Thirty-five years ago, the commander of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro had a vision to make Cuban men and women, men and women of science.
On 1 July 1986, the Cuban government commissioned the Centre of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology of Cuba (CIBG).
The centre’s mission was to “research, develop, produce and commercialise novel biotechnological and pharmaceutical products with a positive impact on human, animal and plant health, and on industrial production in harmony with the environment”.
This long-term vision of the Commander-in-Chief of the Cuban Revolution and the long-serving First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, Fidel Castro, has come to bear fruit with the announcement of successful trials in the development of vaccines for the novel corona virus that has wrought global havoc since it was first detected in Wuhan, China 18 months ago, and declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 11 March 2020.
Cuba has so far developed five vaccines that are showing success in fighting the pathogen.
The most efficient one is the Abdala vaccine (administered in three doses) with a 92.28% efficacy in clinical trials!
This was as announced by the Director General of the CIBG, Marta Ayala, on 22 June 2021 in the presence of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and other high-ranking officials of the government of Cuba, who had come to witness this historic milestone in global science for the revolutionary island nation.
This is a nation which has been placed under unilateral trade, financial and economic sanctions by the United States government since 7 February 1962!
On 23 June 2021, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) once again voted on the annual resolution for the “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the USA against Cuba”.
As expected, 184 countries, including Namibia, voted for the lifting of the sanctions, whilst two voted against and three abstained!
The United States and Israel have always voted against the lifting of the sanctions (although in 2016 the USA voted to abstain), while Brazil, Columbia and Ukraine elected to abstain.
The rightwing governments of Brazil, under Jair Bolsonaro, and Columbia, under Ivan Duque, which are invested in the myth of white American supremacy and advancing the imperialist agenda of the undermining of Cuban sovereignty, chose political expediency and survival over the UN’s Charter that seeks to foster and ‘develop friendly relations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of the people’.
Ukraine, although assisted by Cuba in the aftermath of the Chernobyl crisis of 26 April 1986, chose to abstain.
Ukraine elects to forget how Cuba has treated over 26 614 Chernobyl survivors in a period of 21 years from 29 March 1990 to 24 November 2011.
These survivors of radiation poisoning (84% being children) were treated at the medical facility of Tarara at the cost of the Cuban government.
Despite the economic hardships faced by Cuba after the fall of the Soviet Union and the special period that followed thereafter during the 90s, Cuba still came to the rescue of Ukraine in its time of need.
This is an extension of humanity that the government of Ukraine chooses to ignore when they vote to abstain in the matter of the lifting of sanctions against Cuba at the UN.
The economic blockade undermines Cuba’s capacity to commercialise and distribute the vaccine in order to ease the burden of vaccine poverty, scarcity and apartheid already being experienced in the world.
With only 1% of the African population vaccinated against the coronavirus, the Abdala vaccine from Cuba could be a much-needed weapon in the arsenal of eradicating Covid-19 from the African continent.
With a global ranking of four out of the already developed vaccines, Cuba envisages producing at least 100 million doses of the vaccine for global distribution.
However, this distribution of the vaccine can be undermined by the extra-territorial nature of the US sanctions against Cuba if the Biden administration does not return to the Obama-era policy of normalising relations with Cuba that Donald Trump reneged on during his brief four years in office as the 45th president of the USA.
The Trump administration imposed 243 new sanctions against Cuba!
These sanctions include a penalty on countries who undertake commercial transactions with Cuba using US dollars.
When Cuba sells its services and goods to other countries, they are forced to use other international currencies (e.g. the Euro). However, their trade partners would usually demand that Cuba carries the cost of currency conversion, which can be expensive and erodes profits from Cuban enterprises, making international trade transactions cumbersome and undesirable for both Cuba and its trading partners.
These and many more tactics by the US government which seek to undermine Cuban sovereignty can prove challenging once the Cuban vaccines are given final clearance by the WHO for global distribution.
For over 60 years, the USA has advanced an agenda first introduced by Lester D. Mallory, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, which amongst others recognises that “the only foreseeable means of alienating internal support (in Cuba) is through disenchantment and the disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship”.
Mallory further proposed that “every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba. If such policy is adopted, it should be the result of positive action which, while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible, makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and the overthrow of government”.
He ends by saying ‘all other avenues should likewise be explored”.
At a time when the world is grappling with the devastating effects of a global pandemic, citizens of the African continent should stand up against the global hegemony of the USA.
A hegemony that seeks to destroy countries that refuse to submit to the USA’s attempts of establishing a new world order; where only American voices are deemed valuable, as it attempts to shape the world in its image!
African countries should come together and establish trade ties with Cuba to ensure they can get access to the vaccine once it is given the go- ahead for global distribution.
African countries must unite in pushing back on imperial attempts at denying its citizens access to vaccines that have been proven to save lives in the midst of a global pandemic that has already claimed 3 890 000 lives, and counting.