Wed | May 27, 2020

Norris McDonald | COVID-19 pandemic … The US must lift Cuban embargo to save lives

Published:Sunday | April 5, 2020 | 12:26 AM

“The United States has launched a stunning attack on Cuba’s medical-aid missions, with the Trump administration pressing countries to reject them during the coronavirus pandemic,” Steve Sweeny reported in the Morning Star, March 26, 2020.

Given the extremely grave coronavirus crisis in America, one would think that that would be the number one policy priority.

At a time when America is the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, Donald ‘The Great-Impeached’ Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are wasting time bullying other nations who urgently need help to fight this deadly scourge.


Meanwhile, Cuba has got glorious accolades worldwide because it has been sending her doctors to help other countries and because of the stunning news of the COVID-19 anti-viral drug, manufactured and used by China with remarkable success is saving lives.

A recombinant, Heberon Interferon alfa 2b was the main Cuban drug used by China.

Recombinant is a term in genetic engineering, and biotechnology, that refers to a product formed through genetic engineering of different viruses and cells to produce a drug.

ChangHeber, Biotech, and Changchun Heber Biotechnology were the three companies that joined together, under a China-Cuban agreement, to manufacture the Cuban drug in Changchun, a town located in the Chinese province of Jilin.

Heberon alfa 2b is currently used against “HIV-related infections, recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, genital warts, and hepatitis types B and C,” Havana Radio, Cuban journalist Jorge Ruiz Mivares reports.

Since this news broke, instead of welcoming this Cuban innovation in biotechnology and disease-fighting genetic engineering, America has flailed about, very angrily, like a mad, Everglades bull crocodile fighting his hook.


People all over the world are dying from the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are over 1,000,000 cases in the world, with America at the epicentre with over 220,000 cases, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine reports.

Massive shortgaes of ventilators, masks, COVID-19 testing kits and many other healthcare essentials are vitally needed.

And yet, a very short-sighted America, under Donald ‘The Great-Impeached’ Trump, never planned for a possible pandemic such as COVID-19.

How shame-faced it must be that Russia had to urgently ship medical supplies to help America!

Russia sent a large cargo plane of critical COVID-19 supplies, including breathing machines, test kits, masks, gloves, and other critical-care respiratory and medical supplies.

American planes were urgently sent to China, too, to pick up 80 tons of urgently needed supplies to alleviate the healthcare crisis.

Ku-deh! What a la-la!

These are two countries America calls her enemies. How ironic that they, a rich country, must take help from so-called designated enemies, but poor people around the world must refuse urgently needed help from Cuba.

COVID-19 is heart-rending, especially for nurses, doctors and all healthcare workers on the front line of the battle without proper protective gear.

This directly stems from the terrible crisis faced by America’s healthcare system.


A South Florida nurse told me that at a major hospital that is part of the HCA chain,“many young inexperienced nurses, fresh out of nursing school, are being thrown into the front line of the COVID-19 crisis”.

HCA and Tenet are among the for-profit, American healthcare corporations.

Over 136,000 registered nurses in Florida are unemployed, the National Union of Nurses (NUS) reports.

The situation is true for many respiratory therapists who hold licences and are unable to find work.

An experienced, specialist nurse’s pay is roughly two to three times that of a young graduate. And that is not counting shift differential pay, for working nights and weekends, and incremental gains for years of service.

In September 2019 – as if an omen of this coming health crisis – nurses in Florida, Arizona, and California, who work for Tenet Hospitals, went on strike to protest poor wages and their ‘kill-mi-dead’ working conditions.

The NUS represents these nurses.

In a September 17, 2019, news release announcing their planned strike, they urged Tenet management to “invest in RN staff and patient care”.

Americans are, therefore, seeing the true face of what passes as a healthcare system in which shortages of protective gear have put nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, and patient-care techs’ lives at risks. Some have died.

Patients have died unnecessarily, too, in the coronavirus pandemic because over 100,000 breathing machines are urgently needed and are not available to save their lives.

My friends, irrespective of one’s political beliefs, you ought to agree with me that human lives must be deemed more important than money.

At least Dr Rev William Barber believes this, and he is letting everyone know how he feels.


Barber recently posed a moral dilemma, February 27, 2020, on his Twitter account: “The (corona)virus and vaping are national emergencies, but 700 people die every day from poverty and low wealth and it’s not a national emergency?”

Barber, of the Greenleaf Christian Church, is an outstanding African American civil-rights leader who has long criticised the lack of social justice in America.

In another Twitter post, on April 1, 2020, he wrote:“This [corona]virus is teaching us that from now on, living wages, guaranteed health care for all, unemployment, and labor rights are not left versus right issues, but issues of right versus wrong and life versus death.”

American doctors and researchers have long called for the lifting of the Cuban embargo so that there can be medical and scientific cooperation between the U.S and Cuban researchers

This is a matter of life and death, right versus wrong.

America must lift the Cuban embargo and import Heberon, Interferon alfa 2b from Cuba to save the fast-dying people’s lives!

That is just the ‘bitta’ truth!

- Norris McDonald is an economic journalist, social researcher, and political analyst. Email feedback to and