efforts in Haiti, something that is corrected on the Monthly Review site by
the posting by Cuba’s Fidel Castro
which has 400 health personnel in Haiti and is prepared, awaiting
instructions, to send another 1,000 physicians and health workers,
including Haitian students studying medicine in Cuba. There’s been no
report that the Cuban offer is being accepted. http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/castro160110.html
The Lesson of Haiti
by Fidel Castro Ruz
Two days ago, at almost six o’clock in the evening Cuban time and when,
given its geographical location, night had already fallen in Haiti,
television stations began to broadcast the news that a violent earthquake
— measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale — had severely struck
Port-au-Prince. The seismic phenomenon originated from a tectonic fault
located in the sea just 15 kilometers from the Haitian capital, a city
where 80% of the population inhabit fragile homes built of adobe and mud.
The news continued almost without interruption for hours. There was no
footage, but it was confirmed that many public buildings, hospitals,
schools, and more solidly-constructed facilities were reported collapsed. I
have read that an earthquake of the magnitude of 7.3 is equivalent to the
energy released by an explosion of 400,000 tons of TNT.
Tragic descriptions were transmitted. Wounded people in the streets were
crying out for medical help, surrounded by ruins under which their
relatives were buried. No one, however, was able to broadcast a single
image for several hours.
The news took all of us by surprise. Many of us have frequently heard about
hurricanes and severe flooding in Haiti, but were not aware of the fact
that this neighboring country ran the risk of a massive earthquake. It has
come to light on this occasion that, 200 years ago, a massive earthquake
similarly affected this city, which would have been the home of just a few
thousand inhabitants at that time.
At midnight, there was still no mention of an approximate figure in terms
of victims. High-ranking United Nations officials and several heads of
government discussed the moving events and announced that they would send
emergency brigades to help. Given that MINUSTAH (United Stabilization
Mission in Haiti) troops are deployed there — UN forces from various
countries — some defense ministers were talking about possible casualties
among their personnel.
It was only yesterday, Wednesday morning, when the sad news began to arrive
of enormous human losses among the population, and even institutions such
as the United Nations mentioned that some of their buildings in that
country had collapsed, a word that does not say anything in itself but
could mean a lot.
For hours, increasingly more traumatic news continued to arrive about the
situation in this sister nation. Figures related to the number of fatal
victims were discussed, which fluctuated, according to various versions,
between 30,000 and 100,000. The images are devastating; it is evident that
the catastrophic event has been given widespread coverage around the world,
and many governments, sincerely moved by the disaster, are making efforts
to cooperate according to their resources.
The tragedy has genuinely moved a significant number of people,
particularly those in whom that quality is innate. But perhaps very few of
them have stopped to consider why Haiti is such a poor country. Why does
almost 50% of its population depend on family remittances sent from abroad?
Why not analyze the realities that led Haiti to its current situation and
this enormous suffering as well?
The most curious aspect of this story is that no one has said a single word
to recall the fact that Haiti was the first country in which 400,000
Africans, enslaved and trafficked by Europeans, rose up against 30,000
white slave masters on the sugar and coffee plantations, thus undertaking
the first great social revolution in our hemisphere. Pages of
insurmountable glory were written there. Napoleon’s most eminent general
was defeated there. Haiti is the net product of colonialism and
imperialism, of more than one century of the employment of its human
resources in the toughest forms of work, of military interventions, and the
extraction of its natural resources.
This historic oversight would not be so serious if it were not for the real
fact that Haiti constitutes the disgrace of our era, in a world where the
exploitation and pillage of the vast majority of the planet’s inhabitants
Billions of people in Latin America, Africa, and Asia are suffering similar
shortages although perhaps not to such a degree as in the case of Haiti.
Situations like that of that country should not exist in any part of the
planet, where tens of thousands of cities and towns abound in similar or
worse conditions, by virtue of an unjust international economic and
political order imposed on the world. The world population is not only
threatened by natural disasters such as that of Haiti, which is just a
pallid shadow of what could take place on the planet as a result of climate
change, which really was the object of ridicule, derision, and deception in
It is only just to say to all the countries and institutions that have lost
citizens or personnel because of the natural disaster in Haiti: we do not
doubt that, in this case, the greatest effort will be made to save human
lives and alleviate the pain of this long-suffering people. We cannot blame
them for the natural phenomenon that has taken place there, even if we do
not agree with the policy adopted with Haiti.
But I have to express the opinion that it is now time to look for real and
lasting solutions for that sister nation.
In the field of healthcare and other areas, Cuba — despite being a poor
and blockaded country — has been cooperating with the Haitian people for
many years. Around 400 doctors and healthcare experts are offering their
services free of charge to the Haitian people. Our doctors are working
every day in 227 of the country’s 337 communes. On the other hand, at least
400 young Haitians have trained as doctors in our homeland. They will now
work with the reinforcement brigade who traveled there yesterday to save
lives in this critical situation. Thus, without any special effort, up to
1,000 doctors and healthcare experts can be mobilized, almost all of whom
are already there willing to cooperate with any other state that wishes to
save the lives of the Haitian people and rehabilitate the injured.
Another significant number of young Haitians are currently studying
medicine in Cuba.
We are also cooperating with the Haitian people in other areas within our
reach. However, there can be no other form of cooperation worthy of being
described as such than fighting in the field of ideas and political action
in order to put an end to the limitless tragedy suffered by a large number
of nations such as Haiti.
The head of our medical brigade reported: “The situation is difficult, but
we have already started saving lives.” He made that statement in a succinct
message hours after his arrival yesterday in Port-au-Prince with additional
Later that night, he reported that Cuban doctors and ELAM’s Haitian
graduates were being deployed throughout the country. They had already seen
more than 1,000 patients in Port-au-Prince, immediately establishing and
putting into operation a hospital that had not collapsed and using field
hospitals where necessary. They were preparing to swiftly set up other
centers for emergency care.
We feel a wholesome pride for the cooperation that, in these tragic
instances, Cuban doctors and young Haitian doctors who trained in Cuba are
offering our brothers and sisters in Haiti!
Fidel Castro Ruz
January 14, 2009
Translation by Granma International, edited for republication here.