By Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — When a new year begins, good people wish for a year of peace, health and progress for themselves and others, for things to get better. For some strange reason, there are people who selfishly only think about themselves and they don’t care about other people’s suffering.
With news of the new year, we have received news about a great range of different situations, from Pope Francisco’s good wishes for all human beings, to the humanitarian crisis that the people in Yemen are experiencing, and it seems that this doesn’t seem to bother rich and powerful politicians very much,.
Starting with Latin America, which is our region, the social landscape reflected in the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean’s (CEPAL) report is truly worrying. First of all, it states that poverty levels have increased, after more than a decade of this falling in most countries.
The report reveals that the number of people living in poverty increased from 168 million in 2014 to 186 million in 2016, while the number of those living in extreme poverty rose from 48 million to 61 million over the same time period. These are alarming figures which relate to political changes in the region as some countries have gone from having a left-wing government, concerned about their fellow countrymen’s wellbeing, to neoliberal governments who care very little about the suffering of their people and they dedicate themselves to sinking their countries into more and more debt so as to increase their own personal fortunes as well as those of their capitalist friends. These are the governments that Washington supports and approves of.
Latin America has been labeled the most unequal region in the world, as great accumulations of wealth exist alongside great concentrations of poverty and extreme poverty, with all of the human suffering these entail; but capitalists don’t care about any of that.
In other parts of the world, like in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, millions of people die of hunger and vaccine-preventable and treatable diseases, without effective aid measures being adopted. UN agencies do what they can to help, but available funds aren’t enough and in the meantime, rich countries such as the US are cutting their contributions without caring about just how much suffering this can cause.
While the United States is cutting its budget to slow down the UN’s humanitarian aid work, it is increasing its military budget greatly so as to keep this huge war machine going all over the world, creating more humanitarian crises, such as what has happened in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and they want to wipe Palestine off the map, so they send enormous sums in military aid to Israel every year, this country being the greatest abuser of human rights in that region.
The UN has declared a humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the images you can see on TV are blood-curdling, but rich people look the other way so as not to see them or they pretend they don’t know what is going on.
With just a small part of all that is spent worldwide on weapons to kill, millions of lives could be saved and a lot could be contributed to the development of many countries which today are struggling with extreme poverty, starvation, unhealthy living conditions and growing underdevelopment. Even the problem of millions of people living in the richest country in the world without a roof over their head and healthcare could be solved.
This whole situation contrasts with the Cuban government and people’s attitude, which in spite of being a poor country and having suffered a strict blockade for more than half a century, has provided aid to over 160 countries, with over 370,000 health professionals being deployed, who have saved thousands of lives and improved healthcare services in most of those countries, at no cost to patients. Plus, they have given over 2 million people their sight back or stopped them from going blind in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa, via its Operacion Milagro program.
We can also add the creation of the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) to these efforts, which has thus far trained over 28,000 doctors from 103 countries, including 170 doctors from the US, where poor people can’t study medicine because the degree is so expensive.
These are just some small differences between rich, developed capitalist countries and a small, I repeat, poor and blockaded country, but with a very high morale and a caring and altruistic people who do shudder when they see images of children dying of hunger, or worse still, as a result of bombs being dropped by US fighter planes, or of Israel, or any other friend of Imperialism, in wars that make no sense, which only make the world a more dangerous and unequal world every day.