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FIDEL: Haiti’s Lesson

January 15, 2010
acnnews 4
Reflections by Fidel Castro

Haiti’s Lesson

Two days ago, close to 6 in the evening Cuba time, already dark in Haiti
due to its geographical location, the TV channels started carrying news
that a violent earthquake, --of 7.3 intensity in the Richter scale—had
severely shaken Port au Prince. The seismic phenomenon had originated at a
tectonic fault in the sea only 9.4 miles from the Haitian capital, a city
where 80% of the population lives in fragile houses built with clay and adobe.
    The news continued almost uninterrupted for hours. There were no
images but it was said that many stouter constructions like public
buildings, hospitals, schools and other facilities had also collapsed. I
have read that a 7.3 earthquake equals the energy released by the
explosion of 400,000 tons of TNT.
    The descriptions were dramatic. In the streets, the wounded cried for
medical help surrounded by ruins and their families buried under the
debris. But, for many hours no one could broadcast any image.
    The news took us all by surprise. Rather often we had heard news of
hurricanes and large floods in Haiti but we did not know that our neighbor
was threatened by a major earthquake. It surfaced now that 200 years ago a
major earthquake had hit that city, which at the time was certainly
inhabited by a few thousand people.
    At midnight there was still no estimate of the number of victims.
Senior UN officials and various Heads of Government spoke of the
impressive event and announced that they would be sending rescue brigades.
Since MINUSTAH --UN international forces-- are deployed there some Defense
ministers spoke of the possibility of casualties among their personnel.
    Actually, it was yesterday morning that sad news started flowing in on
the high number of human casualties in the population and even such
institutions as the United Nations reported that some of their buildings
in that country had collapsed; a word that usually does not say much but
that could mean a lot under the circumstances.
    For hours increasingly dramatic news of the situation in that country
continued to flow uninterrupted with reports of different numbers of
deadly victims that depending on which version fluctuated between 30
thousand and 100 thousand. The images are appalling.  Obviously, the
catastrophic event has been widely reported all over the world and many
governments, sincerely moved, are making efforts to cooperate to the
extent of their capabilities.
    A lot of people are sincerely touched by the tragedy, especially
natural unassuming people but perhaps few stop to think on why Haiti is
such a poor country and why almost 50 percent of its population depends of
family remittances. And in this context, would it not be proper to also
analyze the reality leading to the current situation of Haiti and its huge
    It is amazing that no one says a word on the fact that Haiti was the
first country where 400 thousand Africans, enslaved and brought to this
land by Europeans, rebelled against 30 thousand white owners of sugarcane
and coffee plantations and succeeded in making the first great social
revolution in our hemisphere. Pages of insurmountable glory were then
written there where Napoleon’s most outstanding general tasted defeat.
Haiti is a complete product of colonialism and imperialism, of more than a
century of using its human resources in the hardest labors, of military
interventions and the extraction of its wealth.
    Such a historic oblivion would not be so grave if it were not because
Haiti is an embarrassment in our times, in a world where the exploitation
and plundering of the overwhelming majority of people on the planet prevail.
    Billions of people in Latin America, Africa and Asia endure similar
privation although probably not all of them in such high proportion as Haiti.
    No place on earth should be affected by such situations, even though
there are tens of thousands of towns and villages in similar and sometimes
worse conditions resulting from an unfair economic and political
international order imposed worldwide. The world population is not only
threatened by natural catastrophes like that of Haiti that is but a pale
example of what can happen to the planet with climate change; an issue
that was the target of mockery, scorn and deception in Copenhagen.
    It is fair to say to every country and institution that have sustained
the loss of citizens or members to the natural catastrophe in Haiti that
we do not doubt that at this point they will make the greatest effort to
save human lives and to alleviate the pain of that long-suffering people.
They cannot be blamed for the natural phenomenon that has taken place
there even though we disagree with the policy pursued towards Haiti.
    But, I must say that I feel it’s high time to seek true and real
solutions for that fraternal people.
    In the area of healthcare and others the Haitian people has received
the cooperation of Cuba, even though this is a small and blockaded
country. Approximately 400 doctors and healthcare workers are helping the
Haitian people free of charge. Our doctors are working every day at 227 of
the 337 communes of that country. On the other hand, no less than 400
young Haitians have been graduated as medical doctors in our country. They
will now work alongside the reinforcement that traveled there yesterday to
save lives in that critical situation. Thus, up to one thousand doctors
and healthcare personnel can be mobilized without any special effort; and
most are already there willing to cooperate with any other State that
wishes to save Haitian lives and rehabilitate the injured.
    Another high number of Haitian youths are studying medicine in Cuba.
    We also cooperate with the Haitian people in other areas within our
capabilities. However, there is no other form of cooperation worthy of the
definition but that of struggling in the field of ideas and political
action to put an end to the endless tragedy endured by a great number of
nations like Haiti.
    The head of our medical brigade has informed that “the situation is
difficult but we are already saving lives.” He said this in a brief
message sent a few hours after arriving in Port au Prince yesterday with
an additional group of doctors.
    Late at night he said that the Cuban doctors and the Haitian doctors
graduated at the ELAM (Latin American Medical School) were being deployed
in the country. At Port au Prince they had cared for over one thousand
patients while urgently commissioning a hospital that had not collapsed
and using tents where necessary. They were also preparing to rapidly set
up other first-aid centers.
    We take wholesome pride in the cooperation that at this tragic hour
the Cuban doctors and the young Haitian doctors trained in Cuba are giving
their brothers and sisters in Haiti!

Fidel Castro Ruz
January 14, 2010
8:25 pm

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