodies have stated the impact of the U.S. blockade on Cuba in a report addressed to the General Assembly, which will pronounce itself today on the siege made official in 1962.

Around 30 entities sent their criteria to UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, who drew up a report on occasion of the 26th vote at the Assembly of a draft resolution on the necessity to lift the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on the island, maintained and intensified by the last 11 U.S. presidents.

Most of agencies warned in their considerations the impact of the siege, which ratifies Cuba's accusations that Washington's unilateral sanctions affect all sectors and represent the main obstacle for its development.

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The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) reflected the damage of the blockade in the area of medical care.

The United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) exposed the impact on the education sector, to which UNICEF, recalling the obstacles it establishes when acquiring books, laboratory equipment and computers, also referred to.

In the case of food security, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP) addressed the increase in supplies, the difficulties in importing products for human consumption and in the production of food, derived from the siege.

Regarding the economic scenario, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), stressed that the blockade is still in force and its effects limit the growth of the Caribbean island.

Other UN agencies, among them the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), reported on the document from the Secretary General for the Assembly on the impact of the siege.

For the 26th consecutive year since 1992, the main UN body is analyzing a text that demands the lifting of the blockade, the 25 previous ones were categorically approved.

The initiative adopted in October 2016 had 191 of 193 possible votes, while the United States and Israel abstained.

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Breaking the Blockade against Cuba: Interview with Claudia Camba

Ricardo Vaz: Can you tell us a bit of the history of Operación Milagro (“Operation Miracle”)?

Claudia Camba: Operación Milagro was borne out of another great Cuban internationalist mission, which was the literacy program “Yo Sí Puedo” (“Yes I can”), and more concretely in Venezuela, where this literacy program was called “Misión Robinson”. The Venezuelans, through this program, had the goal of teaching 1 million people how to read and write in six months. Throughout this time they had some major successes as well as big difficulties, and one of them was the participants’ vision. Almost all the illiterate taking part in this program were adults with vision problems.

To overcome this Cuba sent 1500 optometrists, to test the peoples’ vision and give them glasses. But even with glasses some people could not see, and after an examination it turned out that they had cataracts. That is how “Misión Milagro”, which initially was just between Venezuela and Cuba, was born. With this mission over 300.000 Venezuelans travelled to Cuba to have surgery, not only for cataracts but also for other eye problems.

RV: And this mission is later extended to Argentina?

CC: Later on, in 2005, Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro begin to wonder: why not extend this mission to the whole of Latin America? Our organisation, UMMEP (“Un Mundo Mejor Es Posible”, “A better world is possible”), had been conducting the “Yo Sí Puedo” literacy program in Argentina, and we were approached by Cuba about the possibility of articulating ourselves with “Operación Milagro”. For us it was an honour to accept this cooperation.

In the beginning the mission involved sending Argentinian patients to be operated in Cuba. The first airplane with Argentinian patients left at the time of the “Summit of the Peoples”, in November 2005. This summit was created to counter the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata. Bush was coming to set up the ALCA free trade agreement and many Latin American presidents, with this newfound unity that had been forming, were prepared to strike a blow against Bush and the empire. One part of it was burying ALCA, and another was creating ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas), from the initiative of Venezuela and Cuba, in Argentina. That is why it was so symbolic that on that very day the first Argentinian patients left for Cuba.

RV: And what about the “Che Guevara” hospital in Córdoba, when does it appear?

CC: This initial version of Operación Milagro lasted around 6 months. It was ridden with difficulties, because as you can imagine, we were dealing with very humble people that did not have passports, had never left the country, some did not even know the neighbouring town. Argentina is a very big country, and to fly out of Buenos Aires you sometimes need to travel 2000 km to reach the airport. So the matter of passports and travels was very difficult.


Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro (Photo: Granma)

But in January 2006 Evo Morales triumphed in Bolivia, and declared that Bolivia was to join the ALBA agreements. Then Cuba replied that, under these agreements, hospitals would be built in Bolivia. We sent a letter to Fidel Castro proposing that, if this went ahead, then Argentinian patients could be operated in Bolivia. Being a neighbouring country, passports were not needed and a national ID document was enough. And that is how this began, this epic journey which involved Fidel, Evo and Chávez, through which 13 hospitals were built, 2 of them dedicated to patients from Argentina. Over 30.000 people from Argentina were operated in Bolivia.

A few years later, the following idea appeared, again from Cuba: given all our experience, with thousands of surgeries and plenty of doctors who did the pre- and post-surgical work in Argentina, why not gather these doctors and set up our own hospital in Argentina? This would have Cuba’s support, but not a Cuban medical team, because in Argentina the Cuban doctors’ degrees are not recognised. (This is absurd, since we are talking about the country with the highest development in terms of healthcare in Latin America and the Caribbean!).

With this idea in mind, we searched for a location, Cuba donated all the equipment and we inaugurated the Ernesto “Che” Guevara hospital on October 8, 2009, at first in a temporary location that was loaned to us. We started there and operated more than 7000 patients in that hospital. Two years ago we had the good fortune of being able to move to our own building, which has the advantage that it can be extended in the future, to make room for a university, lodging for patients. The campaign we are launching has to do with that.

RV: You have mentioned the relation between Operación Milagro and the literacy program “Yo Sí Puedo“. But how is it connected to another major component of Cuban internationalism, which is the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM)?

CC: The establishment of the mission in Argentina is deeply connected to ELAM and to the first Argentinian graduates from the school. Not in the stage where patients were being flown to Cuba but in the Bolivian stage. In this stage, when Fidel proposed setting up hospitals, he also urged that the first 50 Argentine graduates from ELAM be called to work in this mission. This was a very important task, because they did not have their medical degrees recognised in Argentina. Fidel was very worried, especially about their morale, since they had been trained to save lives and were barred from doing it. They were not able to practice medicine in Argentina, but they could do it in Bolivia. This would help their self-esteem since their situation was incredibly unfair.

Many of these doctors had been in Venezuela and founded, after a suggestion from Chávez, the so-called “batallón 51”. Seven of them joined us. Other doctors joined us later, and there was also the possibility of giving them scholarships to get specialty training in Cuba. This is the case of our current director, Lucía Coronel, who studied epidemiology. Besides her there are three general practitioners from the ELAM, an anaesthesiologist and an ophthalmologist. These are the ELAM graduates currently working with us in Operación Milagro. The other doctors are graduates from the universities in Córdoba. It is also interesting to witness how both groups come together, exchange ideas, make each other better, it is wonderful.


Operación Milagro
has allowed 50.000 Argentinians to regain their vision free of charge (Photo: Operación Milagro)

RV: Is there resistance from the Argentinian medical corporations to these Cuban-trained doctors? After all, they are taking away a potentially lucrative business!

CC: That is true. The pressure against us, if we look at it, we do not feel it will come from the government. Because we are solving a problem for the government, it is not in their interest to attack us. Those who seem to be getting emboldened, with the capitalists and the right-wing back in power, are the medical corporations. This is what is happening in Argentina. Now, what might happen? Throughout the years, they have pressured doctors not to join us. They never managed to do that with the Cuban-trained ones, of course. They tried to denigrate them, but the people love them, they are where they are supposed to be.

In our case, if the medical establishment attacks us I think it would backfire. Because imagine a hospital where every day people arrive from different parts of Argentina, especially from around Córdoba. If, suppose, they attacked us and we had to close (which will not happen because it is not possible), they will have their waiting rooms full of poor people. What we have been figuring out through the years is that the large waiting lists in the hospitals have worked to increase the prices of surgeries in the private sector, prices that may reach 20.000 or even 30.000 pesos (between 1000 and 1500€). The very doctors that are in the public hospitals many times also run private practices. So it might be in their interest to have large waiting lists, it is a matter of supply and demand using blind people to regulate the market. But at the same time these corporations have no intention of operating on anyone for free.

It is important to stress that this hospital is a hospital of the people. In other words, the people will defend it. But, of course, the corporations have their own interests, which is why we are struggling for socialism.

RV: Going back to a more concrete topic, how does the hospital run? In terms of funding, medicines, etc…

CC: The hospital runs thanks to the solidarity of Cuba. Essentially, up until now, the Cuban ministry of health donates every year the necessary medicines and supplies for the hospital to run, through the institution that manages medical services abroad. This is a lot of money. And when we were having financial troubles Cuba also helped us so we could keep going. Beyond that, we also get funds from donations. Some people do it through the internet, others leave it in a box we have in the hospital. Other countries have also offered their solidarity. For example, the Juntas Generales de Guipúzcoa, from the Basque Country, donated money for 3 years to buy a laser equipment, as well as medicines and supplies. Some laboratories also donate medicines and supplies and that is how we keep going. Trade unions and social movements also offer their contributions.


Claudia Camba participated in the XIV Spain Solidarity Meeting with Cuba, which took place in Bilbao from 9-11 June 2017 (Photo: Cubainformación)

RV: People sometimes do not understand, especially western people, that a country like Cuba that has its fair share of difficulties, maintains these solidarity programs…

CC: The key is to understand the difference between solidarity and charity. Solidarity means sharing what we have, and charity is giving away whatever is left. Not only that, solidarity will never bind anyone, or be a mechanism to colonise, or demand something in return, rather it will complement the existing knowledge. This is why Cuba has always sought to have sustainable hospitals and why we are also planning to set up a medical school, so that solidarity can keep multiplying beyond Cuba. In practice the hospital is Argentinian, there is only a Cuban doctor that works as a consultant, and then there are 15 Argentinian doctors. In other words, this goal of sustainability has been achieved.

Other than that there is the difference between two systems. It is hard to grasp it if we are looking from a capitalist perspective. This is like the tourist that goes to Cuba and evaluates everything with a capitalist mindset. Now, whoever understands that socialism is meant to place people front and centre, and not capital, will understand this. And on the other hand, if we want to talk about poverty, there are plenty of poor people in Argentina, as well as problems of children living in the streets, eating from rubbish bins, as well as child prostitution. In Cuba you will not find a child suffering from malnutrition, or sleeping in the street. Unicef recognised Cuba as the only Latin American country without childhood malnutrition. It is the country with the largest life expectancy and the lowest child mortality rate in Latin America and the Caribbean. Does every Cuban have a car? Surely not, but that is also not the case in Argentina. This is what I mean. Poverty can mean different things from a capitalist or a socialist perspective.

RV: Now turning to the “Súmate” campaign (“Join Us”), what are its goals?

CC: In our current hospital building we have the possibility of constructing two more floors on top. The idea is to start by building an area to lodge patients that come from the countryside. People come and sometimes have no place to stay, they have surgery and end up sleeping in the bus terminal. This is unthinkable, it is illogical, a health hazard for the person. So we are planning to build this not only for the people in the countryside nearby, but also to coordinate with other provinces further away, so that people can come in an organised fashion, have surgery, stay here, then return to their houses and have a doctor do a post-surgery check. This is the idea to begin with.

The second step is to create an auditorium for lectures, so that we can bring specialists from around the world to share their experiences with Argentinian doctors about everything that has to do with public healthcare. We want to strengthen public health system. And the accommodation will also work for them, because in the cities there is access to this kind of training, but not so much in the countryside. That means that they can never operate on patients because they have no way of receiving training, and we think that is something that we can help with.


The “Súmate” campaign in front of the Dr. Ernesto “Che” Guevara ophthalmologic centre in Córdoba (Photo: Operación Milagro)

RV: As far as I understand, the work involves more than just receiving patients. There is also outreach work to find patients?

CC: Indeed. The program is built on a premise from the beginning, which is called “active search” (“pesquisa activa”). Fidel, for example, talked about this when he was in Córdoba and gave a speech at the university. The point is that we do not simply wait for people to find us. Although we do have open consultations, on weekends the doctors go out, thanks to a network that social organisations set up in their neighbourhoods, and perform this active search. So the doctor goes there because there is something going on with peoples’ vision, and those that have a problem that we are able to deal with are forwarded to the hospital. This way we are breaking some of the biggest barriers in ophthalmology, which are geographical, informational or communicational. There are people who believe their problems have no solution! Especially older people. But blindness due to cataracts is reversible, so we need to go out and find them. This is what our doctors do.

RV: One last question: the blockade against Cuba also manifests itself through the media. This makes it so that nothing is said about Cuban internationalism and solidarity. Why do you think this is so? Why is it so dangerous for people to find out what Cuba is doing?

CC: Because it would reveal the humanism of socialism. Because it would reveal what a country that has been under a blockade for more than 50 years has been able to achieve. This is similar to the demonisation of Venezuela, omitting all that Venezuela has been doing around the world. For example, the PetroCaribe program in the Caribbean, or its response after the earthquake in Haiti. Venezuela also helped us in a lot of programs, with Cuba often providing the human resources and Venezuela the financial ones. All this solidarity is never heard of.

Even more so concerning Cuba, because Cuba is the model of what can be achieved. Imagine how much more it could do without the economical and media blockade! It is our task to break the blockade. And we, Argentinians involved in solidarity with Cuba, feel that these missions are a way to breach the blockade bit by bit. Every time we get to a poor neighbourhood the people are made aware of Cuba, they are introduced to this very small island called Cuba that is big when it comes to solidarity. And that is how they get to know for the first time what Cuba is all about.

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US Religious People Plead for End of Blockade on Cuba

John McCoollogh, Church World Service CEO, has reiterated the need to put an end to the economic, financial and trade blockade imposed by the White House on Cuba more than 50 years ago.

Speaking to Prensa Latina, he stressed the progress in almost more than two years of the resumption of ties between the two nations although, he warned, there are still a lot of things to do.

'We as religious people have the commitment to make the Congress of my country understand the need to eliminate the blockade, so there is more freedom of movement between the peoples of Cuba and the United States and this contact allows an increase in their quality of life,' McCoollogh said.

The U.S. reverend also stated that the process of rapprochement in the diplomatic relations between the two nations is also the result of the work of the Council of Churches of the two countries through the years.

He added that in order to reach the present moment, a rational and respectful dialogue took place between the two sides that overcame the past for a world of peace prevailed.

McCollogh stated that the religious people, through the word, can reach the hearts, minds and imagination of the peoples in a different way and not only with political language, so that they can have a wider vision of the reality.

McCollogh and the delegation accompanying him will end their trip on Friday, January 13th, after meeting with ecclesiastical and government authorities in the country.

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