Cuba, ALBA take lead on Ebola

HAVANA, CUBA -  OCTOBER 20:  Cuban President Raul Castro (2nd L) talks with Nicolas Maduro (R), President of Venezuela during the inauguration of an extraordinary summit of the ALBA (The Bolivarian Alliance for the People of our America) dedicated to the control and prevention of Ebola in the region October 20, 2014.  in Havana, Cuba. Cuba has sent already 165 medical professionals to west Africa and Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban revolution has announced that the country will send almost 300 in total,  a fact that was even commended by John Kerry, Secretary of State.  (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo Photo/Getty Images)

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Cuba is offering to throw the entire weight of its international medical mission at stopping the spread of Ebola and avoiding— in the words of Raul Castro— “a humanitarian crisis of unpredictable consequences.”

Speaking at a summit of left-leaning leaders belonging to the Venezuelan-propped ALBA bloc of Latin American and Caribbean nations, Castro said his government is willing to instruct all 23,158 Cuban doctors deployed around the hemisphere to do “everything in their power” to prevent the spread of the disease and train other medics in detection and response methods.

“I am convinced that if this threat is not stopped in West Africa…this could become one of the most serious pandemics in the history of mankind,” the younger Castro brother said at Monday’s emergency summit in Havana.

Castro, whose government already deployed a medical brigade to deal with the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, said his government will be dispatching two more medical missions to Liberia and Guinea tomorrow. As part of its international solidarity effort, Cuba currently has more than 4,000 health workers in 32 African nations, according to Castro.

“African blood runs through our veins in ‘Our Americas,’” the Cuban leader said. “Africa and Cuba are united by intimate bonds.”

Castro’s announcement, made alongside his political allies from Nicaragua and Venezuela, came as part of a broader ALBA initiative to take a hemispheric lead in safeguarding Latin America and the Caribbean against the spread of Ebola.

Blasting the international community’s response to Ebola as “insufficient,” the countries of ALBA are calling on the world to “act with urgency” and to “avoid any type of politicization” in its response to the public health emergency.

The nine member nations of ALBA signed a 23-point declaration pledging a series of efforts aimed at responding to the outbreak in West Africa and preventing it from ravaging the most vulnerable countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, “especially Haiti.” The plan is being bankrolled by $5 million from Venezuela, and doctors from Cuba and—eventually—Nicaragua.

“Raúl responded immediately to our request [for help] by sending four Cuban specialists who are training Nicaraguan specialists,” Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said. “In the next 15 days, they will be training 120 Nicaraguan specialists, who will then train even more doctors.”

Ortega, despite Castro’s call to not politicize the global response to Ebola, took a swing at  developed countries for “spending millions on war, and forming alliances for war,” but dragging their feet on a united response to Ebola.

“Where are they?” Ortega demanded. “It’s true that they speak out against Ebola, but we don’t see a decision to create a great World Alliance against Ebola in which the developed countries are participating and putting down the money that they spend on war toward the benefit of people’s health.”