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The First Responders
The Blackout on Cuban Aid to Haiti
by DAVE LINDORFF

In the critical first days after the quake struck Haiti, only two US corporate media news organizations reported on Cuba’s quick response to the crisis. One was Fox News, which claimed, wrongly, that the Cubans were absent from the list of neighboring Caribbean countries providing aid. The other was the Christian Science Monitor (a respected news organization that recently shut down its print edition), which reported correctly that Cuba had dispatched 30 doctors to the stricken nation.

The Christian Science Monitor, in a second article, quoted Laurence Korb, former assistant secretary of defense and now based at the Center for American Progress, as saying that the US, which is leading the relief efforts in Haiti, should “consider tapping the expertise of neighboring Cuba,” which he noted, “has some of the best doctors in the world–we should see about flying them in.”

As for the rest of the US corporate media, they simply ignored Cuba.

In fact, left unmentioned was the reality that Cuba already had nearly 400 doctors, EMTs and other medical personnel posted to Haiti to help with the day-to-day health needs of this poorest nation in the Americas, and that those professionals were the first to respond to the disaster, setting up a hospital right next to the main hospital in Port-au-Prince which collapsed in the earthquake, as well as a second tent-hospital elsewhere in the stricken city.

Far from “doing nothing” about the disaster as the right-wing propagandists at Fox-TV were claiming, Cuba has been one of the most effective and critical responders to the crisis, because it had set up a medical infrastructure before the quake, which was able to mobilize quickly and start treating the victims right away.

The American emergency response, predictably, has focussed primarily, at least in terms of personnel and money, on sending the hugely costly and inefficient US military–a fleet of aircraft and an aircraft carrier–a factor that should be considered when examining that $100 million figure the Obama administration claims is being allocated to emergency aid to Haiti. Considering that the cost of operating an aircraft carrier, including crew, is roughly $2 million a day, just sending a carrier to Port-au-Prince for two weeks accounts for a quarter of the announced American aid effort, and while many of the military personnel sent there will certainly be doing actual aid work, delivering supplies and guarding supplies, many, given America’s long history of brutal military/colonial control of Haiti, will inevitably be spending their time ensuring continued survival and control of the parasitic pro-US political elite in Haiti.

Otherwise, the US has basically ignored the ongoing day-to-day human crisis in Haiti, while Cuba has been doing the yeoman work of providing basic health care.

It’s not that the Cubans were hard to find in Port-au-Prince. Democracy Now! had a report, as did the Washington-based magazine Cuba News. It’s just that telling Americans about the good works of a poor and unashamedly Communist nation is not a story that the American corporate media want to tell.

DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). He can be reached at dlindorff@mindspring.com