"Guantanamo is just 200 miles from Port-au-Prince," notes Jonathan Hansen in Sunday's New York Times. "Even as the United States works to close the prison, it should use the base for humanitarian intervention."
What Hansen didn't note — and I didn't think about when I read his piece — is that if Guantanamo is that close to Haiti's devastated capital, so is Cuba, on whose eastern tip the naval base sits. So why haven't we heard of relief efforts from that country?
I don't know why, but Philadelphia-based writer Dave Lindorff said it isn't because Cuba has sat on its hands. Cuba's sent 30 doctors, Lindorff writes at CommonDreams.org, which describes itself as "one of the top progressive websites," with millions of monthly readers. And Lindorff continues:
"Left unmentioned is the reality that Cuba already had over 400 doctors posted to Haiti to help with the day-to-day health needs of this poorest nation in the Americas, and that those doctors 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.
"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."
Lindorff's piece, which ran Friday, said that only two U.S. media outlets had reported on Cuba's response to the earthquake — Fox News, "which claimed, wrongly, that the Cubans were absent from the list of neighboring Caribbean countries providing aid," and the Christian Science Monitor, which "reported correctly" that Cuba had sent 30 doctors.
"But that’s not a story that the American corporate media want to tell," says Lindorff.
Lindorff is overstating his case. I didn't find a Fox News story that said Cuba didn't show up. I did find, on the Fox News site, this January 13 AP story stating the contrary: "The aid group Doctors Without Borders treated wounded at two hospitals that withstood the quake and set up tent clinics elsewhere to replace its damaged facilities. Cuba, which already had hundreds of doctors in Haiti, treated injured in field hospitals."
And here's a story from a USA Today site about Cuba allowing American planes evacuating earthquake victims from Guantanamo to Miami to cross Cuban air space.
But I'll give you that the Cuban contribution hasn't gotten much attention. My friend Bruce Calder, a professor emeritus of Latin American history at UIC, gave me the heads up of Lindorff's piece, and he commented in e-mail that he'd been thinking it "very strange that, according to the U.S. media, Cuba didn't seem to be involved in the medical aid effort to Haiti (and that those dealing with the disaster hadn't thought of obvious things like evacuating some victims to nearby Cuban hospitals)." After all, everyone else was getting credit — "I even heard New Zealanders interviewed today!"