Statement by Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee, and President of the Republic of Cuba, during the International Conference for the Financing of the Reconstruction of the Southern Peninsula of Haiti, February 16, 2022, Year 64 of the Revolution.
(Transcript: Presidency of the Republic)
His Excellency Ariel Henry, Prime Minister of the Republic of Haiti;
Her Excellency Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations; distinguished guests: Once again, what brings us together here is the human drama Haiti is facing, the poorest nation in our hemisphere, and also—given its geographical position—one of the most vulnerable to the natural catastrophes which painfully often affect the Caribbean.
A great deal is being said about the harsh blows dealt by nature and the social violence that have punished Haiti as if it were under a curse for more than two centuries. Much less is being said, however, as if there were an intention to hide responsibility, about the real causes and the dramatic consequences of the colonial and post-colonial abuse of imperial powers, which has obliged this nation to pay a high price, over more than 200 years, for the audacity of staging the first Revolution led by black men and women who had been slaves until that moment; for being the first independent Republic of Our America and being the first nation in the entire continent to abolish slavery. The nation that inspired in our Alejo Carpentier the idea of the “magically real” as well as the original and extraordinary work, The Kingdom of this World, has barely survived the harsh consequences of military dictatorships, plundering and foreign interventions, which were not caused by nature but by men and the abuse of power.
That is why it is necessary to speak in stark terms about the Haitian reality and the responsibility that the entire international community has in its definitive transformation; as well as its enormous debt to a noble, hard-working people that deserve and need our respect and support.
We all have the moral obligation to offer Haiti substantial and disinterested cooperation, not only for the reconstruction of some areas but also to comprehensively promote sustainable development across the country.
Cuba speaks here with the moral authority it has earned, sharing with this sister nation—the closest to us geographically—great pains and formidable endeavors over centuries.
In history classes we learn about Makandal, Louverture or Dessalines as part of a single anti-racist, emancipatory heritage. Cuba’s sugar and coffee are as intertwined with these products in Haiti as are the blood, tears, religious traditions, dances, songs, landscapes and culture of the two peoples that embrace each other in the uniqueness of the Caribbean.
During its first decade, the Cuban Revolution decreed recognition of the right to social security of Haitian workers, who had labored in semi-slave conditions during the pre-Revolutionary period. This meant the payment of a historical debt and the defense of a principle that, from that day on, would be unconditional solidarity with Haiti in all spheres of life.
This solidarity has reached its highest points at specific conjunctures, including the cholera epidemic and the earthquakes of 2010 and 2021, when Cuban specialists showed the world the depth of our commitment and dedication to assisting the Haitian population.
Unlike all other international aid, however, Cuban professionals did not arrive in that country following the disaster. They had been there for more than a decade, working and offering their cooperation.
A new phase of our cooperation began in 1998, when Cuba sent a medical brigade, medicines and everything necessary to assist the population affected by Hurricanes George and Mitch; and hundreds of Haitian youths traveled to Cuba to attend the Caribbean School that was established in Santiago de Cuba as an affiliate of ELAM (Latin American School of Medicine in Havana).
Since the beginning of Cuba’s medical cooperation in Haiti, through December of 2021, more than 6,000 Cuban health professionals had worked in that country, providing more than 36 million outpatient consultations, almost 9 million of them pediatric consultations; performing more than 721,000 surgeries and assisting more than 194,000 childbirths, thus helping to save more than 429,000 lives. More than 1,649,000 doses of different vaccines have been administered in several prevention campaigns. One thousand one hundred and twenty-nine Haitian health workers have been trained in Cuba.
In August, 2021, the 253 Cuban health professionals who were already working in the sister nation were joined by a medical brigade of the Henry Reeve International Contingent, including 11 cooperation workers, to support the provision of medical assistance in the areas hardest hit by the earthquake.
Cuba has also cooperated in other projects in the areas of education, sports, agriculture, fishing, construction, water resources and environmental protection.
More than 448,000 Haitians have learned how to read and write thanks to the Cuban literacy program “Yes, I Can” and another 1,595 Haitian students have graduated from Cuban universities.
We do not mention these data to boast about our cooperation. Nothing could be farther from the principles advocated by Marti and the ideas of Fidel regarding internationalism and solidarity. We would like to place on the record that we are very much aware of the serious problems affecting the sister nation of Haiti.
We have never shared what we have left over, but that which we have achieved and sustained with a great deal of sacrifice; because in the midst of extremely challenging times, characterized by a harsh battle against the pandemic and the tightened economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the government of the United States against our people, we have decided to maintain—and we have maintained—our irrevocable solidarity and humanist vocation.
And as evidence of that willingness, we reiterate here today our readiness to support the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Haiti by offering advisory help as well as our own vaccines. Last January 27, we informed the General Secretariat of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) of our commitment to donate 72,000 doses of the Cuban vaccines Abdala, Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus to immunize 24,000 persons in the Caribbean. We offered to send a similar donation to all member States of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
We call on all governments, international bodies and donors, with no exception, to mobilize the necessary financial resources; transfer technologies; make capacity-building mechanisms viable and meet all commitments to the Official Development Assistance for Haiti, all of which should be done with strict respect for Haiti’s sovereignty, people, government and institutions.
As was expressed in 1998 by the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, and I quote: “Haiti does not need troops. It does not need invasions with troops… Haiti needs invasions of medical doctors. Haiti also needs invasions of millions of dollars for its development,” end of quote.
Cuba does not have millions of dollars, but it does have medical doctors and trains medical doctors to heal or contribute to heal the Haitian people. Cuba is aware of and calls for international awareness on Haiti’s dramatic situation. The first truly independent and free nation in Our America—for it not only expelled the conquerors but also cast off the shackles of slavery—deserves the world’s utmost attention and most urgent support. Let us make their human rights possible.
Thank you, very much.
Featured image: Haitians protest along the streets against their country’s unstable economic, political and social situation in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, February 17, 2022. Photo: Reuters/Ralph Tedy Erol.