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Medical professional and human rights advocate Aleida Guevara, daughter of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara, on Wednesday said that the “criminal” blockade imposed by the U.S on Cuba has led to the island country developing alternatives in healthcare.

Interacting with students of the Asian College of Journalism, she said that Cuba had developed five vaccines for Covid-19. It was working on vaccines for pulmonary, prostate and breast cancers and also therapeutic medicines for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Apart from developing such medicines, she said that the country was also trying to find alternatives in homoeopathy, acupuncture and traditional Indian medicine.

She said that “blockade” was the right word to refer to the U.S.-imposed sanctions, which have been in effect for more than six decades, as the word “embargo” did not fully capture its effect. She said that the U.S. did not want Cuba to do business with any country.

Highlighting that the supply of food and medicines were the most affected due to the blockade, Guevara said that it was often the case that eight out of ten new drugs launched had a U.S. patent and hence could not be accessed by Cubans.

If a Cuban child needed a life-saving drug from the U.S., the country has to find five intermediaries to route the medicine through without the the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation catching a whiff of it, as any company selling medicines to Cuba can face severe sanctions. With each intermediary adding a cost, the medicine’s price would be exorbitant by the time it reached Cuba, she said.

Highlighting the robustness of Cuba’s healthcare, she said that the free and universal system prioritised preventive care. The healthcare system started at the level of family doctors — who, accompanied by nurses, social workers and psychologists, regularly interacted with the local population — and went up to the level of municipal, provincial, and national institutes, as well as advanced investigation centres.

‘Hypocritical U.S. role in Ukraine’
On the Russia-Ukraine war, Guevara said that there could be no justification for war as the ones who lost the most were the common people. Criticising the role of the U.S. in the war, she said that the country, which went “hysterical” and brought humanity to the verge of a world war because the USSR sent defence rockets to Cuba (during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis), was now supplying arms to Ukraine. She said that Cuba shared a friendship with both the Ukrainian people and Russia, and wanted to help the people of both countries.

On Che Guevara becoming a “brand” often used for selling merchandise, she said, “The capitalist system will even sell its mother if it can”. However, she added that the image of her father and the values he stood for could not be erased.

Strongly affirming solidarity with Cuba, The Hindu Publishing Group Director N. Ram said that the unprecedented blockade the country faced from the U.S. was an act of terrorism, but was not often recognised as such. When Cuba faced a crisis after the breakup of the Soviet Union, he said that the Cuban solidarity movement in India, of which he was a part, managed to send 10,000 tonnes of wheat to the country. He recalled how Fidel Castro, on receiving it, termed it 10,000 tonnes of solidarity.

Sashi Kumar, chairman, Asian College of Journalism, said that the Cuban health system has become a byword for excellence and highlighted how Cuban doctors have served many other countries in need as well. He said that it was important to observe how the western media underreported Cuba’s achievements, adding that there was no other country which was browbeaten so consistently and unjustly by the U.S. as Cuba and yet the country continued to keep the core values of revolution alive. The Hindu

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