Family Farm Defenders has a long tradition of fraternal relationships with the people of Cuba, and specifically, Cuban farmers. Both past FFD President, John Kinsman, and past FFD member, Randy Jasper, visited Cuba several times and witnessed the success of their agricultural practices as well as their public healthcare system.
Randall Jasper, who traveled to the island three times contrasted farming in Cuba to farming in the U.S. this way: “If we do well, we have an excellent crop, [in the U.S.] they penalize us, they pay us less. In Cuba, if you produce more food, you actually receive more money instead of less.”
John Kinsman, who visited the island twice had this to say about his experience with medical personnel on the island. “At every gathering that I was at, of 40 people [or more] there was a doctor, a nurse and an ambulance driver. There was no lack of health care.”
Today Family Farm Defenders honors this solidarity tradition by calling on the newly elected President and the Congress of the United States to lift restrictions on access to Cuban medical expertise, in order to more effectively combat the COVID-19 pandemic and to save lives.
The U.S. has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world and the highest number of deaths related to COVID. Although the virus is surging nearly everywhere, our rural farm communities are experiencing some of the highest infection rates per capita in the country.
And rural farm communities are in the worst possible position to deal with this crisis. More than 120 rural hospitals have closed in the past 10 years (roughly 7%). In 2019 we saw the worst year for hospital closures, with nineteen hospitals shutting their doors during that short time.
Sixty million Americans live in rural communities (roughly 9.3% of the population), and access to healthcare in the rural regions is a daily struggle. Rural people are among the poorest in the nation, and the number one reason for farm foreclosure is an unexpected medical emergency with the family unable to pay skyrocketing medical bills.
Many of the hospitals that serve farm community are a thirty minute to two hour drive away. Rural hospitals often lack medical equipment to treat severe COVID-19 patients, as well as the personal protective equipment medical workers need to stay safe.
Now is the time for international medical cooperation to save lives. The U.S. economic blockade against Cuba has severely restricted collaboration on scientific and medical research. And for this reason, the Family Farm Defenders calls on the President and Congress to:
- Allow U.S.-Cuba medical, clinical and scientific collaboration, including inviting Cuban medical brigades to provide direct medical assistance and/or to provide advice and guidance in treating COVID-19.
- Incorporating Cuba’s Interferon Alfa 2B Recombinant in clinical trials in the U.S., Canada and the WHO, and the granting by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for Cuba’s Interferon Alfa 2B Recombinant.
- Ending U.S. economic and travel sanctions against Cuba, including its extraterritorial nature and the attempts to stop all other countries accepting Cuban medical brigades and assistance, and all ongoing measures that prevent Cuba accessing and importing medical equipment and medicines to confront COVID-19.
The Family Farm Defenders, asks that these measures be taken with all deliberate speed in order to save lives of the citizens of the United States, as well as in Cuba.