Cuba: Integration for Complementation

Fernando Ravsberg*

During his visit to Cuba, the UN Secretary General acknowledged the role Cuban medical doctors and graduates from Havana’s Latin American School of Medicine played during the crisis in Haiti.
During his visit to Cuba, the UN Secretary General acknowledged the role Cuban medical doctors and graduates from Havana’s Latin American School of Medicine played during the crisis in Haiti.

HAVANA TIMES — Sending 11 thousand Cuban doctors to Brazil is the best form of cooperation one can hope for, because it benefits the people directly, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff declared during the Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that concluded Wednesday in Havana.

The Brazilian government urgently needs over 15 thousand physicians to take healthcare services to over 700 municipalities that have never seen a doctor and increase the number of health professionals in areas where such services are deficient.

The call for doctors was international, but the response was limited: a mere thousand Brazilian doctors and less than 300 from other countries ultimately applied. Only Cuba is willing to deploy an army of many thousands of health professionals anywhere needed.

The agreement was reached through the Pan-American Health Organization (OPS) to skirt the hurdles thrown by Brazilian medical associations, which were opposed to the initiative from the start, despite the fact that foreign doctors would be working in remote and poor areas where the members of their association refuse to practice.

Cuba also faces a number of difficulties in terms of putting together that many general physicians. It is hard to find them on the island today because, for years, the country experienced a trend tending towards specialization within given fields and resulting in a general imbalance.

Brazilian companies used their country’s credit to build the Caribbean’s most modern port 50 kilometers from Havana.
Brazilian companies used their country’s credit to build the Caribbean’s most modern port 50 kilometers from Havana.

Many young, Cuban medical graduates weren’t given any other choice than to become Comprehensive General Practitioners, but these graduates later specialized in a given field, such as cardiology, ophthalmology or nephrology and some aren’t too crazy about taking steps back in their careers.

What’s more, they’ve lost the incentive of being able to buy a car. Though it is true that Cuban doctors earn considerably more in Brazil than in other countries, with the new automobile prices, they would have to spend a decade working abroad to be able to buy a used car.

Cuban Doctors, Brazilian Engineers

Brasilia agreed to pay US $4,200 for each Cuban MD, a sum that will allow Havana to pay, in two years, Brazil’s credit for the construction of the Mariel port, the first in the region capable of accommodating 200-thousand-ton Super-Post-Panama ships.

Now, Cuba will be able to import goods and save the tens of millions of dollars it paid for the use of intermediary ports. At Mariel, they have built a terminal capable of processing 800 thousand containers a year, giving Cuba the possibility of providing port services to other nations in the Caribbean.

The port was inaugurated this week during the 2nd CELAC Summit and was held up as an example of what can be accomplished through a relationship that allows nations to complement one another, with a view towards greater economic and social development.

Across the continent, governments are making headway in diplomatic agreements that impel multi-national projects in such fields as health, education, nutrition, energy and economic growth.

Relations between Havana and Brasilia have grown stronger, to the point that, in the near future, the South American giant could become Cuba’s leading economic partner.
Relations between Havana and Brasilia have grown stronger, to the point that, in the near future, the South American giant could become Cuba’s leading economic partner.

In some cases, they are learning from each other. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto reported that Uruguayan authorities are acting as consultants in the country’s efforts to impel a plan similar to Uruguay’s Ceibal, which provides students at public schools with computers.

The exchange of Venezuelan crude for products and services from other economies in the region has drastically reduced these nations’ oil bill, cutting them some slack at the precise moment when the price of oil tripled.

This week, the UN Secretary General himself stated that “Cuba can teach the world about its health system, based on primary care, a system that has had important achievements, such as low infant mortality, longer life expectancy and universal coverage.”

During his visit to Cuba, Ban Ki-moon acknowledged the importance of Havana’s Latin American School of Medicine, where thousands of young people from the poorest communities in the region are trained to become doctors. Hundreds of them played a key role in relief efforts following the earthquake in Haiti.

Ban Ki-moon affirmed that “Cuba has a long history of cooperation,” adding that thousands of Haitians and Africans owe their lives to the island’s workers, as “Cuban doctors are the first to arrive and the last to leave.”

Cuba also has a lot to gain from its relations with Latin American nations, for, in order to be able to sustain its own public health system, it needs to achieve a level of economic development it has been unable to reach on its own.
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(*) A Havana Times translation of the original  first published in Spanish by BBC Mundo.


9 thoughts on “Cuba: Integration for Complementation

  • February 1, 2014 at 10:47 am
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    I know they’ve made weed legal in several states but really JG, you should reduce your consumption of cannabis.

    Between your hate of the nuclear family and disdain for religion you’ve ended up in the end. My goodness, what did your parents do to you anyhow?

  • February 1, 2014 at 10:40 am
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    You couldn’t be further off base. No citizen has been forced into the military in over two generations. In fact only 0.5% of the U.S. population serves in the military.

    …Perhapse you should try another straw man.

  • February 1, 2014 at 9:53 am
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    Yeah, you’re right.
    Cuba should do what the U.S.A. does .
    Create an enormous underclass of poor and unemployables and invite them into the armed forces , train them to kill and send them overseas to enforce U.S style-capitalism upon the world.
    That’s a better use of government money : killing people instead of helping them .
    I wonder which bunch ..the doctors or the soldiers …Jesus would choose to serve with ..or admit into heaven.

  • February 1, 2014 at 9:49 am
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    The wealthy and the mega-corporations in the oligarchic and plutocratic U.S. are certainly grateful for your continued support .
    And yes most Americans are not like me: a democrat ( a person who believes in democracy and not a member of the Democratic Party ).
    They prefer being told what to do and not have any say in things that matter.
    That’s why the U.S. is the most religious . Organized religions are the most totalitarian human form.
    It’s why the U.S. loves the feral cut-throat variety of capitalism practiced here : the top .0001% are the unelected dictators of the dollar .
    It’s why they tolerate a government that is obedient to its financial backers and not to the electorate : it’s a concession to the brutal power that is money .
    It’s why the U.S. is so racist : it’s that need to be over someone lower than yourself.: a denial of democracy.
    Yes democracy is the worst form of government ..except for all the others that you and the American people prefer.

  • January 31, 2014 at 11:32 pm
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    Cuba produces doctors and prostitutes. The government already exports doctor is a good business for the Raul Castro. To get the prostitutes you have to go on vacation to Cuba. Canadians and European appreciate the low price and highly efficient Cuban girls. This is a perfect system that the whole world must emulate.
    Long live the brutal Cuban dictator and all the idiots that make a living writing about Cuba with no idea or knowledge.

  • January 31, 2014 at 2:27 pm
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    …..and thankfully most Americans do not agree with you

  • January 31, 2014 at 2:10 pm
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    In so many words, what you are saying is that since the regime provided a medical education, the regime can then put that medical education to use any way it chooses; i.e.sending these over hyped nurse practitioners abroad as indentured servants for some ready cash. As has been stated many times on these pages, education in Cuba is not free.

    I am unaware of any “poor” doctors in the U.S. And no, unlike Cuba, they don’t go to work right after medical school. They first have to go through a grueling hospital residency, and then perhaps further specialty training
    or a fellowship.. …and thank god for that! I certainly would rather place my care in the hands of a US doctor than these over hyped nurses the Cuban medical mill churns out

    …keep living in your fantasy world

  • January 31, 2014 at 11:21 am
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    Cuba’s socialist-style economy enables the society to educate doctors and then put that education to humane use .
    U.S. doctors are limited in serving the poor for free because the for-profit medical care system in the U.S. burdens each med school graduate with enormous student loan debt and they must get right to work paying back that money.
    By the time the loans are aid off and the doctor can set up his own practice, he no longer is free to volunteer because of family commitments , maintaining an office staff , affiliations .
    It is why a centrally-planned economy that is run for the benefit of humanity is preferable to one run for strictly profit .
    Oh sure , if you want to take your chances in the cutthroat game of capitalism and make it to the top 5%- like getting a winning lottery ticket – then a capitalist economy is just the thing for you .
    IF however, you understand that capitalism is not working well at all for the middle class, working class, working poor , poor , unemployed,-in other words, all the victims of capitalism – then you have to consider the alternative which is ………..A DEMOCRATIC ECONOMY.
    Democratic is accurately defined as “rule of the people ” which translates into majority rule in today’s representative democracies ( republics) .
    That also translates necessarily into a bottom-up majority rule structure and decidedly and definitely NOT a top-down minority-rule structure as both capitalism and our oligarchic- plutocratic government are currently constructed.
    Democracy is the answer to the inherent problems of totalitarian forms .
    That being the case:
    Most Americans would, at once, agree that democracy is a good thing and that capitalism is (somehow) democratic .
    They would see no contradiction and they would not see “democratic capitalism” as an oxymoron .
    The future is a democratic one and a far better one.

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