CUBA’S ‘WHITE COAT ARMY’ DURING PANDEMIC BATTERS TRUMP POLICY
Nearly 40 countries across five continents have received Cuban medics during the pandemic, as the island nation - home to just over 11 million inhabitants - has once more punched far above its weight in medical diplomacy, Sarah Marsh and John Zodzi reported for Reuters early on September 15, 2020.
Since its 1959 leftist revolution, Cuba has dispatched its “army of white coats” to disaster sites and disease outbreaks around the world in the name of solidarity. In the last decade, they have fought cholera in Haiti and Ebola in West Africa.
Not that its brigades are purely altruistic. Cuba has exported doctors on more routine missions in exchange for cash or goods in recent decades, making them its top source of hard currency. While some countries have received the medics for free during the pandemic, others are paying: a slight boon to Cuba’s economy struggling with the coronavirus-induced collapse in tourism. Yet even wealthy, western nations like Andorra and Italy have welcomed Cuban medics to help fight the pandemic, as have countries that are not politically aligned with Cuba, such as Peru.
The success of the medics has been a setback for the administration of US President Donald Trump, which launched an unprecedented campaign against Cuba’s medical missions in recent years, citing what it calls their exploitative labor conditions. Havana dismisses the US attacks as ideologically-driven. Cuba experts say while some of the US criticism was legitimate, it ultimately aimed to strangle the island’s economy to foment change and woo anti-Castro voters in the swing state of Florida ahead of November’s U.S. presidential election.
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