One of the most fruitful strategies of the Cuban government to perpetuate itself in power has been to create a division between Cubans: farmers against consumers, self-employed against citizens, emigrants against residents of the island. Now, the government accuses Cuban doctors of the country’s health crisis. Once again, they want to divide Cubans, But this time, they no longer achieve their objective.
Cuban doctors in a public letter make the government solely responsible for the collapse of hospitals and those killed by Covid, and make it clear that they do not want to be complicit in this crime against humanity.
In a short time, we have witnessed the outstanding rebellion of two central guilds against the symbolic capital of the regime: the artists and, now, the doctors. The letter we publish below speaks for itself.
Cuba, 6 August 2021
Sr Miguel Diaz Canel Bermúdez
First secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Republic
Sr Manuel Marrero Cruz
Prime Minister of Cuba
Sr Esteban Lazo Hernández
President of the National Assembly and the Council of State
Sr José Ángel Portal Miranda
Minister of Public Health
Sr Francisco Durán García
National Director of Epidemiology
Recently the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) recognized that the situation of the covid-19 pandemic in Cuba “was worrisome and complicated” and clearly stated that in recent weeks our country ranked first in Latin America and fourth in the world for the number of covid-19 infections per 100,000 inhabitants. By number of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, it ranked third in Latin America (after Paraguay and Argentina) and ninth in the world.
Despite the fact that these chilling statistics come from official reports issued by the State, in which you all hold positions of the utmost importance, we doubt that they represent the true situation that our people are experiencing today. The harsh reality that is lived in each province contrasts a lot with these cold data that are presented day after day. Hospitals are collapsed, patients have to wait long hours to be treated, diagnostic tests to identify positive cases are not enough, many sick and suspected are sent home for home admission absent in many cases from the necessary daily assessment by primary care health personnel (PHC), there are no essential drugs in pharmacies. If you need to transfer a patient to a hospital you have to wait hours and even days because there are no ambulances available for it. Some compatriots have died in their homes and the family has had to endure in silence the immense pain of the corpse in front of them because there is no way for it to be picked up and transferred to the crowded morgues. Cemeteries do not provide a decent burial to those who have perished in this situation and in many places mass graves are opened to place lifeless bodies, orphaned to being able to receive the last goodbye for their loved ones.
Those of us who write this letter know very well what we are saying, because we are health professionals who are on the front line of the battle against this epidemic. We have seen with our own eyes everything we are telling you. We have to deal every hour, every minute, every day with the despair of our people, with the anguish of the sick, with the helplessness of seeing our people die before us. We have been struggling almost exclusively for months and months with our dignity and sense of professional duty, therefore; at the moment, we care very little whether or not you like what we are going to tell you along these lines, because none of us has to take care of public office or high positions, none of us will trade science for the disgusting politics that is leading Cuba towards disaster for which you are all responsible. That is why many things have to be said head-on and we are not going to be the ones to remain silent in the face of this disaster.
We are facing a global epidemiological crisis. SARCoV 2 has become a global pandemic. It is a war of science versus nature, and this war must be led by scientists, not politicians. It is the Minister of Public Health with his national directorates, in this case the Epidemiology Directorate headed by Mr. Durán, who must advise the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and the Government on how this pandemic should be scientifically dealt with, since it is the MINSAP that has the technical knowledge and experts to do so.
Cuba’s public health strategy is political. This is very clear from Law No. 41 on Public Health itself, which defines universality, free of charge, its social character, etc., etc., etc. But the tactic to achieve the constitutional right of all citizens of our country to have their health taken care of and protected, and the state’s obligation to guarantee that right, has to be eminently scientific. Only then will the government know what to do at all times and scientists will tell it how to deal with the crisis. It is not the other way around as it is done today. This is why we have the disaster we are facing today; also, this why the management of the pandemic has gotten out of hand – and it is the people who are paying for it with their lives.
Have you not seen the videos circulating on the networks showing the chaotic conditions in our hospitals and health centers? Have you not seen people die in front of the tiny lenses of the mobile phones of their desperate relatives? Have you not seen mothers, sisters, children crying helplessly with a relative dying in a health centre that looks more like a war zone than a place destined to save lives?
The people are showing you the true face of the situation in Cuba today. That is the reality that we are suffering and not the one presented by the official press, whose reports are more like a Machiavellian satire of the “real wonderful” or perhaps in this case, rather, the transmutation of Dante’s inferno on a Caribbean island that once dreamed of paradise. What you see in the networks is not always a lie, nor is it always “fake news” financed by a foreign intelligence to discredit anyone – as we try to become more aware. It is the cry of a desperate people who have no one to complain to because their main leaders become blind and deaf in the face of everyday truth. Spend more time looking at what people are showing you on your networks, and less time posting tweets on Twitter that have nothing to do with everyday reality and only show how far removed you are from your people.
Mr. Díaz Canel, get off that podium where you systematically sit like an emperor in the Temporary Working Group on the Prevention and Control of the Novel Coronavirus, and sit humbly and listen to what those who know how to deal with an epidemic have to say. Your role as First Secretary of the PCC is to guarantee and monitor what Portal and Duran say has been achieved by those who administer this country. And as head of state, whose power supposedly derives from the people, you must ensure that your people suffer as little as possible in this precarious situation. Send all your first secretaries in the provinces off the same podium and ensure that provincial health directors play their part.
Mr. Marrero, it is up to you to implement from the executive and administrative levels all the necessary measures so that the scientific guidelines issued by the MINSAP are carried out. You have the resources of all the ministries of the nation and you have to use them according to the advisory instructions of the MINSAP. If there are no ambulances, ask the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) through its governors in each territory to make available, to the Ministry of Health, half of the thousands and thousands of patrol cars it owns. Each of them, with a nurse next to them, would resolve the transfer of the patients to the places where they must be treated in a timely manner. It is disrespectful that they have only thought of using bike taxis, horse carts or old private “almendrones” for this purpose. They are not ashamed that the people have been shocked at how much money has been spent on buying modern patrol cars, trucks to transport special troops to repress the people, and Public Health does not have the necessary ambulances to save the lives of the people. No other Cuban would have to wait long hours to be rescued if it gets complicated at home, no other Cuban will die at home and his body will have to wait hours to be taken to his final rest. It would also be an honourable way for the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) to begin washing the blood that stains their clothing today after the brutal beatings, arbitrary arrests, and mass imprisonment that since 11 July has used grievous force against people that they (the PNR) are sworn to protect – not massacre them.
Impose on the Ministry of Justice and the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic the need to be strict watchmen of the resources available to the country. They should ensure that the corrupt leaders who swarm everywhere in the midst of this chaotic situation cannot divert the scarce resources we have to fill their refrigerators with food, or build houses with materials not available to the rest of cubans. Reject and punish the children of the main leaders of the revolution who give themselves a life of “proletarian millionaires” while the people scramble desperately among so many unmet needs. Put an end once and for all to nepotism rooted in the upper echelons. That they audit all state institutions, including the GAESA military emporium, to make available to the country the millions of foreign currency it has in its coffers to buy food and basic necessities for Cubans. The military is there to safeguard the country against foreign forces trying to invade it, not to become capitalist entrepreneurs and manage the nation’s money! That all those who hinder the economic development of the nation be punished with all the necessary severity. This would be much more effective than wearing them down in massive and shameful trials without guarantees of defence for thousands of young people who, for the most part, only came out to express and demand their constitutional rights. Make water available to the people, so necessary for hygienic measures in the midst of this pandemic, demand that there be no blackouts, ensure that all structures in the country do what they have to do once and for all to meet the needs of the people to whom they are indebted and accountable.
Mr. Lazo, call on the National Assembly to analyze, far from formalisms previously castrated by false unanimity and the strangulation of opinions that may be divergent, a real referendum to evaluate and correct the multiple mistakes made by the executive in the management of this crisis and that are still being committed today. Who will answer to the people for sustaining an influx of tourists from countries with high rates of contagion to our main tourist centers? When will the president be held accountable for calling the people into practically a civil war, to face with blows and sticks the claims of the same people? Are you not going to demand responsibility from those who, despite all the warnings, engendered and imposed at the worst moment the disastrous “reordering” that has made our people suffer so much and plunged our economy into a deep and practically insalvable crisis? We believe that the National Assembly, if it truly represents the power of the people and expresses its sovereign will, has long and uninterrupted sessions ahead of it. And we have only suggested a few topics for discussion.
Mr. Portal Miranda, you have allowed one of the ‘jewels’ of the so-called conquests of the revolution today to be a ghost drowned in its own lies. The health system has collapsed and is disorganized and exhausted. Hundreds of health professionals have died from Covid. People work without adequate means of personal protection, isolation centres are shameful, PHC cannot meet the demands of the sick at home. You work with passion, but that is not enough. Just reorganize our system so that we can deal with this pandemic.
Some essential questions are imposed: How many autopsies are performed on the cases that have died of Covid in our country? It has not caught your attention as minister in the field to seek a scientific explanation as to why the pandemic in our territory is affecting so many young people, and indeed, because of the high number of cases of paediatric age that are becoming ill in Cuba, something that has not happened anywhere in the world so far. But for that you have to study the corpses to see what’s really going on. Are our health care protocols at the same level of response as the latest global advances in the treatment of Covid? It is humiliating to see the suggestion of apipharmaceuticals and green medicine to treat a life-threatening disease. Do we still live in Cuba in the stone-age?
We know that many professionals have begun to be brought in from Cuban medical missions abroad to our country to support critical provinces such as Ciego de Avila, Matanzas, and Cienfuegos. This could help, especially to oxygenate those of us who have been working tirelessly on our own soil for months and months at risk of our own lives, that of our own families and children, but without resources little can be done. And you know that very well. We believe that the thousands and thousands of dollars that the country receives from the Medical Collaboration should be made available for the purchase of supplies, medicines and whatever is necessary to face this epidemic with dignity and to be able to provide a better health service to our people. Nothing today can be more important than the lives of our brothers and sisters.
It was very painful for us to see Dr. Duran promote, from your daily rostrum in front of the national television cameras, the UJC caravan yesterday. How is it possible that the highest epidemiological authority in the country that has been calling for months and months for popular discipline, and social distancing (the person who knows best that this virus finds the best breeding ground for its spread in these concentrations), is so hypocritical and thinking more about taking care of your position than about fulfilling your professional duty while you bless the stupid decision to continue calling for rallies that will only cause greater spread of this disease and greater number of deaths? Your professional and moral obligation, based on your medical experience, on your years of service, and on your high office, should have been from the beginning a frontal demand for our borders to be closed when the country was not yet seriously affected by the disease. In refusing to allow hundreds and hundreds of Indian builders to continue entering the country from the place where the Delta variant of the virus had already been detected and circulated with high contagion and mortality – to say no to the illogical night-time restrictions when in the rest of the day the whole town was kept in endless queues to alleviate the hunger that grips it. What to say about your daily roles! He has grown so fond of the media and journalists that he even learned to lie better than them. You are well aware that these figures are pure fallacies and are strictly political. There can be no certainty in that information when diagnostic tests are not available to everyone, when laboratories in several provinces collapse because of the large number of samples that the equipment has to process. When the number of deaths is snouted, and a case that was positive for Covid is negated, but someone still dies from it, it is not reported as a case of the disease – despite having the symptoms, the patient dies without the PCR, it does not come out in the statistics as a death from Covid, and so countless lies are calculated so that the world does not become aware that we are up to our necks in so much rubbish.
There are many things we may need to say in this letter but the catharsis, of exposing them to you who are primarily responsible for the situation that this country of ours is going through; and of not being part of this macabre spawn that today has become what was once a beacon for the dispossessed relieves our hearts and souls.
We will not be complicit in so much lying, so many mistakes, so much rubbish.
Our people need to know the truth.
And you, history is not going to absolve you.
Exhausted, Deceived Cuban Health Professionals;
but willing to continue fighting for the lives of our brothers.