CASTRIES – The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) says it has taken note of the moves by United States legislators to classify as “human trafficking” the Cuban humanitarian project assisting countries to cope with the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) that has so far killed 467 000 people and infected nearly nine million others worldwide.
In a statement, the nine-member sub-regional grouping said that it “notes with deep concern and repudiates the recent bill introduced by Republican Senator Rick Scott which classifies Cuba’s humanitarian assistance as “human trafficking” and seeks to extend punitive measures against countries accepting this medical assistance.
The OECS Authority greatly values the work of the Henry Reeve Medical Brigades and has reiterated its desire to work with all friendly Governments that offer tangible support in the face of the grave existential threat posed to lives and livelihoods in the small island states of the Caribbean.”
The OECS said that it wanted to express “its deep appreciation” to Cuba for the medical support provided to six member OECS countries to assist with efforts to combat the spread of the virus in the OECS and wider Caribbean region.
The OECS countries that have benefitted from the Cuban project are Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Kitts-Nevis.
The OECS said that the provision of specialised health care through the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigades has not only augmented the scarce medical resources of OECS member states, but has provided assurance to the general populations of the region’s capacity to fight and manage COVID-19.
It said 473 Cuban medical personnel are also working alongside their Caribbean counterparts in Barbados and Jamaica to assist in managing the spread of COVID-19.
“Cuba’s support to the health sector in the Caribbean has a long and exemplary history that has benefitted numerous Caribbean citizens. One noted invaluable assistance to the region is “Operation Milagro” – a programme which provides free eye medical treatment to OECS nationals requiring interventions to prevent blindness or to restore vision.
“These conditions include cataract, diabetic retinopathy and other reversible types of visual impairment. The OECS acknowledges with gratitude the extensive global contributions of Cuba, particularly in the fields of health and disaster management, this in spite of its material limitations and the economic hardships resulting from US imposed sanctions,” the OECS added.
Scott, along with Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz introduced the Cut Profits to the Cuban Regime Act to the US Senate on June 17, which will list those nations with Cuban medical brigades in the State Departments’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, unless they comply with imposed regulations to do so.
Scott said that Cuba “now uses the coronavirus pandemic to make a profit at the expense of these doctors” and considered that “any country that requests medical assistance from Cuba is supporting human trafficking”. (CMC)