Saving and Offering Lives

By Graciela Ramirez on November 15, 2020

“We will demonstrate that there is a response to many of the planet’s tragedies.  We will demonstrate that man can and should be better.  We will demonstrate the value of consciousness and ethics. We offer lives”.

-Fidel Castro Ruz

In 2005 Fidel Castro created the International Contingent of Doctors Specialized in Disaster Situations and Serious Epidemics named “Henry Reeve”. The participants were made up of numerous medical specialists from various branches of medicine who enlisted on a voluntary basis, prepared to travel immediately to the United States to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina that had affected tens of thousands in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, and especially in the city of New Orleans.

Cuba’s generous offer of aid was rejected by the George W. Bush administration but the same offer was welcomed by many other countries faced with crisis with open arms which continues to this day.

The creation of the Henry Reeve Brigade is intimately linked to the principles that the Cuban Revolution has put into practice since its inception on January 1, 1959:

In 1999, Cuba launched the most comprehensive project of international medical training with the creation of the Latin American School of Medicine -ELAM- graduating to date 30,200 doctors with scholarships from Cuba, from Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, Africa and the United States where close to 200 have graduated.

The Henry Reeve Brigade has made an extraordinary contribution by saving hundreds of thousands of lives and conducting millions of consultations, in disaster situations such as those caused by earthquakes in Pakistan, Indonesia, Peru, China, Chile, Nepal and Ecuador. Those affected by floods in Guatemala, Bolivia, Belize, Chile, Mexico, El Salvador, Peru and Sierra Leone. Hurricane victims in Haiti, Fiji, Dominica, Mexico and Mozambique.

In these 15 years, 13,597 Cuban collaborators assisted 4,253,533 patients in 53 countries, saving the lives of 93,891.

In addition to assisting in major natural disasters, the Henry Reeve Brigade played a fundamental role in the fight against serious epidemics such as Ebola in West Africa and Cholera in Haiti, where more than 400,000 people were assisted.

The International Cooperation sustained during these years has taken on an extraordinary relevance in the face of the pandemic caused by COVID-19.

The Henry Reeve Contingent has so far sent 53 Brigades to 38 countries at the request of their governments.

More than 3,800 Cuban health professionals, 61.2 percent of whom are women, are participating in this unprecedented effort. They have performed 1,643,138 nursing procedures, attended to 550,966 patients and saved the lives of 12,488 people.

At the same time that the Henry Reeve Brigade was facing the pandemic in the world, the Trump government was tightening the blockade of Cuba to inhumane limits and unleashing a ferocious campaign of slander, malicious misrepresentations  and lies against Cuban medical cooperation, going to the extreme of pressuring and threatening the governments of countries requesting the aid from Cuba.

While the most obnoxious tenant of the White House was making a fool of himself in front of the world and losing the elections, in the midst of a brutal crisis caused by the total lack of attention to Covid-19, racism and xenophobia, this November 5th a Henry Reeve Brigade composed of 120 doctors and nurses left for Azerbaijan.

The news went around the world without the big media mentioning a single word about it. The doctors of a small country, blocked and besieged for almost six decades by the most powerful empire on earth, became a source of inspiration and hope in tragic moments for humanity when the world desperately needs more solidarity and cooperation. 

It was the international solidarity movement that noticed and launched the idea of launching a campaign to nominate the Cuban Medical Brigade Henry Reeve for the Nobel Peace Prize 2021, for being bearers of life and hope, and for giving an unprecedented example of international solidarity.

From Argentina to South Africa, the campaign began to spread. In a few months, responses began to arrive from personalities, parliamentarians, academics, artists, social movements, friendship associations, groups working for solidarity and peace, showing the extraordinary support for the idea of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Henry Reeve Brigade. Why not? Who is more deserving?

As part of this international coalition, the website was created in the United States. So far it has gathered more than 36 thousand endorsers. The Greek Initiative for the Nobel Peace Prize has more than 100,000 endorsers.

The UK’s Cuba Solidarity Campaign has brought together  5,700 personalities. More than 3 thousand people signed in support of the proposal in Cyprus. Nearly 500 Friendship Associations, committees and solidarity groups from Latin America and the Caribbean, the United States and Canada, Europe, Africa and Asia are working on the nomination of the Henry Reeve Brigade for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The nominations began to be delivered in September and according to the guidelines of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee will end on January 31, 2021.

Today we can affirm that the Henry Reeve Brigade has been officially nominated to the committee by the World Peace Council based in Athens; Adolfo Pérez Esquivel Nobel Peace Prize winner from Argentina; the president of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Parliament of Slovakia Juraj Blanar; 21 deputies and senators of the Congress of Colombia. They are joined by Giannes Melios, Professor Emeritus of Political Economy at the National Technical University of Athen, who presented the nomination to the Nobel Committee on behalf of the Greek Nobel Peace Prize Initiative, which is composed of hundreds of academics, intellectuals and artists such as Mikis Theodorakis, the great Greek composer.

Also Sotiris Theocarides professor of Philosophy and Social and Political Sciences at the Universities of Cyprus, Sofia and Bulgaria, member of the Honorary Committee of the 600 personalities of the Greek Initiative, made the nomination on behalf of more than 3 thousand Cypriots who support it.

Mandla Makanya, Doctor of Philosophy and Dean of the National University of South Africa -Unisa- presented the nomination with the support of the African National Congress (ANC) Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize, the South African Communist Party,the National Congress of South African Trade Unions, the National Union of South African Health and Education Workers, the Association of Friends of Cuba in South Africa, the Association of South African Medical Graduates in Cuba. UNISA, the largest university in South Africa and in all of Africa, with an estimated 400,000 students.

The Nobel Committee also accepted the nominations sent by Deputy Hugo Gutiérrez and Senator Alejandro Navarro, both representatives of the Chilean National Congress. Chilean academic Haroldo Quinteros, professor emeritus in Social Sciences, representing the Coordinator of Solidarity with Cuba and the Celia Sánchez Collective from the city of Iquique, also sent the nominations that were accepted.

Julio Pinto, Chilean National History Prize winner in 2016, nominated the Brigade and received an acceptance notification from the Nobel Committee, adding three nominations sent from the land of Salvador Allende and Pablo Neruda.

Congressman and former Governor Juan Jorge Cardenas of Ecuador also made successful nominations accepted by the Nobel Committee.

Also, John Kirk, professor of the Department of Hispanic and Latin American Studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada was among the first to send his nomination to the Nobel Committee.

Dr. SvenTarp, professor and director of the Department of Lexicography at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, also received the notification of acceptance by the Nobel Committee of his nomination for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to the Henry Reeve Brigade.

Grahame Morris, a member of the House of Commons for the Easington constituency in northeastern England and chair of the British Parliament’s Multiparty Group on Cuba, made his nomination and was accepted by the Nobel Committee. Helen Colley, a British academic from Huddersfield University, an international leader in the field of professional education, sent her nomination to the Nobel Committee. Helen Yaffe, a British academic, professor of social history and economics at the University of Glasgow and a well-known writer, nominated the Brigade.

Elaine Smith Scottish Parliamentarian formally nominated the Henry Reeve Brigade for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. With this nomination, there are four more proposals by the Nobel to the Henry Reeve Brigade sent from the United Kingdom.

John O’Dowd, a member of the Lesbian and Gay Assembly of the Sinn Féin Party of Ireland, said he had the honor of making the nomination on behalf of his party.

François-Michel Lambert, French deputy, President of the France-Cuba Parliamentary Friendship Group in the French National Assembly, presented the official nomination for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to the Henry Reeve Brigade.

Antonio Paris, Honorary President of the Philippine Council for Peace and Solidarity, nominated the Brigade as well.

The indigenous peoples of Bolivia, who are grouped together in the Central Indigenous of the Amazon region, the Central Indigenous of Beni, the Coordinating Committee of Ethnic Peoples of Santa Cruz and the Indigenous Centrals, expressed their support for the Nobel Peace Prize in a letter sent to the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity of Peoples.

Today we can also announce that more than 200 university professors from the United States endorsed the nominations including professors Raymond Duvall, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Minnesota; Gary Prevost Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Latin American Studies at Saint Benedict’s College and Saint John’s University; August Nimtz, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and African American and Latino Studies at the University of Minnesota, H. Bruce Franklin, Ph.D., English and American Literature, Stanford University, Johns Hopkins, Wesleyan and Yale, Dan Kovalik Professor of International Human Rights, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and  Felix Kury, Professor Emeritus of Latino Studies in the School of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University and founder of the  Martin-Baró Clinic.

The geographical scope from the supporters of the nomination ranges from the Puerto Rico School of Law to the University of Guam. The academics belong to fields ranging from sociology and political science to ethnic studies and law. This growing wave of support may not be enough for the Henry Reeve Brigade to receive the Nobel Peace Prize but it demonstrates a remarkeble struggle against all the disgusting slander from the US, to cover their own shortcomings, against this simple straightforward effort at humanism on an international level from the small island of Cuba.

Graciela Ramírez, is coordinator of the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity, a member of the Cuban Chapter of the Redh in Defense of Humanity, and Editor of Resumen Latinoamericano-Cuba.