Altruism and the Cuban Revolution

Elio Delgado Legon

Cuban doctors who went to Africa to fight the ebola epidemic. Photo: cubadebate.cu

HAVANA TIMES — The historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, left his Concept of Revolution, which was first declared in May 2000, as his legacy to current and future generations of Cubans and he says in one part: “it is defending the values in which we believe at the price of any sacrifice; it is modesty, selflessness, altruism, solidarity, and heroism…”

These five values, which identify what a real revolution is and are the values that real revolutionaries should have, can be summed up in one: altruism, because being altruistic is also being modest, selfless and showing solidarity. And in order to be all of this, in today’s world, you need to be heroic.

Showing everyone the Cuban Revolution’s examples of altruism in the space of a single article is impossible, therefore I will only mention the most representative, which put Cuba’s reputation right there at the top in the world.

The opposite of altruism is selfishness. I have read some opinions from people who criticize everything the Cuban government does, who question the help Cuba gives to countries in great need, especially medical care, saying that if Cuba has so many needs itself, how can it spend resources and dedicate efforts to helping other people.

These opinions only reveal selfish attitudes. It has been said many times before that Cuba doesn’t offer what it has left over, because it doesn’t have anything left over, rather it needs help itself, but it does allocate a part of what it has to help alleviate other nations’ intense shortages, which are in greater need than us.

If rich and developed countries did the same thing as Cuba, how many lives would be saved in the world, which are lost today between starvation and curable diseases? But these countries, the ones who do have resources left over, prefer to invest them in weapons to start wars and to kill thousands of innocent people who have saved themselves from starvation and disease.

Cuban people are altruistic by nature, that’s why they understand and are willing to make some sacrifices in order to help others.

When the independence struggle in Angola was in danger and the country was invaded by South Africa, it asked Cuba for help and thousands of soldiers, militarymen and civilians stated their willingness to go and save their brother people from the slavery that imperialism was trying to implement using South Africa as a launching pad within the region.

More than two thousand Cubans gave their lives and relatives. Beyond the natural pain of having lost a loved one, we are proud of what was achieved in Africa: Angola and Namibia’s independence and the end of the shameful Apartheid regime. And I want to highlight something very important: nobody, not militarymen or civilians, were forced to go. Only those who expressed their willingness were sent and there were a lot more Cubans willing to go than the number of those who were sent. These are altruistic attitudes which are firmly rooted within our people.

When the Ebola epidemic broke out in western Africa which threatened to spread across the entire continent and maybe across the entire world, the World Health Organization asked Cuba for help and it was immediately ready to tackle this dangerous epidemic. Many doctors and nurses from the Henry Reeve medical brigade, specialized in disaster situations or great epidemics, went in spite of the great risks this posed on the lives of those who went on this mission. And when one of these doctors fell sick with Ebola himself and was about to lose his life, as soon as he got better, he returned along with the rest of his colleagues to continue saving lives. This is altruism and also heroism.

The Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade of Physicians Specialized in Disasters and Serious Epidemics has been present in 21 countries with 24 medical brigades and has saved thousands of lives. We can mention Pakistan, Haiti, Chile, Peru, Ecuador… among these countries, and the rest of Cuba’s medical collaboration efforts continue ongoing in over 60 countries with over 42,000 volunteers.

Ever since Cuban medical collaborations began, with the first brigade to Chile in 1960 up to the present day, almost 373,000 health professionals have offered their help in an altruistic manner in 162 countries.

The miraculous operation which was conceived by the Cuban Revolution’s leader has given back millions of people their eyesight who had been kept in the dark because they couldn’t afford to pay a simple cataract operation.

The Latin American School of Medicine, which was also created by Fidel, has graduated over 27,000 doctors from many countries, including the United States, mainly people from poor financial backgrounds who wouldn’t be able to study this degree in their countries because it’s too expensive.

I have only mentioned the main events where the Cuban Revolution’s altruism has been proved, as I don’t have space to write anymore.


Part of Fidel Castro’s speech on May Day, 2000.

Elio Delgado Legon

Elio Delgado-Legon: I am a Cuban who has lived for 80 years, therefore I know full well how life was before the revolution, having experienced it directly and indirectly. As a result, it hurts me to read so many aspersions cast upon a government that fights tooth and nail to provide us a better life. If it hasn’t fully been able to do so, this is because of the many obstacles that have been put in its way.

  • Moses Patterson

    Castro “altruism” will have a tough time competing against his human rights violations when history records the whole truth of his dictatorship. His legacy will largely be marked by the institutions he left behind. A crumbling infrastructure, record immigration, and historically low productivity to name just a few.

    • Nick

      Yet again you seek to cast aspertions on other countries.
      The current dispicable fascist sympathising regime in the USA is way worse than any in the Carribean or south of the Rio Grande.
      At least it would seem so from a neutral perspective.
      In fact your current regime is even worse than some of the previous dispicable regimes north of the Rio Grande.
      I will never understand how some deluded folk seem to be able to excuse such deplorable regimes simply by waving their limp and faded little ‘democracy’ flag.
      Always amazes me how much nationalism seems to numb the faculties.

      • Moses Patterson

        The “current dispicable fascist sympathising regime in the USA” was elected to power less than a year ago in an open and independent democratic process and in 3 years must stand for election again. While I disagree with the current administration, I support the process that put them in power. The Castro dictatorship has remained in power more than 58 years without giving the people of Cuba the same choice. From a neutral perspective, choice is a good thing. While you may see the US “democracy flag” as limp and faded, be assured that billions of people all over the world still see that flag as a beacon of hope. From your “neutral perspective” is there a flag that draws more immigrants, inspires more dreams, or has freed more people from oppression?

        • Nick

          ‘Is there a flag that draws more immigrants, inspires more dreams, or has freed more people from oppression?’ I repeat: Always amazes me how much nationalism seems to numb the faculties.
          One could just as well ask ‘Is there a flag that has graced more torture chambers or that has flapped in more lynching trees?’.
          The USA includes the good, the bad and the ugly in it’s past and present as does Cuba.
          You say you support the process that put trump in power?
          So did Putin.

          • Moses Patterson

            We could continue this back and forth ad nauseum. It appears that your best defense of the Castro dictatorship is simply the argument that the US is guilty too. This false equivalency does not absolve Cuba of wrongdoing. Furthermore, this blog is about CUBA. Your grievances about the US are not appropriate for this forum.

          • CErmle

            If grievances about the US are not welcome here, why do the counter revolutionaries on this forum constantly mention the US of A? Is only praise for that country welcome here? The forum must be open to all ideas.

          • Moses Patterson

            Counter-revolutionary? Is that the same as being pro-democracy?

          • CErmle

            But the majority of the American people did NOT vote for Trump. The majority, by 3 million voters, cast their votes for Mrs. Clinton.

        • CErmle

          Perhaps you forgot that Mrs. Clinton won the majority of the votes and in the eyes of the common people defeated Trump winning 3 million more votes than he did. Some democracy. Mandela was right: “One Man One Vote!” The majority wins in a true democracy. As for freeing more people from “oppression”, you seem to forget the legacy of millions of enslaved men, women, and children, large numbers of whom were owned outright by many of the founders of the nation. They were not even considered human, so don’t get too patriotic, my friend, or brainwashed. Let’s face the reality.

          • Moses Patterson

            Forget slavery? Me? Hahaha! That’s hilarious. The Electoral College may be an idea whose time has past. However, we knew the rules of the game and agreed to play. We just have to suck it up and do better next time.

          • Nick

            Mr P likes going back and forth in this way.
            And it usually goes a little something like this:
            1 Mr P comes out with some typical criticism of Cuba.
            2 Someone tells him that his country ain’t no paradise either.
            3 Mr P puts in a big old comment about how great his country is.
            4 Someone says that Mr P’s country has imperfections as does Cuba.
            5 Mr P says that his country is democratic and Cuba isn’t.
            4 It’s pointed out that his country is currently led by a demented fascist sympathiser who was put in power by the Russians and who actually got significantly less votes in the election than Hilary.
            5 Mr P says this forum is not about his country.
            Etc…….

  • Maria Werlau

    Cuba’s “altruism” constitutes its largest source of revenues (around US$8 billion according to Cuba´s official statistics as per ONE’s last report); it’s based on the exploitation (“trafficking”) of its “internationalist” workers. And Angola paid Cuba billions for its “altruistic” military intervention.