By COHA Editorial Team
From Washington DC
On Tuesday July 20, 2021 representatives of Global Health Partners held a press conference and presented a certificate to the Cuban Embassy in Washington DC symbolizing a donation of six million syringes to Cuba for their COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Thousands of Americans have shown their concern for the wellbeing of the Cuban people by donating over $500,000 to send those six million syringes to the island. The first shipment of two million syringes left the United States and arrived at the Cuban port of Mariel on Saturday, July 17.
The purchase and shipment was organized by Global Health Partners, a humanitarian organization that has been sending medicines and medical supplies to Cuba for 27 years. Among the groups that raised funds are the Saving Lives Campaign (a coalition of dozens of organizations opposed to the embargo), CODEPINK, The People’s Forum, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and two Cuban American groups—the No Embargo Cuba Movement and Puentes de Amor.
“We are delighted that so many Cuban Americans donated to this campaign,” said Carlos Lazo of Puentes de Amor. “They understand how important it is to show love for the Cuban people in their time of need.”
“While the pandemic has left people around the world crying out for cooperation and solidarity, the Biden Administration has responded to the hardships in Cuba by doubling down on Trump’s crippling sanctions,” said CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin, author of several books on Cuba. “But we are proud that, unlike our government, the American people have responded with generosity and compassion by donating funds to buy millions of syringes.”
At the press conference, the donor groups announced that they will begin to raise funds for medicines and medical supplies, including antibiotics, analgesics, contraceptives, vitamins and medicines for people with hypertension, cancer and diabetes.
Support in front of the Cuban Embassy in DC
The campaign was joined by demonstrators expressing solidarity with the Cuban people, opposing Washington’s latest threats of intervention under the pretext of “humanitarian concerns” and denouncing the 60 year embargo against the island nation.
COHA urges the Biden Administration to heed the call of the large majority of nations in the world and the Cuban people themselves, not the hardliners in Miami, to end the embargo against Cuba and reset its policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean based on respect for the sovereign equality of nations.
Its own COVID-19 vaccine
Thanks to the island’s well-established biomedical industry, Cuba has developed its own COVID-19 vaccine and has already administered over 8 million doses. But due to the U.S. blockade of Cuba and the economic impact of COVID-19, including the shutdown of the island’s billion-dollar tourist industry, the Cuban government has been unable to purchase the 30 million syringes it needs to vaccinate its people. Global Health Partners put out an urgent call for funds and groups all over the country responded.
Raising the funds turned out to be the easy part; buying and shipping the syringes became a nightmare. Technically, medical supplies are exempt from U.S. sanctions, but Global Health Partners still had to obtain a licence from the U.S. Commerce Department, which was a long and cumbersome process. Adding to the difficulties, the global demand for syringes outstrips supply, so major manufacturers didn’t want to be bothered navigating the banking and licensing issues related to Cuba sales. Global Health Partners spent months trying to find companies willing to sell to Cuba and a shipping company willing to deliver the syringes.
Now that the first shipment has left U.S. shores, Bob Schwartz, Executive Director of Global Health Partners, is elated. “When we first started this campaign in May, we had a goal of raising $100,000 to send about 2 million syringes to Cuba. But the response to our call has been enthusiastic and overwhelming,” he said. “We’ve already raised more than $500,000 to purchase 6 million syringes, which is a great way to support Cuba’s very ambitious campaign to vaccinate the entire population before the end of the year. We thank the dozens of organizations and thousands of generous donors who helped save Cuban lives and show friendship with our island neighbors.”
[Main photo: Rodney González, Chargé d’affaires at the Cuban Embassy, welcomed the donation of six million syringes]