U.S. activists deliver $60,000 in medical aid to Cuban children with cancer

by Amanda Yee
reprinted from Liberation News
May 29, 2024

Last week, U.S.-based activists with the Hatuey Project, in partnership with IFCO/Pastors for Peace, delivered desperately needed cancer medications, medical supplies and medical equipment to two children’s hospitals in Cuba, defying the U.S. blockade. Their first delivery was brought to the Juan Manuel Marquez Pediatric Hospital in Havana on May 21. The next day, the 20-person delegation traveled to the province of Santa Clara to bring more life-saving medications and supplies to the Jose Luis Miranda Pediatric Hospital. Both hospitals treat children with leukemia and other types of cancers.

In total, the two medical deliveries were worth around $60,000, and the process of obtaining all the drugs and supplies took nearly a year, according to Hatuey Project director and coordinator Gloria La Riva.

Previous Hatuey delegations have traveled to Cuba and brought pre-natal vitamins and medications to maternity homes, as well as 40,000 pounds of construction material in 2022 after Hurricane Ian devastated Pinar del Rio province a few months prior.

“We are here to show the Cuban people that they are not alone,” stated La Riva at a May 20 press conference at the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples in Havana. “We are much stronger united, and united we will defeat the blockade. We cannot let Cuba down — we will always be on their side.”

The blockade as economic warfare

Despite providing free, high quality healthcare to its people, Cuba’s access to such life-saving medications is severely restricted due to the decades-long economic blockade that the United States has imposed on the island. The blockade not only inhibits the medicine itself from reaching Cuba, but also the raw materials and the science and technology for Cuba to produce these medicines themselves.

Trump’s re-designation of Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 2021 further exacerbates the medical supply shortage, creating additional roadblocks for humanitarian organizations to do work in the country. Most financial institutions, fearful of accusations of supporting terrorism and being hit with hefty fees, have frozen funds or otherwise refused to process Cuban payments and now require additional licenses from these humanitarian organizations.

The genocidal blockade on Cuba has been in place since 1960, and it is an act of economic warfare. Its purpose is to starve and strangle the population, in hopes the Cuban people will direct their frustrations against the Communist Party and overthrow the socialist government.

The U.S. government has stated this tactic of regime change explicitly: In an April 1960 State Department memorandum, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Lester D. Mallory admitted that the majority of the Cuban people supported Fidel Castro, that there was “no effective political opposition” — and as such, “the only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship.” The answer then, according to the memorandum, was to “[make] the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.” Such has been this policy for over 60 years.

Every year since 1992, the United Nations General Assembly votes on the necessity of ending the U.S. blockade. And every year, the UNGA votes overwhelmingly in favor of its condemnation, with only the United States and Israel opposing the non-binding resolution.

Solidarity has no borders

The conditions arising from the blockade are currently worse than ever. Not only is Cuba facing extreme shortages in medicine but also food, flour and fuel. Electrical blackouts are becoming more and more frequent.

Under these severe circumstances, doctors and Cuban officials welcomed the delegation and medical deliveries.

“I think we are going through one of the most difficult times in the National Health System,” lamented Dr. Aldo Grandal of the Cuban Ministry of Public Health at the press conference. “We are extremely grateful for what [members of the Hatuey Project] have made possible.”

“The Cuban state really puts considerable resources into Cuban medicine … that, today, are quite difficult for us to acquire abroad due to the blockade,” Grandal continued. “If we could trade with the United States, these resources would cost us much less.”

The Hatuey delegation demonstrated that Cuba is not alone, and that international solidarity can traverse even criminal U.S. blockades.

As a doctor at Juan Manuel Marquez Pediatric Hospital said when receiving the medical delivery, “With this donation, you were able to demonstrate that there is no border that cannot be crossed when you have good intentions.”

Author Amanda Yee asks you to continue to donate to support this vital project: