US-Cuba Labor Solidarity – Building Relations with Cuban Labor

Fact Sheet on US-Cuba Relations

A Resolution Calling Upon the United States Government to Normalize Diplomatic and Economic Relations with Cuba

Passing Resolutions in Labor Organizations

About Cuban Trade Unions

Cuba plans for May Day

Posted by on Apr 21, 2022 in Latest News | Comments Off on Cuba plans for May Day

Havana, Cuba — Three days of solidarity will mark May Day 2022 in Havana. In Cuba, for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellation in 2020 and 2021, the awesome May Day march will joyously take place Sunday, May 1. The march theme, Cuba Vive y Trabaja — Cuba Lives and Works —  expresses the firm and unconditional decision to continue consolidating “Our Economic-Social Socialist Development Model.” The events are dedicated to Cuba’s historical leader, Fidel Castro Ruz.

On the eve of May Day, April 30, the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba [Cuban Workers Central Union] is welcoming workers from around the world to learn from Cuban workers and their neighborhoods the pain caused to Cuban families by the unilateral U.S. economic, commercial, and financial blockade — essentially an illegal economic war. After meetings with the hotel and tourism union, delegations will visit communities under reconstruction and partake in the community soup called caldosa with Committees for Defense of the Revolution.

Hundreds — most under 30 years of age — are coming from the United States in various Brigades, delegations and just coming as individuals to demonstrate their solidarity with revolutionary Cuba — real aid to the Cuban people. Their experiences will inform their work when they return to the U.S., be it in work places, mutual-aid projects, communities fighting for affordable housing and against evictions, to abolish the police abuse and murders and to stop the climate catastrophe and looming nuclear war that threatens human existence as the fight to end the intensified U.S. blockade continues.

May Day — International Workers Day — began in the U.S. in Chicago in 1886 where workers fought for the 8 hour work day, but until 2005/2006 it was most celebrated outside the U.S. and especially in countries that have freed themselves from imperialist domination, like Cuba. This year, West Coast port workers in the International Longshore and Warehouse Union will close the ports for May Day.

For a former colonial nation developing under a suffocating blockade ruthlessly imposed by the most powerful military and economic giant only 90 miles to the north, the significance of the march is expressed in the words of a now-80-year-old participant in Cuba’s victory over the U.S. invasion at Playa Girón [aka Bay of Pigs] who said he was returning to the Plaza of the Revolution on May 1 “because this is now our Girón.”

“The squares are, now, another good setting to support the efforts of the government, the party, the CTC, all the institutions and the people in the desire to build the prosperous and sustainable socialist society to which we aspire,” Abel Vázquez Caballero told Trabajadores.cu.

The three day Solidarity gathering culminates on May 2, with a solidarity conference featuring CTC General Secretary Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento that will conclude with the approval of a Declaration of Solidarity with Cuba and the proposal to fight against imperialism and for the advancement of leftist organizations for a progressive change in the world.

On May 2, buses will depart from the Solidarity Conference headed to Guantanamo for the VII Seminar to Abolish Foreign Bases and NATO.

 

Breaking News: Deadlines extended

Posted by on Mar 25, 2022 in Latest News | Comments Off on Breaking News: Deadlines extended

Breaking News: Deadlines extended
Deadline extension
  • New application date is April 10
  • New full payment date is April 17
  • Scholarship applications April 10

International May Day Brigade! Apply now!

Posted by on Mar 22, 2022 in Latest News | Comments Off on International May Day Brigade! Apply now!

International May Day Brigade! Apply now!

First Brigade in since 2019 travels the entire island, from Havana to revolutionary cradle, Santiago. Even with the intensified blockade and US slander campaign, the theme for May Day 2022 is Cuba Vive y Trabaja – Cuba Lives and Works!
Three Solidarity Days April 30 learn from Cuban workers — May 1 the united people march resists the blockade — May 2 International Solidarity Conference.
Then Santa Clara and the Che Guevara Memorial, join revolutionary combatants at the Frank Pais II Eastern Front see the whole schedule here
Get your Brigade application and scholarship application

Let’s GO to Cuba!

Alicia Jrapko VIVE

Posted by on Feb 19, 2022 in Latest News | Comments Off on Alicia Jrapko VIVE

A Life of Struggle for a Just World
Register at: https://peoplesforum.org/alicia-vive

ANALYSIS: Offensive or “Counteroffensive” by the United States against Cuba?

Posted by on Feb 11, 2022 in Latest News | Comments Off on ANALYSIS: Offensive or “Counteroffensive” by the United States against Cuba?

By José Ramón Cabañas on February 8, 2022

José Ramón Cabañas with other officials from Cuba and the US at the opening of Cuban Embassy in Washington, July 20, 2015. photo: Bill Hackwell

In conversations with neighbors, experts, young people and following the thread of our national press, it is common to hear the assessment (true by the way) that there has been a brutal onslaught of the United States against Cuba in recent years. A number of arguments have been put forward that make this assertion undeniable, the evidence is everywhere.

However, it would be useful to dwell on a small question when assessing recent events: is it an offensive against our country, or a “counter-offensive”? And many readers will say, who cares, it does the same damage! That statement is also correct, but from a political point of view it would be useful to analyze which of the two concepts best characterizes what happened, because the answer may have future implications.

On other occasions it has already been said that the level of intensity of the confrontation against Cuba during the Trump years was not constant, registering its highest notes in the last twelve months. There are also coincidences that the amorphous group of officials and opportunists that surrounded the businessman-president did not elaborate a detailed political strategy against Cuba, but rather handed over the conception and conduction of the main actions to a reduced sect of politicians with a high Cuban-American component.

What was being done against Cuba, however, was a component that fit precisely into the overall purpose of erasing from the history books any significant legacy that might have been recorded by the administration of the first black president of the United States, Barack Obama. It was also related to the long-standing consensual state policy against the island. But there is evidence that the setbacks on the Cuban issue were not as marked between 2017 and 2018, as it turned out from the second half of 2019.

Although the presidential directive on Cuba signed by Trump in June 2017 was intended to leave without effect the similar document endorsed by Obama at the end of his term, it did not suddenly cut off a group of trends that had been occurring and did not even question the 22 memorandums of understanding, which had been signed during the process of bilateral negotiations.

One of the most significant data to endorse this theory is that, although the facilities for air and sea connections between the two countries had been created in preceding years, it was in 2017, 2018 and 2019 when the main volumes of travelers from the United States were recorded. The official figures were 1,001, 424; 1,105, 801 and 1,001 391, respectively. Although the totals are divided almost in half between U.S. and Cuban-American travelers from that market, in the first two years the majority by a slim margin belonged to the first group.

On the other hand, the largest number of trips by Cubans residing on the island to other countries (in general) also took place during the same period, with historical totals of 889,542; 1,111,374 and 1,307,523, respectively. In an environment of around 80% in each case, these were trips to the United States, of which more than 70% of the people stayed for periods of less than 24 months, that is, they did not emigrate.

What did these figures taken as a whole mean? Well, at least two things:

  1. Although the relative political change with respect to Cuba had taken place in previous years, the human movement as a result of it was occurring later, in spite of the negative information flow against the Island that was already beginning to take place and the staging of the “sonic attacks” novel. At least 90% of the Americans returning from Cuba expressed that there was a difference between the reality they had seen and what they had been taught in schools, or what they received from the virtual world of the press and social networks. Of that percentage, the majority also returned with a favorable view of the neighboring country, or that at least they had not found the “enemy” that sought to attack “American democracy” in hotels, private homes, the Havana seafront, or on the country’s roads.
  2. The number of Cuban-American travelers questioned to a certain extent the discourse of the Floridian counterrevolution in its natural emporium. And if we talk about the quality of the travelers, the spectrum of travelers reached even old “anti-Castro fighters” without terrorist links, who came to reconnect with their country of origin, with their people, who recognized or not, publicly or not, that they had been on the wrong side of history, but who somehow reconciled with themselves and felt much more at ease on a second and third trip. The totals of travelers from here to there, also convey a similar message: I am free to go there (USA) to enjoy whatever spiritual or material I like, but I return to where I belong, even though they say “this is complicated”, in reference to material limitations.

Other very important events that happened in those same years can be related, but these figures that have been mentioned in previous paragraphs and their social impact on both shores, shook for the first time the scaffolding of the “hate industry” and the whole framework of federal and private financing that has sustained it for more than 60 years. How to sell hate in a circumstance in which a genuine people-to-people contact was taking place at a level unthinkable in the past, How to sell the image of “lack of rights and freedoms” when American visitors were congratulating themselves that their children had a freedom at night that they did not enjoy in their places of residence in the North?

Although it has been mentioned in other texts, it is not idle to recall that what has been narrated so far took place in a historical scenography in which an unusual cultural exchange was taking place, in which several NGOs and private groups organized the most massive and extensive tours of Cuban artists and intellectuals throughout the U.S. geography. Not only in Miami, but also in the real circuits, ranging from New Orleans to Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Washington DC itself. Those were the years when more than 30 resolutions were passed by cities large and small asking for collaboration with Cuba, 11 of them in the area of health. In 2017 Chicago, Illinois, saw its efforts crowned when it finalized the first of these agreements with the presence of Cuban experts. The same year (under Trump) the first joint agreement between two institutions (Center for Molecular Immunology and Roswell Park Cancer Center) of the biopharmaceutical industry was signed and began to operate. Those were the years of intense academic and university exchange, where U.S. specialists came to be the majority of foreign representations in events and congresses held in Cuba, as happened even in the commemoration for the 500th anniversary (November, 2019) of Havana, when the U.S. group was the largest among the visitors. At that time, a cooperation agreement was signed between the city of New Orleans and the Cuban capital,

In mid-2019, something very close to the purest American political tradition happened, the voice of “we are under attack!” was heard in South Florida, to justify a radical reaction against the state of affairs. The proximity to the occurrence of new electoral elections in 2020 made the legislative tribe of Cuban-Americans assume that, in the absence of a “fundamental change in circumstances”, they would have to abandon the business that had opened so many doors in their lives and start working in a tangible way for the first time. Although after 2001 the Cuban-born counterrevolution in the United States had to abandon terrorism as a fundamental weapon in its “struggle”, by the end of the second decade of the 19th century they perceived that they were running out of instruments and foundations.

The rest of the story is well known: changes in the Office of the National Security Advisor, in the Office of the Director for Latin America of the same body and an agreement between a senator from Florida and an upstart president: “you completely hand over the Cuba policy to me and in exchange I will protect your back on the Intelligence Committee over which I preside”. That is more or less the genesis of the majority of the 243 measures against Cuba that were rushed through in a short period of time, without respecting the sacrosanct interagency consultations, without reviewing how much of what was being done was or was not detrimental to the “national interest” of the United States.

There were three absolute priorities: “cut travel, cut travel and, additionally, cut travel”, which happened “over night”, literally with passengers on board ships, or flying over the Island.

In addition, a lot of money was authorized, all the money possible, that which is declared in the federal budget and that which is in the secret chapters, to set up a machinery of disinformation about Cuba, to erase everything that happened, to change the content of each event, to replace the memories of travelers and hosts, of senders and receivers. A machinery that changed the bright sun for the storm and relative peace for the most unbridled rivalry.

The “counterattack” had to be massive enough to have the same effect as napalm on the skin of Vietnam, but this time on the conscience of ordinary people. And along with massive disinformation, more surgical and punctual measures: knocking on the doors of academics and journalists who gave positive opinions about Cuba; disapproval of credits to businessmen who had discovered an opportunity in the Caribbean Island and placing an ideological scanner in the Miami airport for every Cuban artist who arrived, with a big sign that said: “if you do not repeat my political creed, here you neither play, nor sing, nor get paid”.

These actions and others had for the first time a massive and reiterative dimension in the social networks with an impact that certainly sought to affect the Cuban public, but above all the millions of Americans who had already known Cuba first hand. A counterrevolution of stale racist and homophobic tradition began to try to move even in the spaces of Afro-descendants and LGTBQ communities and found some gullible people.

That’s where they were when that tiny actor that has made Humanity tremble appeared: SARS-CoV-2. By February or March 2020 there was confusion, but within a few days the thinking of what is considered the first economic world, but in reality is the third intellectual world, was enthroned. The conclusion was quickly reached that Cuba would not resist, that there would be massive deaths, that the medical system would collapse, which together with other hardships provoked from abroad, would finally lead to the longed-for “social explosion”.

That was the version delivered to Biden in 2021 by “deep state” analysts, who this time claimed to be closer to the truth than when Kennedy was convinced to sign the blockade proclamation in 1962 and Clinton to accept the philosophy of the Torricelli Act in 1992.

But it turns out that in 2022, and it seems to be 30 years in 30 years, Cuba has risen again from the last whiplash in an unexpected way: Producing five vaccines of its own against COVID-19, protecting almost the totality of its population, exporting its knowledge to those who want to share it, having one of the lowest rates of deaths per million inhabitants, being a pioneer in the immunization of minors, controlling to a good extent the risk of the opening of borders, showing an unusual success against what is called the “fourth wave”, with an adequate social order.

We know that the virtual reality counterattacks will continue, but the arguments used will also continue to blur, as happened in the recent past with the “sonic attacks”, “the troops in Venezuela”, the “generalized uprising” and these days with the “trials of minors”. Cuba and its people are well inserted in an international community from which part of the United States excludes itself. It is not the other way around.

José Ramón Cabañas was the first Ambassador of Cuba to the United States since the US severed ties with Cuba in 1961

Source: La Pupila Insomne, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English

NNOC Update: The solidarity travel scholarship is back + upcoming

Posted by on Feb 6, 2022 in Latest News | Comments Off on NNOC Update: The solidarity travel scholarship is back + upcoming

Let’s GO to Cuba! Regular travel is coming starting with May Day and the International May Day Work Brigade but plans are also underway for the upcoming year. Many NNOC member organizations are planning delegations OR are fundraising and outreaching to encourage and help new generations to see Cuba for themselves.

In this update:

Feb. 3 – Declaration by Revolutionary Government

Posted by on Feb 3, 2022 in Latest News | Comments Off on Feb. 3 – Declaration by Revolutionary Government

The revolutionary government condemns the continuance for over 60 years of the economic, commercial and financial sanctions formally imposed by the United States on 3rd February 1962.

60 years since the proclamation that formalized the criminal economic blockade by the United States against Cuba

Declaration by the revolutionary government

The revolutionary government of Cuba condemns the continuance for over 60 years of the economic, commercial and financial sanctions formally imposed by the United States on 3rd February 1962. On that date, the then president, John F. Kennedy, issued Proclamation 3447, “Embargo on All Trade with Cuba” under Section 620(a) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. He thereby conferred official status on the unilateral economic hostilities already in effect against Cuba since our country’s revolutionary victory.

Since that time, Washington’s policy of siege and economic suppression has become the core of a strategy designed to curtail the legitimate right of the Cuban people to defend their sovereignty and realize a program of development free of imperialist domination.

Washington’s main argument then, for the application of the measure, was Cuba’s relations with the socialist countries, which allegedly offended against “the principles of the inter-American system” and posed a threat to the security of America and the Western Hemisphere. The pretexts have varied with the passage of time, while the intentions have remained unchanged.

The clearest definition of the true aims of US policy towards Cuba had already emerged, in the form of an internal memorandum by Lester D. Mallory, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department, dated 6th April 1960: “provoking disappointment and discouragement through economic dissatisfaction and hardships … weaken the economic life … denying Cuba funds and supplies to reduce nominal and real salaries with the objective of provoking hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the government”.

The blockade has escalated to become the most complex, prolonged and inhuman act of economic warfare ever committed against any nation. Its effects have constrained the scope for economic growth, being designed to impede trading relations with third countries, cause maximum possible obstruction of banking and other financial operations, deter foreign investment and cut off all sources of revenue.

It is an essentially extraterritorial policy, in breach of international law, which uses pressure, blackmail and penalties in seeking to isolate Cuba and penalize those who establish any trading, commercial or financial links with the country. It is a practical expression in the 21st century of the Monroe Doctrine, which takes a proprietorial view of Latin America and the Caribbean as either America’s “back yard” or “front yard”.

The blockade has never had the least shred of legitimacy or moral justification.

It constitutes a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of the human rights of all Cubans. It amounts to an act of genocide within the meaning of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

In seeking to justify the policy, Washington resorts to lies, while attempting to obscure its criminal nature by financing campaigns to spread the notion that the blockade does no real harm to the Cuban economy, that its effects are not a significant obstacle to our development and economic stability. This falsehood is disseminated through the powerful mass media subservient to imperialism and through the digital networks designed to influence public opinion, including that of certain compatriots.

The losses accumulated during these six decades amount to over US $144,413,400,000 at current prices.

Since 2019, the coercive economic measures have reached unprecedented degrees of severity. Measures of non-conventional warfare, inapplicable in peacetime, are being enforced, in the attempts to block fuel supplies to Cuba.

In the context of the efforts addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, the intensification of the blockade assumes an unheard-of level of cruelty, impeding donations in a spirit of solidarity, attempting to hinder the development of Cuba’s vaccines and to disrupt access to basic medicines and supplies. During the pandemic, and throughout the last 60 years, the blockade has had an incalculable human cost, suffered directly by several generations.

Despite the blockade, the strengths of the Cuban socialist system and the unity of the Cuban people have enabled the country to avoid the economic collapse it envisions and to reach an outstanding level of human development (according to the UN-recognized Human Development Indexes), while making unquestionable gains in terms of social justice and bringing about a gradual transformation in economic and production structure aimed at sustainable growth. One wonders how many small, underdeveloped economies could have survived an onslaught on such a scale.

This policy of economic siege is met with practically unanimous and universal rejection. In addition to the overwhelming support accorded to the resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly every year, there are constant calls and denunciations by individuals, organizations and institutions worldwide, including within the United States.

Since 1959, there have 13 occupants of the White House. With certain variations, in every case there has been a constant intention to cause the economic collapse and unsustainability of Cuba’s revolutionary plan, through strict application of the blockade. It seems that 60 years has not been enough time to realize that it has not achieved, and will never achieve, the aims of its promoters.

The revolutionary government calls once again, strenuously and emphatically, for an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States. Our condemnation will remain firm and invariable until the complete cessation of this inhuman and illegal policy.

Havana, 3rd February 2022

(Cubaminrex)

Feb. 16 – Venceremos Brigade National Open House

Posted by on Jan 30, 2022 in Latest News | Comments Off on Feb. 16 – Venceremos Brigade National Open House

❤️❤️ we are going to host a national open house on February 16th!!! ❤️❤️ please pick up the phone and invite your people! please pass this flier on! & if you’d like to help host the open house, please reach out to me (Sulan) and @Nova Lucero (she/lucero)!!

Johanna Tablada speaks with Rania Khalek on the Blockade & Cuba’s Anti-Imperialism

Posted by on Jan 29, 2022 in Latest News | Comments Off on Johanna Tablada speaks with Rania Khalek on the Blockade & Cuba’s Anti-Imperialism

Johanna Tablada speaks with Rania Khalek on the Blockade & Cuba’s Anti-Imperialism

Breakthrough News was on the ground in Havana, Cuba where Rania Khalek spoke with Johana Tablada, General Deputy Director of US affairs at the Cuban Foreign Ministry.

Democracy Now: Despite U.S. Embargo, Cuba Aims to Share Homegrown Vaccine with Global South

Posted by on Jan 29, 2022 in Latest News | Comments Off on Democracy Now: Despite U.S. Embargo, Cuba Aims to Share Homegrown Vaccine with Global South

Democracy Now: Despite U.S. Embargo, Cuba Aims to Share Homegrown Vaccine with Global South

(thank you to NNOC member organization Friends of Latin America for sending this to post)

Despite U.S. Embargo, Cuba Aims to Share Homegrown Vaccine with Global South

https://www.democracynow.org/2022/1/27/cuba_beat_covid_despite_us_embargo 

January 27, 2022

A 60-year U.S. embargo that prevents U.S.-made products from being exported to Cuba has forced the small island nation to develop its own COVID-19 vaccines and rely on open source designs for life-saving medical equipment such as ventilators. We speak to leading Cuban scientist Dr. Mitchell Valdés-Sosa about how massive mobilization helped produce three original vaccines that have proven highly effective against the coronavirus. “In a moment that the whole world was mobilizing to face this tremendous menace that was killing people around the world, the U.S. administration did not lift any of the 400 sanctions that were slapped on Cuba during the Trump administration plus this decades-long embargo,” says Valdés-Sosa, director of the Cuban Center for Neuroscience. “Medicines and vaccines are not a commodity. It’s not something to get rich with. It’s something to save people’s lives.”

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

Cuba has announced plans to deliver as many as 200 million doses of its homegrown COVID vaccines to nations in the Global South. Despite the U.S. embargo, Cuba now has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. Cuba has also announced it will soon apply for approval by the World Health Organization for one of its vaccines, Abdala, which has been shown to be highly effective.

This all comes as Cuba prepares to mark the 60th anniversary of the U.S. embargo, which has severely curtailed Cuba’s response to the pandemic, making it harder to import critical medical equipment and supplies. The embargo began on February 7, 1962, by President John F. Kennedy. It’s continued under 11 U.S. presidents since then.

We’re joined now by Dr. Mitchell Valdés-Sosa, the director of the Cuban Center for Neuroscience. He has played a key role in Cuba’s response to the pandemic.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Doctor. It’s great to have you with us. Can you talk about how Cuba has dealt with the pandemic, its plans to give out hundreds of millions of vaccines? And what? You’re reporting Cuba, this month, between seven-day averages of one to four deaths, daily averages?

  1. MITCHELL VALDÉS-SOSA:OK. Well, first, thanks for having me on the program. I enjoy your show very much. I watch it frequently in Cuba. So thanks for this invitation.

I think Cuba really faced the menace of the pandemic with trepidation. We were really worried, because we saw news around the world of people dying, intensive care units being overloaded, and new variants continuously being — coming — appearing and sweeping around the world.

I think the key to the Cuban response is the close coordination and collaboration of all the actors, everyone involved. So, one thing that happened is that all the research centers mobilized and started redirecting their work. And, for example, in the case of my center, which is a center for research on neuroscience — we study developmental disorders, Alzheimer’s disease — we decided to set that aside for a moment and start collaborating in preparing for the response of the pandemic.

And one of the things that happened is that several centers got together, and we started producing ventilators, because there was a shortage of ventilators. One of the effects of the embargo — or the blockade, as we call it in Cuba — that the U.S. has imposed on us for so long, it was difficult to get ventilators from the U.S., and even spare parts for ventilators that had been bought before the pandemic, some of them from Europe. But what’s happening is that if a company supplies something to Cuba, and then it’s bought off by a U.S. company, then they can’t sell us the spare parts. And this is a tremendously difficult situation in many areas of medical attention.

And here is something which is interesting because it shows the two sides of the relationships between the U.S. and Cuba. One of the ventilators we started manufacturing is an open source design, which was put on the internet by MIT. And this is, I think, very generous. This happened all over the world. People started sharing solutions for the pandemic. I think the pandemic really brought out generosity in people, solidarity. And that’s, I think, a very interesting aspect. And we took the design from MIT, adapted it to Cuban conditions, and we started building the ventilators. This is the good side of the coin. But on the other side, we couldn’t buy any of the parts in the U.S. And we had to change some of the — part of the design, and we had to go to sources far away, and sometimes at much higher prices. And this is incredible that in a moment that the whole world was mobilizing to face this tremendous menace that was killing people around the world, the U.S. administration did not lift any of the more than 400 sanctions that were slapped on Cuba during the Trump administration, plus this decades-long embargo. It didn’t budge an inch.

So, all that Cuba did — and I think we were very successful. If you look at the rates of death in — people that died in Cuba, of people that were infected at different moments, Cuba has been very successful compared with every country in this continent. And I think we achieved this because there was a massive response of all the population supporting all the measures that the public health system started orienting, and every resource in the country was mobilized.

To finish the story about our ventilators, we managed to manufacture 250 ventilators, that were delivered to hospitals all over Cuba. And immediately after this, we started working on a second ventilator. I mean, the second design was also open source, from the UCO in the U.K. They were very helpful, managed to collaborate. Cubans there, that live in the U.K., they did crowdfunding. They got the funds. They bought the parts, the components, sent it to Cuba. We got help from the European Union, from the World Health Organization, and we managed to start manufacturing another 250 ventilators. And this was something that was done with collaboration from many research centers, people working very hard, working nights, working weekends. And I think we managed to help the health system manage this very difficult situation, which became much tougher after the new variants came up, first Delta and then Omicron.

But I think that the really interesting aspect of this work is how Cuba, in less than a year, managed to develop three vaccines. And there, the embargo is really crippling, because you need, to manufacture vaccines, production facilities. You need different fermenters, if you’re going to make it through genetic engineering. You need chemicals. You need all kinds of supplies. And it was very trying to get this, because the impact of the embargo is not only that we cannot buy in the U.S. There are two additional add-on effects which make things difficult. One is that European or Japanese suppliers get scared off. We have negotiated. We’ve tried to buy materials from people in Europe, and they say, “Well, we could sell, but we would get into trouble with the U.S. We have big contracts in the U.S.” So, that’s one of the additional knock-on effects of the U.S. embargo. The second is that even though we sell products, Cuban products, abroad — and that’s what the Cuban pharmaceutical and biotechnological industry does: It sells products abroad. But to buy raw materials to be able to manufacture the subsidized and very low-cost medicines and products that are sold to the Cuban population — and when we try to bring the funds to Cuba, we try to use them, then all the bank operations are hampered by U.S. regulations. So, the embargo has a very strong effect, a very noxious effect, on the development of anything. But despite this, in one year, Cuba managed to develop its three vaccines, and now there’s a fourth vaccine on the way.

The interesting thing is that the rollout of the vaccines was very, very effective and very easy. I’d say the Cuban population, the Cuban people, have great trust in their health system. They don’t see it as something that’s separate from them. They collaborate with it. It’s not a money-making machine. Public health in Cuba is free for everyone. We have family doctors in every neighborhood. People trust their doctors. So, we’re very puzzled when we see the news abroad that there are people that distrust the vaccines, that there are people that don’t want to get vaccinated. In Cuba, there’s no vaccine mandate, but people just line up and are really anxious and enthusiastic to get vaccines. And we have over 80% of all the population with the full vaccination program. Everybody’s been vaccinated. And now we’re rolling out a booster, an additional booster vaccine. Over 50% of the population has received the booster. At our center, in addition to redirecting our work to manufacture ventilators, we also set up a vaccination center. We gave over 6,000 shots. The doctors and nurses that work at our center volunteered, and they were working very hard. And just people would call and come with enthusiasm.

And I think the important thing is that there’s been years of working up trust in science. People feel that the future of the country is really connected to science. And they see the scientists that developed the vaccines as heroes. Even some of the most popular songwriters and musicians have written songs about the vaccines and about the doctors. And I think this is part of a really consistent message of all society. When you see on Cuban TV anyone talking — it could be the president, it could be a minister, it could be a teacher, a sportsman — everybody is masked up. This has been a consistent message to all the population. And every day the Ministry of Public Health, on television, reports how many cases there are, if there’s any deaths. And this problem of keeping the public informed and of being straight, talking straight to them and really giving them information, has been very useful. And I think we’ve been successful in controlling this pandemic, although it’s been incredibly difficult, and we’ve had to manage and invent many, many ways to work around all the negative effects of the embargo.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Doctor, despite the effectiveness of the vaccines that Cuba has developed, they have not yet received approval from the World Health Organization. Could you explain why you think that is and what steps Cuba is taking to ensure that that approval comes? Because Cuba has also made commitments to donate vaccines or to give vaccines to low-income countries, and WHO approval is important for that.

  1. MITCHELL VALDÉS-SOSA:Yeah, WHO approval is very important, and Cuba is in conversations with the WHO to obtain this approval. But it’s not, let’s say, a barrier, because the regulatory body of every country has the right to decide which vaccines it uses. So, the equivalent of the FDA in different parts of the world are examining the Cuban vaccines, and, for example, in Vietnam and Venezuela and recently in Mexico, they have approved using the Cuban vaccines.

Cuba is working with the World Health Organization, and it’s finishing a new production plant in Mariel, the latest technology. And the idea is transferring production of vaccines to this new facility, so it will have all the possibilities of receiving an inspection by the World Health Organization and being finally approved. But this does not impede, it’s not an absolute barrier, because other countries can use their regulatory bodies, and they’re doing so. And so countries are now receiving Cuban vaccines. We think at the beginning of this year we will have this approval and that this process will be finished.

This new production facility, it’s called Mariel-CIGB. It was just finished. And it’s really top-notch. It has the most advanced technologies for production of biotech products. And we’re sure it will come out very successful in the inspections that are needed for approval by the World Health Organization. But that does not limit the possibility of helping other countries. And that’s going on now at this moment.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Dr. Valdés-Sosa, we only have a minute, but could you explain what plans Cuba has for technology transfer to allow other countries to manufacture Cuban vaccines?

  1. MITCHELL VALDÉS-SOSA:OK. This is already going on. Cuba has now reached an agreement with the Pasteur Institute in Iran, and they are now producing the Cuban Soberana vaccine. And Cuba is negotiating with other countries and is open to share its technology so it can be used worldwide.

One of the concerns we had when the epidemic began is that we knew that there would be a shortage of vaccines to reach everyone. And it’s absolutely clear, if we don’t vaccinate the whole world population, there’s going to be the risk — and it’s almost certain — that new variants will rise, and some will be able to circumvent and to get around the defenses that previous vaccines have achieved. So, Cuba is very open to this. We are part of the Global South. And we understand that medicines and vaccines are not a commodity. It’s not something to get rich with. It’s something to save people’s lives. And we’re really in favor of sharing technology and of working with people around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mitchell Valdés-Sosa, we want to thank you for been with us, director of the Cuban Center for Neuroscience.