Behind Bars

The Haiti Response: Guns or Doctors?

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

As Haitians engage in their latest war for survival, it is instructive to see how certain neighboring nations responded to this crisis, for a nation’s response unveils its motive, its fears and its hopes.

The U.S., Haiti’s wealthiest northern neighbor, a country which has had an outsized history of political, military and economic intervention, rushed in armed troops, like the 82nd Airborne—young men with weapons and war training—to a land facing a natural disaster from an earthquake.

Cuba, although its next largest neighbor, is a country of modest means with a GDP closer to African states than European ones. It sent 500 doctors, equipped with medical supplies who helped to mobilize nearly 400 Haitian doctors,—all graduates of Cuba’s Latin American Medical School. The Haitians, like students from all over the world, trained for free in this Cuban medical school and now had the opportunity and chance to help their people.

Fidel Castro, a fervent writer since leaving office, wrote within days of the January 12 earthquake:

“Hour after hour, day and night, the Cuban Health professionals have worked non stop in the few facilities that were able to stand, in tents and out in the parks and open air spaces, since the population fears new aftershocks.1 Cuban doctors worked to find and help their Haitian colleagues who lived in earthquake ravaged neighborhoods.”

And the former Cuban Head of State turned to Haitian history:

“Haiti is a net product of the colonial, capitalist and imperialist system imposed on the world. Haiti’s slavery and subsequent poverty were imposed from abroad. That terrible earthquake occurred after the Copenhagen climate change summit, where the most elemental rights of 192 member states were trampled upon.”

In a pithy end to his essay, Fidel summed it up thus:

“We send doctors, not soldiers!”, February 18, 2010

1Source: “Fidel Castro on Haiti: Cuba Sends Doctors, Not Soldiers!” Labour & Trade Union Review, Feb. 2010, pp. 3-4. [London, Eng]