Most of China’s donations unable to reach Cuba due to embargoes: Cuban ambassador

By Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/15 18:28:41 Last Updated: 2020/4/15 21:28:41

Cuban Ambassador to China Carlos Miguel Pereira Photo: Xie Wenting/GT

More than 30 Chinese enterprises have either donated or supplied anti-virus materials to Cuba since the coronavirus outbreak began, but only a small number of them have successfully arrived in the country, the Cuban Ambassador to China told the Global Times in an exclusive interview.

Ambassador Carlos Miguel Pereira said that the medical supplies previously donated by the Alibaba Foundation to help Cuba combat COVID-19 are still stranded in China due to sanctions imposed by the US.

The Cuban diplomat said that they are currently in close contact with Alibaba to work out other possible plans to solve the problem, including replacing the US company that was responsible for transporting the medical supplies to Cuba. The final arrangements have not yet been decided.

According to the official Weibo account of the Cuban Embassy in China, the Jack Ma foundation and Alibaba Foundation donated medical supplies, including face masks, test kits and respirators, to 24 Latin American countries including Cuba. But these supplies were unable to reach Cuba as scheduled because an American company that was responsible for shipping them rejected the order at the last minute. 

"The reason was that the US government tightened its policy of economic, commercial and financial embargoes imposed on Cuba, thereby thwarting the enterprise from ­shipping the equipment to Cuba ­despite the fact that these medical supplies are urgently needed to fight the virus," said the embassy on Weibo.

The post went viral and soon became a trending topic on Weibo, with many Chinese netizens expressing sympathy and support for the country.

Pereira told the Global Times that the unilateral sanctions the US imposed on Cuba have had a negative impact on the country's fight against COVID-19, and he is worried that this may cause the situation to further deteriorate.  

The number of COVID-19 infections in Cuba reached 766 on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The diplomat said while the country has a sound healthcare system and made many preparations in the beginning, the lack of medical supplies compounded by the US sanctions could hinder its ability to fight the virus. 

The US has required all countries and companies not to sell or donate materials which have 10 percent or more American technology to Cuba. Many medical companies around the world are US companies or have some form of US involvement.

The ambassador said another obstacle to moving the medical supplies from China to Cuba is that most flights now need to go through the US, which means they will not be able to successfully arrive in Cuba. "It's also difficult for Cuba to arrange chartered flights to pick up these medical supplies," he said. 

In addition to the difficulties caused by the embargo, Cuba has also encountered problems when procuring medical supplies from companies.

Pereira said Cuba placed an order with two Swiss companies that produce respirators with which it had a long-term partnership. But recently, they were suddenly notified that the two companies had decided to terminate their contracts with Cuba as they had been purchased by a US company. As a result, they are no longer allowed to provide supplies to Cuba.

Responding to concerns that ­COVID-19 could cause a humanitarian crisis in Cuba, the ambassador was optimistic, saying that this will not happen.

He noted that Cuba has a good medical system and the government will spare no effort to ensure the health and safety of its citizens. But he admitted that with the necessary medical supplies not reaching Cuba, the US sanctions are making the situation more and more difficult.  

Helping others

Even as the country faces multiple challenges, it is still trying to offer a helping hand to other countries that have been severely hit by the pandemic. 

Pereira told the Global Times that Cuba has sent 19 medical teams to other countries, including two to Italy, where the outbreak is much more serious.

Meanwhile, more than 20 countries have asked Cuba to send medical teams. The country is now setting up more than 10 new medical teams, which are scheduled to depart in the coming weeks, the ambassador said.

"Cuba shares the same thinking as China - only international cooperation can defeat the virus," he said.

The diplomat explained that Cuba has dispatched different types of medical teams according to countries' different requirements. Some require expert teams that can provide instructions, while others need doctors and nurses who can work on the front line to treat patients. Cuba has sent both types of teams to Italy. 

According to the ambassador, China and Cuba are working closely to fight the pandemic, and that this cooperation has extended to other countries. In Venezuela, medical teams from China and Cuba have been working together and sharing useful experience. 

Meanwhile, a medicine invented by Cuba that has proven useful in treating COVID-19 is being produced in Chinese factories, he said.

Pereira said the epidemic has also revealed the selfishness of some countries, which have taken over medical supplies that do not belong to them and adopted a "self-centered" anti-virus strategy.

The diplomat slammed the accusation that China is playing the "coronavirus diplomacy" card to gain political benefits, a view that is being hyped by some Western countries and media outlets.

He noted that China has made great efforts to contain the virus that have been successful, and is now offering help to other countries. 

"Some countries represented by the US are fanning xenophobia. Cuba denounces the way the US uses media to taint other countries' image," he said.

"These countries which criticized China are in fact the countries that have made no contribution to the global fight against COVID-19," he said.
Newspaper headline: Not alone


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