Medical internationalism

 

This weekend, news of the approximately 65 Cuban doctors, nurses and technicians that arrived in Milan to aid the Italian health system’s struggle against the coronavirus was accompanied by photographs (here a sample from the Reuters website) of a group of the medics about to depart for Europe. They are posing in the shot, grouped around a photo-portrait of Fidel Castro some holding (almost) caressing it between them. They are honouring the máximo líder’s legacy and waving tiny Cuban and Italian paper flags – gesturing a brand of friendship among nations long since believed part of the long gone era of Cold War internationalism. But Cuba’s “medical internationalism” (John M. Kirk/H. Michael Erisman) has continued from the 1959 revolution to the present day. Prior to sending medical personnel to Italy, over the past few weeks, Cuba has dispatched doctors and nurses to Venezuela, Nicaragua, Suriname, Jamaica, and Grenada to give aid in the midst of the current crisis.

The number of Cuban medical personnel is estimated to count over 38,000 in over 60 countries, with more then 20 per cent of Cuba’s doctors working overseas. As Gail Harley writes in 2017, “Cuba (population 11.4 million) has more medical personnel working abroad than the World Health Organization and the G7 countries combined. In addition, Cuba has the largest medical school in the world – the Latin America School of Medicine (ELAM) founded in 1999 – which has over 8,000 students enrolled, the vast majority from developing nations. The school also operates positive discrimination towards families with limited means and towards disadvantaged communities such as the black and indigenous communities of Central and South America.”

In Guinea-Bissau, 1974 (photo: Roel Coutinho)

The images of the Cuban coronavirus crisis delegations extend the iconography of Cuban doctors engaged in aiding anticolonial struggles around the world in the 1960s and 1970s. Castro’s militant internationalism has since been updated to considerable effect. With China and Russia (and Germany and others), joining the medical aid campaign for Italy, the pandemic becomes the stage for a revival of a long forgotten, albeit desperately needed internationalism. TH

 

Cuban doctor in the Cabinda Hospital, Angola (photo: Ricardo López)

 

March 23rd, 2020, 02 / Rosa Mercedes
Interface

Short notice: Jean-Luc Godard, live interview with Lionel Baier (écal/HEAD, Geneva) via Instagram, April 7, 2020, 2.30 pm! Now also available here.

April 7th, 2020, Tom

Brought to our attention by Derek Gregory via his resourceful Geographical Imaginations blog: an open call for contributions to the “Corona Notebooks” of Warscapes, a recommended independent online magazine “that provides a lens into current conflicts across the world.” Warscapes is looking for short, 2-3 minute videos “of yourself thinking about this pandemic, maybe accessing a previous memory, maybe reporting on an injustice, maybe narrating a sweet fragment from your daily life, maybe recounting a second chance that this pandemic gave you, maybe telling us about a loved one you reconnected with, maybe you’ve seen a movie or read a book that was powerful, maybe telling us about having the illness. The tone, the tale, the genre and the language is yours to choose. There is an overwhelming amount of news and information but we will together weave an emotionally vibrant and artistic tapestry.”

April 3rd, 2020, Tom

Almost too good to be true in these times of pandemically enforced streaming: Means TV claims to be “the world’s first worker-owned, post-capitalist streaming service,” “entirely funded by people like you.” It has “a library of films, documentaries, and shows with new programming added all the time,” as well “live weekly shows covering news, the working class, gaming and sports. All available to subscribers for $10/month across desktop, mobile and smart TV devices like Roku, Fire and Apple TV. No advertisements or product placements. No corporate backers or VC cash ever.” See also the respective article at Hyperallergic.

April 1st, 2020, Tom
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