Elio Delgado Legon

Medical personnel receive training in Cuba before heading to West Africa to fight Ebola. File photo: Antonio Pons / Bohemia

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban Revolution is about selflessness, altruism, solidarity and heroism, four fundamental characteristics that its historic leader expressed when he announced the Concept of Revolution on May 1, 2000, before hundreds of thousands of Cubans who were marching in the Square.

These four characteristics of the Cuban Revolution have been brought to light during the last nearly 60 years since he came into power on January 1st 1959. The country was still in a financial crisis as Batista and his thugs took all of the money in the State Treasury when they left. The health care situation was also precarious; there were only 6,000 doctors and half of these left for the United States. However Cuba has always responded positively to the challenges it has had to face; for example, when there was an earthquake in Chile and lives needed to be saved in difficult circumstances, or when Argelia asked for help after its Independence and a brigade was sent from the 3,000 doctors who remained in Cuba to that African country.

However, that was the only the beginning of a much longer story, which continued when there was an earthquake in Peru, where health staff were sent and a blood donation campaign was set up to send to that country, where our main leaders were the first ones to donate, with Fidel leading the way.

Drawing from the critical situation of health services in the majority of underdeveloped countries, the Comandante en Jefe, Fidel Castro, with his vision for the future, put all of his efforts into training a great number of doctors and other health personnel in Cuba, of the highest quality possible, not only to ensure excellent patient care for the Cuban people, but to help anyone who needed it.

Many countries have benefitted from the Revolution’s altruism and Cuban health workers, who have been present in 117 countries over the last 55 years, where over 160,000 health professionals have been sent on a brigade. Today, there are currently 49,500 Cuban health workers in 62 countries.

The Henry Reeve International Contingent of Physicians Specialized in Disaster Situations and Serious Epidemics was created in September 2005 by Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro so as to help those affected in the United States by Hurricane Katrina, an offer of aid which was not accepted by the US government, but has since provided invaluable services to humanity.

Even though many are aware of the three medical brigades who were sent to fight the Ebola epidemic in Western Africa, that doesn’t mean we cannot mention it. They risked their own lives to save all the lives they could and therefore prevent a global outbreak of this virus, and so we will never know how many lives they saved in stopping this disease from spreading.

It would be impossible to count just how many health missions have left Cuba to help other countries, but we can say that Cuba has offered its support at 32 natural disasters in countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile, Peru, Nepal, Ecuador, Pakistan, Haiti, among others, to fight against death and provide aid during many of the world’s tragedies.

Founding the Latin American School of Medicine in 1999, where over 49,000 foreigners have graduated, is another sign of the Revolution’s altruism.

The Vietnam war veteran Bill Hill, from the United States, recently declared his admiration when he stated that Cuba is a poor country but, as well as looking after its own people, goes anywhere disaster strikes.

He also gave examples of the praiseworthy and selfless work Cubans did in Haiti and in other parts of the world where they have often been the first ones to arrive. “As a US citizen and veteran, I am very proud of the fact that I came here 26 years ago to fight against the blockade,” the former US-Cuba Friendship Caravan member said.

I have only pointed out acts of altruism in the health sector, but we could add many more examples of the Revolution’s solidarity in education, sports, culture, agriculture and housing, just to give a few examples. And I haven’t mentioned the Cuban contribution, which was completely voluntary, to helping several African countries gain their independence, especially Angola, Namibia and South Africa, where over 2,000 Cuban soldiers gave their lives. This is all a part of the Cuban Revolution’s altruism.

Elio Delgado Legon

Elio Delgado-Legon: I am a Cuban who has lived for 80 years, therefore I know full well how life was before the revolution, having experienced it directly and indirectly. As a result, it hurts me to read so many aspersions cast upon a government that fights tooth and nail to provide us a better life. If it hasn’t fully been able to do so, this is because of the many obstacles that have been put in its way.

3 thoughts on “The Cuban Revolution’s Altruism

  • The original Cuban Revolution is over 50 years old. And wether one is supportive of all it has done or opposed to it with all it’s triumphs and failures, it is time now for a new revolution. Not one of armed struggle or violence, but a revolution of change in how things are done. You can keep beating the drum of triumph, and deny/ignore the realities of life, but that would only exasperate the current conditions.

    It is great to be patriotic for one’s country, however to continuously blow the horn of victory, and deny the deep rooted problems faced by countless many, circumvents progress and leads to the further erosion of society.

    Elio, it’s great to list all the accomplishments of the Cuban Revolution, but no matter how great these were/are, it does not diminish all the current problems facing the Cuban people now. Great steps are needed to improve the lives of everyday Cubanos and by doing so, the integrity and positive accomplishments of the Revolution will be honored and maintained for an eternity, instead of being written off as failure.

  • Well, the revolution was not a total failure. What a shame Fidel did not pursue brighter economic policies.

  • Setting aside a measurable amount of hyperbole, Elio’s description of the medical help the Castro dictatorship has provided worldwide is largely true.

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