A nation that can barely keep up with public health emergencies within its own borders must not be allowed to engage in global efforts to contain Ebola. I’m talking about Cuba and the rather odd series of comments from Republican and Democratic leaders in this town praising Cuba’s alleged contribution to combatting Ebola in West Africa.
Rather than heaping misplaced praise on the Communist government, the United States should tell Cuba’s Communist leaders to keep Cuban doctors where they are needed most, in Cuba. We should also take this opportunity to take a long and hard look at current U.S-Cuba travel policies and regulations. At a minimum, new restrictions on people-to-people travel is way overdue (read this April 2014 Thomas Cook story about UK travelers that were placed on IVs after falling ill at a Cuban hotel).
The state of Cuban healthcare and public health is extremely dire, but you’ll never read about it. Why? Mainly because the Left, and many of the uniformed in this town, are more interested in easing U.S.-Cuba sanctions that exposing the faults of a failed regime. However, this time, these people are wantonly putting U.S. public healthcare at risk by encouraging Cuban healthcare diplomacy.
As Cuban physician and human rights activist Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet has been reminding the free world for decades, the Cuban healthcare miracle is a myth, including doctor diplomacy. Dr. Biscet and many other physicians and healthcare professions in Cuba, such as Dr. Darsi Ferrer Ramírez, keep warning that Cuba is at the precipice of a major public health crisis that threatens every province in Cuba with disease, malnutrition, and worse.
For example, in 2012, Cuba had its first cholera outbreak in well over a century. If Cuba can’t contain cholera, what business do they have assisting west African nations with a deadlier disease such as Ebola? And it is not just cholera. Cuba is also dealing with outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya. These are symptoms of a much more serious problem, a failed Cuban healthcare system that threatens not just Cuba, but the entire Western Hemisphere.
While most of us think of the U.S.-Mexico border when addressing border security, South Florida also presents many border security challenges, including public health issues that need addressing. Make no mistake about it, the Ebola issue is just as much a border security issue as it is a public health challenge. Cuba — just 90 miles and less than an hour away by plane — is woefully unprepared. Anyone who argues otherwise is just wrong, ignorant, or both.
The U.S. should encourage the regime to keep Cuban doctors in Cuba. While we are it, the State Department and the CDC should seriously consider restricting travel to and from Cuba until the Communist government manages to control the may public health emergencies underway in Cuba. And now that Cuban public health professionals have been exposed to Ebola, and who will undoubtedly travel back to Cuba unless they defect, this travel restriction takes on an added sense of urgency.
For those of you who do not know about Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, embedded is a video that provides a good overview. He’s out of Cuban political prison, for now, and has been calling for massive civil disobedience and respect for human rights. This fellow is a genuine hero and could be a future national leader in a free Cuba. There are many Oscars in Cuba: