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The Haiti response: Guns or doctors?

March 8, 2010

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Hundreds of Cuban doctors and Cuban-trained Haitian doctors had long been working in Haiti. Since the earthquake, they’ve been joined by hundreds more … “doctors, not soldiers!” in the words of Fidel Castro.
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, is 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 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 their Latin American Medical School. The Haitians, like students from all over the world, trained for free in this Cuban medical school, now had the opportunity and chance to help their people.

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

“Hour after hour, day and night, the Cuban health professionals have worked nonstop 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. Cuban doctors worked to find and help their Haitian colleagues who lived in earthquake ravaged neighborhoods.”

Seven young Cuban-trained women doctors from the U.S. – two are from Oakland and the others from New York and Houston – just returned from a month in Haiti, where each of them treated 100-150 patients a day and slept a few hours a night on the ground, along with the people they served. To learn more about the Cuban medical school that trains doctors from all over the world who promise to return home to serve the poor, visit
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!”

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

© Copyright 2010 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Read Mumia’s brand new book, “Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A.,” available from City Lights Publishing, or (415) 362-8193. Keep updated at For Mumia’s commentaries, visit For recent interviews with Mumia, visit Encourage the media to publish and broadcast Mumia’s commentaries and interviews. Send our brotha some love and light at: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI-Greene, 175 Progress Dr., Waynesburg PA 15370.

4 thoughts on “The Haiti response: Guns or doctors?

  1. Rytch Yunder

    If Fidel had been the hero he claimed to be, he would have given up power long ago. Strange how folks want to rewrite history. To my knowledge, the only great man in the history of the Americas who had obtained power — power he’d sought after his whole life — and then gave that power up willingly to set a precedent for the leaders who would follow, that great man was George Washington. Castro is a liar and a joke. You can provide doctors and medical training without suspending free speech and refusing to step down as a dictator!

  2. Mark E. Smith

    Although I’d known that the U.S. turned away relief planes for days while evacuating Americans and bringing in military troops, I was unaware until recently that the first relief plane the U.S. allowed to land was from Israel. I’m very afraid that while relief planes from the Red Cross, from France, and from other countries were denied permission to land in Haiti, and hundreds of thousands of people were dying unnecessarily, the U.S. was determined that the plane from Israel be the first to land, apparently as a publicity stunt to try to polish Israel’s tarnished image. I can’t imagine anything more despicable.

  3. Rytch Yunder

    Hi Malaika,

    Slavery has been turned into a polarizing issue, for obvious reasons, but to decide that a man who owned African slaves was therefore not a great man and leader is illogical; it is emotional and short-sighted. Slavery has always existed. It is still practiced in Muslim and animist Africa. Ethiopia, the only African country to defeat a European attempt at colonization, was unable to end its slave trade till the the Italian fascists conquered during WWII. This is the issue with evil, power-mongering men like Fidel, Mussolini, and even Lincoln: they take a legitimate social problems like slavery, racism, or health care, and they use them to wrest power from the majority of people and aggrandize themselves. We can have a good, smart, brave man like George Washington, one who gave up the power he so desperately wanted as a younger man, and also have the same good man make good decisions on social issues. You owe a lot of the freedoms you enjoy to George Washington's sacrifices and strong moral character. I encourage you to go read his farewell address to Congress. If we, as a country, had followed this great man, we wouldn't have the problems we face today — no American imperialism, no partisanship, and no over-reaching Fed.

  4. Malaika H. Kambon


    Yo Rytch:

    George Washington was an enslaver of AFRIKAN people…hardly the type of individual one would consider to be a ‘great man…’

    Unless, of course, your tastes run to the odious.

    But then, perhaps you are one to believe that ‘free speech’ is a liberty that comes with a ‘white only’ attachment; an obvious proscription to all others not to bother…

    War Without Terms,


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