When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

CLARIN

Bracing For COVID-19, Argentina Calls On Cuban Doctors

Cuba could repay part of its $2 billion of debts to Argentina by sending some of its renowned medics to treat coronavirus patients in the Buenos Aires province.

A community doctor in Havana, Cuba
A community doctor in Havana, Cuba
Natasha Niebieskikwiat

BUENOS AIRES — Cuba often charges for its renown medical services abroad by bartering with the respective wealth or commodity of the country where its medics are sent. In Europe it is paid in euros currency, while in Venezuela, its healthcare missions are remunerated with crude oil, a resource in constant shortage on the island. Now, in the face of the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, sources tell Clarín that Cuban officials are in talks with the government of President Alberto Fernández about sending doctors to Argentina in exchange for food.

These would be sent especially to boost medical cadres fighting the epidemic in and around the capital of Buenos Aires, though it has already prompted opposition among local medical associations and in different social sectors.

This "swap" is not new. In 2004 under the late President Néstor Kirchner, the Cuban government run by brothers Fidel and Raúl Castro proposed exchanging $100 million in Cuban medicines for the same amount of Argentine foodstuffs. A year earlier, Argentina's then foreign minister, Rafael Bielsa, discussed with Cuba the possibility of canceling some of Cuba's debts to Argentina, with talk of $50-million tranches whereby poorer Argentines would receive free medical treatment in Cuban hospitals.

The Buenos Aires province owns 60% share of the GDP of the country's prized livestock, and today sectors in the government remain interested in renewing a debt-for-doctors option with Cuba, though progress is not without obstacles. The idea comes from the Vice-President Cristina Kirchner, who spent all of 2019 and early 2020 traveling back and forth to Havana, where her daughter Florencia is being treated for health issues.

With Cuba, there is an added ideological dimension.

Cuba's debt to Argentina was incurred in 1973 when the Health Minister José B. Gelbard lent Fidel Castro almost $1.3 billion. In 2017 the Argentine Bank of Foreign Trade and Investment stated in a report commissioned by CADAL, a foundation focused on good governance, that by then Cuba owed Argentina $2.6 billion including capital and interests. Some place the debt today at some $4 billion.

As previously reported in Clarin, the provincial government of Buenos Aires led by Axel Kicillof is planning on inviting between a dozen and 250 Cuban physicians requested by Buenos Aires health authorities. This reportedly will only happen if contagion figures supersede a peak figure and the province is hard pushed to cope with patient numbers.

Kicillof's plans were recently confirmed by both the Health and Foreign Ministries. The mayor of the town of Pehuajó, Pablo Zurro, formally asked Kicillof for Cuban doctors on April 21, while the province of Chaco is contemplating a similar move. Their arrival is permitted within the emergency presidential decree allowing use of foreign medical staff without prior confirmation of qualifications.

But various sectors in Argentina, notably doctors, are opposed to foreign recruitment. With Cuba, there is an added ideological dimension: the island nation has long mixed business and medical aid with propaganda, with Central Medical Cooperation Unit sending doctors around the world for the past six decades as proof of the Communist regime's efficiency and humanity. In recent years, with deteriorating economic conditions, these medical missions have turned into the country's leading source of foreign exchange earnings.

Keep reading...Show less
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

Return To Clay: Why An Ancient Building Material Is Back In Fashion

Concrete and glass are often thought of as the only building materials of modern architecture. But Francis Diébédo Kéré, the first African winner of a prestigious Pritzker architecture prize, works with clay, whose sustainability is not the only benefit.

Francis Diébédo Kéré extended the primary school in the village of Gando, Burkina Faso

Clara Le Fort

"Clay is fascinating. It has this unique grain and is both beautiful and soft. It soothes; it contributes to well-being..."

Francis Diébédo Kéré, the first African to be awarded the prestigious Pritzker Prize last March, is paying tribute to clay. It's a material that he adores, which has too often been shunned and attributed to modest constructions and peasant houses. Diébédo Kéré has always wanted to celebrate "earthen architecture”: buildings made out of clay. It's a technique that has been used for at least 10,000 years, which draws on this telluric element, known as dried mud, beaten earth, rammed earth, cob or adobe.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ