The cruelest face of the blockade

The cruelest face of the blockade
• The repercussions on healthcare of the economic war imposed by the United States were in excess of $25 million from May 2008 to April 2009
Lilliam Riera

• THE blockade of Cuba, maintained for more than 50 years by successive U.S. administrations with the intention of undermining the population through hunger and disease has led to repercussions in the public healthcare sector amounting to $25 million from May 2008 to April 2009 alone.

The report titled The need to put an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America on Cuba, to be put to the vote in the UN General Assembly on October 28, states that the damage caused in this sensitive sphere is cruel not only in terms of its material effects but particularly for the suffering that it causes patients and their families and for the direct incidence on the health of the population, especially children.

The document states that the list of Cuban children to undergo open heart surgery increased by eight last year: Osdenis Díaz, 30 months; Leinier Ramírez Pérez, 9 months; Leidy Reyes Blanco, 2 years; José Luis Sanamé, 13 years; Yusmary Rodríguez Márquez, 12 years; Pedro P. Valle Ros, 5 years; Osniel Pérez Espinosa, 5 years, y Roilán Martínez Pérez, 3 years.
The William Soler Pediatric Hospital’s Cardio-Center in Havana has been prevented from acquiring devices used to diagnose and treat children with complex congenital cardiopathies via catheterization. The U.S. Numed, AGA and Boston Scientific companies are prohibited from selling these products to Cuba.

In addition, Cuban children suffering from lymphoblastic leukemia cannot be treated with Erwinia L-asparaginasa, a medicine commercially known as Elspar, given that the U.S. pharmaceutical company Merck and Co. refuses to sell this product to Cuba.

Children’s hospitals face serious obstacles when it comes to acquiring materials suitable for small children, such as better quality and more durable vesicular, digestive and tracheal probes, Huber needles for tracheotomies and lumbar injections, most of which come from the United States.

The National Genetic Medicine Center (CNGM), the institution of national reference for the Cuban Diagnosis, Management and Prevention Program for Genetic Diseases and Heart Defects, is likewise suffering from the effects of this cruel and unjust blockade.

Since 2003, the center has been trying to acquire, without any result, analyzer equipment for genes with the capacity for automatic sequencing capability and fragment analysis, essential for the study of the origin of high-incidence diseases in the population and which are among the prime causes of death: breast, colon and prostate cancers; arterial hypertension; asthma; diabetes mellitus and mental disorders, among others.

In an interview with Granma International (published edition Number 30 on July 26, 2009) Dr. Beatriz Marcheco Teruel, the director of CNGM, spoke about this case and noted that they had been unable to acquire it because the company that produces the equipment and software, ABI, is American.

Dr. Marcheco also said that the institution is forced to pay up to three times more than any other laboratory in the world to obtain certain reagents needed for investigations being carried out by the center.

Another of the various examples mentioned in the report is that of MEDICUBA, an entity that requested, via the Cuban company Alimport, the purchase of vascular prostheses from Bard, forceps for Endomyocardial biopsies from Cordis, and implements for inflation to be used with balloon catheters from Boston Scientific. Just one negative response was received from the Bard Company along with notification that it could not provide Cuba with a quote on the product requested because of the blockade law. The other companies did not even reply to the requests.

The economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States on Cuba for over 50 years is the most elevated expression of a cruel and inhuman policy, lacking in legality and legitimacy and deliberately designed to create hunger, disease and desperation within the Cuban populace.

There has never been such a wide-ranging and brutal blockade of any nation.

On the one hand, this classifies as genocide by virtue of Section C of Article II of the Geneva Convention of 1948 on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and, on the other hand, as an act of economic warfare, according to the stipulations of the declaration regarding Maritime War adopted by the 1909 London Naval Conference. In addition, the blockade of Cuba is more than a bilateral issue between our country and the United States.

THE EXTRATERRITORIAL APPLICATION OF A POLICY OF GENOCIDE

The report also shows how the public health sector is affected by the extra-territorial application of that policy of genocide imposed on Cuba by successive U.S. administrations over the course of more than 50 years.

The repeated extraterritorial application of US laws and the persecution of legitimate interests of companies and citizens of third countries have significant repercussions on the sovereignty of many other states.

Under that policy, persons who are ill in Cuba cannot benefit, in many instances, from new diagnostics, technologies or drugs, even though if their lives depend on them because – independently of the fact that these products are available in a third country, the blockade laws forbid that Cuba acquires even one single component or program originating in the United States.

In this way, the document explains how non-U.S. companies like Hitachi and Toshiba are refusing to sell high technology equipment to Cuba.

For example, Hitachi is refusing to sell Cuba an electronic microscope of the kind used in pathological anatomy, which is forcing the island to look elsewhere for alternatives, making the final price of the product much more expensive.

Meanwhile, Toshiba is acting in the same way with high technology equipment such as the gamma chamber (used to do studies with radioactive isotopes in nuclear medicine), magnetic resonance, and high precision ultra-sound. As a result, health services for the Cuban population have been affected.

Another eloquent example is that of the Cuban company GCATE S.A., which specializes in the purchase of technological equipment for the health sector; it has faced serious difficulties with the Dutch company Philips Medical because, after a range of equipment was bought and installed, the Dutch company refused to provide spare parts, forcing us to buy them through third countries; this increases the price and makes maintenance an even more difficult task.

The leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, analyzed the case of that Dutch company in his September 6 Reflection titled “The double betrayal of Philips.”

The economic damages are basically due to the need to acquire products and equipment in markets that are further away, using intermediaries for such purposes, and the subsequent increased price that such procedures bring with them.

Likewise, the refusal to grant visas to Cuban scientists and health specialists so that they can take part in numerous scientific congresses and events in the United States constitutes an obstacle for professional updating, their witnessing of techniques being used in the treatment of different conditions, and an exchange of experiences that, under different conditions, could be beneficial to both countries.

Translated by Granma International

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