Hundreds of thousands join the New Poor People’s Campaign virtual March

Hundreds of thousands join the New Poor People’s Campaign virtual March

Demonstrators march outside the U.S. Capitol during the Poor People’s Campaign rally at the National Mall in Washington on Saturday, June 23, 2018. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Poor People’s Campaign events for June 21-22, 2020, were held online, part of a nationwide “Virtual March on Washington.” | Jose Luis Magana / AP

WASHINGTON—From eradication of poverty, an end to U.S. racism, to dismantling the war machine and creating a Green New Deal with thousands of well-paying jobs—especially union jobs—hundreds of thousands of people demanded a complete reversal and creation of a better society in three virtual mass marches on D.C. the weekend of June 20-21.

The point of those New Poor People’s Campaign events was to reiterate an interlocking list of demands for specific measures to end poverty and racism in the U.S. And to set the stage for the next part of the mass movement: Registration and voting.

Co-chair Rev. Liz Theoharis speaks during the virtual march on Washington. | Poor People’s Campaign (@UniteThePoor) via Twitter

“This isn’t about conservative versus liberal. That’s too puny,” said the Rev. William Barber II, the NPPC co-chair, with the Rev. Liz Theoharis. “It isn’t about right versus left. It’s about life versus death.”

To further their cause, the NPPC released a new and more comprehensive Moral Justice Jubilee Policy Platform available on its website.

Poverty alone may be approaching half the population, Barber said, due to the current depression, which has thrown at least 40 million people out of work, on top of the 140 million who were poor even before the crash hit.

The Moral Justice Jubilee Policy is a 14-page set of specific demands of ways to root out entrenched racism, dismantle the U.S. war machine and redirect military money, which totals $718 billion this year, towards education, health and social welfare, demilitarize the police and bring them under control and create a new and just economy that includes strong workers’ rights and millions of new well-paying jobs, especially union jobs, via the Green New Deal.

They demanded massive pro-green change to the economy, including an end to fracking and refinery and pipeline construction. One video speaker, former Vice President Al Gore, pushed that point, adding all problems they’re fighting against—poverty, exploitation, and climate destruction—are interwoven.

Related:  Poor People’s Campaign

 

“For far too long, the poor, the immigrants, the people of color have been blamed for society’s problems,” Theoharis said before quoting Biblical prophets Micah and Jeremiah and the gospel of Matthew, on social justice. “We’ve been fed the lies of scarcity in a society of abundance…We want to break through the lie that only small changes are possible, or the lie that the rich and powerful can save us.”

Political change, particularly curbing corporate interests and their power over the rest of us, was a strong theme, too. “Fearsome and illegitimate power and money are combining to destroy what remains of our democracy,” Barber declared. “Ignoring the poor and protecting the rich is evil,” Theoharis added.

Barber pointed out, however, that the NPPC does not endorse candidates, but mobilizes voters—notably poor voters whom politicians of both parties have ignored, and who are discouraged as a result.

But economist Julianne Malveaux took aim at GOP President Donald Trump, too, though not by name. Citing his “Make America great again” slogan, she scornfully asked: “Great for who?”

“Black Americans and poor Americans have always been in crisis. The way capitalism works is the poor at the bottom are being exploited so the others can make some money. It’s the function of a predatory capitalist economy.”

At least one rank-and-file speaker, a woman from Dallas, was even more pointed. “We are being attacked by the corporate KKK,” she said. “White supremacy used to be wrapped in a sheet. Now it’s in a corporate business suit.”

Barber and the NPPC platform didn’t spare right-wing preachers either. One plank in their platform demands combat against “the distorted narrative of religious nationalism.”

The hundreds of NPPC co-sponsors, including 12 unions, ranged from Advocates for Youth to the Zeta Phi Beta sorority. Many teamed up to broadcast the rallies on social media, accounting for the huge turnout: At least 150,000 attended the first 3-1/2-hour session that began at 10 a.m. June 20, and thousands more tuned into rebroadcasts that night and the following evening.

Union sponsors included the United Electrical Workers, the Auto Workers, the Communications Workers, the Association of Flight Attendants, the Government Employees, both big teachers unions, the Steelworkers, the Postal Workers, Fight For $15 And A Union, the Service Employees, the Painters and Unite Here.

The NPPC’s first session alone far outdrew right-wing President Trump’s campaign rally at an arena in Tulsa, Okla. Trump defied health warnings about large crowds spreading the coronavirus. As of 7:30 p.m. June 20, that pandemic has sickened 2.251 million people in the U.S., and killed 119,654 nationwide.

The high NPPC turnout was also driven by current events, including the economic depression, the pandemic, police murders of unarmed African Americans—with no justice in those cases—and subsequent daily mass marches nationwide demanding fundamental change to root out entrenched racism in police and society as a whole.

Other deep causes exist, Barber, Theoharis and other speakers said.

They include a government beholden to corporate interests, systemic poverty used as a method of repression, consistent high joblessness—ranging up to 75% at one Native American reservation—for people of color, and divide-and-conquer tactics of the elite used against people of color, poor whites, women and union workers.

“Less than 50% of Black adults have a job,” due to the depression, Unite Here Vice President Nia Winston noted. She was one of four union leaders to speak, along with Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, AFA-CWA President Sara Nelson, and AFSCME President Lee Saunders.

The problems also include deep-seated police attitudes towards people of color, plus police militarization. “No police should be walking around with military equipment, with tear gas, with tanks,” said Claudia De La Cruz of the South Bronx. “It’s crazy.” One platform plank calls for an end to the Defense Department turnover of heavy military equipment to local police forces.

All this should lead to systemic societal change via systemic governmental change, Barber said—change achieved peacefully through the ballot box, he emphasized.

Co-chair Rev. William Barber speaks during the virtual march on Washington. | Poor People’s Campaign (@UniteThePoor) via Twitter

Quoting from the Declaration of Independence, Barber explained: “It is the right of the people to alter or abolish any form of government that becomes destructive of these ends (human rights) and to institute a new form of government.

“It is time to change this long train of abuses,” he added. Government “can be altered and a new and better government can be instituted.”

Other speakers took up other causes in the NPPC agenda.

“My co-workers and I started organizing a union,” at their Starbucks in Orlando, Fla., barista Olivia Williams said. “We were frustrated by management’s refusal to provide personal protective equipment” against the coronavirus. “We’re not afraid to fight.”

“Where we try to fight, our ability to do so is taken from us by right-to-work” laws, said one coal miner from Southwest Virginia. “As long as we’re divided, they”—the corporate elite—“can conquer.”

“Black and brown students whose schools were denied half a trillion dollars are now being told by the Republicans in the Senate they should return to schools in the fall—schools with even less funding” than before the pandemic, added Weingarten.

The NPPC originally planned a mass physical march on Washington, but the coronavirus pandemic and the fear of infection in large crowds shelved that. The virtual march far outpaced the campaign’s first march on Washington, almost exactly two years ago, which drew 25,000 people, Barber said.

“America must hear herself and see herself,” he declared. “It’s time for transformation, reconstruction and a moral revival….Now is the time for eloquent rage.

“We came…to build a movement to rise up together and shift up the moral narrative. Somebody’s been beating our people and we won’t be silent anymore”—a common theme from speakers during the virtual event.

BLACK PRINCE FOR GEORGE FLOYD

NANCY MOREJÓN / BLACK PRINCE FOR GEORGE FLOYD

 

Though he really wanted to hurl you into the Mississippi,

that cannibal in deceptive uniform

quietly burnt his knee

on your inert throat.

The smoke rising from your flesh climbs to the tearful sky.

Skipping between the flowers, the air you exhale

pursues the cannibal’s ghost until it bites

his bloody fang.

And, indomitable, you give hope, on the wet asphalt,

under the quiet shade of an apple tree

in Minneapolis,

where we will place, for you,

this diamond, this clean

black prince of ours,

in your memory.

 

Cerro, Havana, June 4, 2020

Translated by . Keith Ellis

 

PRÍNCIPE NEGRO PARA GEORGE FLOYD

Aunque su sueño era lanzarte al Mississippi,

aquel caníbal de uniforme opaco

ha quemado en silencio su rodilla

sobre tu cuello inerte.

El humo de tu carne va subiendo hasta el cielo mojado.

Saltando entre las flores, el aire de tus bronquios

persigue su fantasma hasta morder

el colmillo sangriento del caníbal.

Y tú alientas, indómito, sobre el asfalto húmedo,

bajo la sombra quieta de un manzano

en Minneapolis,

donde colocaremos, para ti,

este brillante, este limpio

príncipe negro nuestro,

a tu memoria.

 

Cerro, 4 de junio, 2020

Community Control of the Police – and a Whole Lot More

Community Control of the Police – and a Whole Lot More
Community Control of the Police – and a Whole Lot More

Abolition of the police begins with community control, in which community representatives not only hire, fire and oversee the cops, but decide the nature of the policing that is necessary and acceptable.

“Movements are about amassing power to the people, not collecting promises from corporate flunkies.”

The wave of people’s protests across the nation, backed by solidarity actions in cities around the world, has caused the corporate oligarchy and its servants to make promises they can’t keep and give lip service to programs they have always resisted. The Congressional Black Caucus, the vast bulk of whose members backed militarization of local police and elevation of cops to the status of “protected” class, now claims to favor limits on police arsenals, less legal immunities for cops and a grab-bag of other reforms they previously dismissed out of hand. Mayors that know damn well they will have to cut spending across the board due to catastrophic loss of tax revenues during the current, Covid-induced Great Depression, now profess that they plan to withhold funds from cops in deference to the “defund the police” movement. They’re a bunch of Kente-clothed liars, of course, but movements are about amassing power to the people, not collecting promises from corporate flunkies. That means demanding community control of the police, and of those funds that local governments are supposedly diverting from the police to social programs.

If anything has been learned from the past half century of Black reliance on Democratic Party politicians, it is that no lasting victories can be achieved without the transfer of control of public resources directly to the people. That was the meaning of “All Power to the People” when the phrase was coined, and must remain the goal of the movement, today.

“No lasting victories can be achieved without the transfer of control of public resources directly to the people.”

Although there is no intrinsic contradiction between the three most-voiced demands of the current movement — community control of police, defunding the police, and abolition of policing as we know it – only proposals for community control of the police directly confront the issue of power in the here and now, and also address demands for direct democracy and Black self-determination. Community control of the police was essential to the formation of the Black Panther Party, and has been an active demand of Chicago organizers since 2012.  Support for a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) has grown from only one of the 50-member city council (board of aldermen) to 19 co-sponsors  of the enabling legislation. Last fall, more than a thousand activists from across the country met in Chicago to endorse the concept of community control of police, and pledged to fight for its enactment in 22 cities – a list that has grown with the wave of George Floyd protests.

Although community control of the police is within reach of becoming law in Chicago, a majority Black and brown city with the second largest concentration of Blacks in the nation, the demand has gotten less traction in nationwide demonstrations than the call for defunding the cops, or eventual abolition. That’s undoubtedly because Black Lives Matter demands have been pervasive in the current demonstrations, and BLM supports defunding of police. However, Black Lives Matter is more a quilt than a monolith, and many Black Lives Matter chapters and individuals also support community control of the police, while CPAC activists also back defunding and abolition of the cops as a logical outcome of community control. The elements of Black Lives Matter that are resistant to community control of police are those under the influence of hashtag founder Alicia Garza, who is now a Democratic Party political player and go-to person for corporate philanthropy.

“Black Lives Matter is more a quilt than a monolith.”

A serious, methodical program of defunding the police requires a community control approach. Ninety percent of actual police duties do not involve making felony arrests, and there is a consensus that cops should not deal with domestic disputes, mentally disturbed people, or a host of social contradictions – and maybe not even traffic control, which long ago devolved into pretexts for criminal charges. Therefore, defunding of police leads directly to the funding of specific public services, some of them currently badly performed by cops and all of which should be overseen by the publics most directly affected. Absent community control, defunding of police will only result in a shrinkage of the domestic army of occupation, not a change in the lethally oppressive relationship, and any social services that receive new funding will be answerable only to the legislators that had previously starved the community of services.

Abolition of the police begins with community control, in which community representatives not only hire, fire and oversee the cops, but decide the nature of the policing that is necessary and acceptable. Community control is a prerequisite to communities policing themselves to the greatest degree possible.

Indeed, communities should control, not just the police, but much of the rest of their neighborhoods’ vital services and resources. The right to self-determination is not confined to the criminal justice system. Therefore, community control of police advocates would be in principled agreement with the Los Angeles Movement 4 Black Lives position : “The most impacted in our communities need to control the laws, institutions, and policies that are meant to serve us – from our schools to our local budgets, economies, and police department.”

Abolition of the police begins with community control.”

Community control is how we build socialism within the framework of people’s right to self-determination – the principles by which, along with solidarity, we de-colonize and dis-imperialize our world. ”Power to the People” means disempowering the capitalist and white supremacist. Everything else is a diversion, conjured up by the Kente cloth-soiling Black Misleadership Class in service to their bosses, the oligarchs. They have betrayed us repeatedly and laughed at our willingness to trust them yet again. In George Floyd’s name, let this be the end of it.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com .

The End of Sanders, and Maybe the Beginning of a Mass Independent Left

Source:  Black Agenda Report

April 19 2020

by Glen Ford

As BAR has maintained for the last two presidential seasons, the best outcome of the primaries would be a mass exit from the Democratic Party, the fraudulent left section of the oligarch-ruled duopoly


The End of Sanders, and Maybe the Beginning of a Mass Independent Left

Sander’s early Return of the Prodigal Son to the bosom of the Party allows him to escape the deep critique of capitalist medicine and political-economy that would be required of a “leftish” presidential candidate as this never-in-our-lifetimes crisis unfolds.

A core of Sanders supporters will experience a eureka moment and exit the Democrats, in body and mind.”

The COVID-19 epidemic has exposed the privatized US healthcare structure’s woeful incapacity to cope with a general health emergency, as well as the failings of Europe’s austerity-shrunken public health care systems. Although Donald Trump’s actions, inactions and idiotic blatherings have added immeasurably to the death toll, a major medical and economic catastrophe was inevitable once the virus was loosed on a defenseless U.S. public. Trump didn’t create the conditions that made the United States so vulnerable to a killer virus. That’s one of the many crimes of capitalism, which at its late stage is methodically starving what’s left of the public sphere and privatizing every conceivable human enterprise for the ultimate benefit of the Lords of Capital – the ruling oligarchy.

Bernie Sanders claimed to be running against the oligarchy in his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination, but meekly surrendered to Joe Biden, the personification of the glad-handing corporate shill and champion of the status quo, once the momentum of the primaries had turned. Sanders said he would resume his duties as a full-time senator doing “the work that needs to be done to protect people in this most desperate hour.”

A major medical and economic catastrophe was inevitable once the virus was loosed on a defenseless U.S. public.”

But the raw truth is, Sanders surrendered unconditionally to a Democratic Party that is, in the Age of Trump, the electoral representative of the bulk of a fractured U.S. ruling class – the oligarchy. Without warning, Sanders demobilized his legions, even while claiming to continue to lead “a grass-roots, multiracial, multigenerational movement which has always believed that real change never comes from the top on down, but always from the bottom on up.” Sanders thanked  his generous followers, nearly two million of whom donated at least $167 million  to his campaign. Unknown millions remain unspent, and much more could be raised from even a greatly diminished cohort of Sanders true-believers if the self-described socialist was sincere about leading a well-funded “movement” outside the corporate duopoly. But Sanders is going out as a fraud who will refuse to turn over either unspent campaign monies or precious voter lists to his “grassroots” supporters or anybody outside the Democratic Party.

It is widely believed in Sanders’ circles that his greatest fear is to become like Ralph Nader, the former Green Party presidential candidate who is still vilified for supposedly throwing the 2000 election to George Bush. But Nader was the least of Democrat Al Gore’s problems and has nothing to be ashamed of. From publication of his corporate-pummeling 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed : The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile, and the phenomenal growth of Nader-inspired Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGS) two decades later, Nader has been a potent critic of oligarchy who, at 86, still rages at the machine from the outside. But Sanders, who has always caucused with Democrats, cannot imagine life outside the corporate duopoly. Despite his austerity-busting agenda, Sanders remains an “inside man” – in the same sense as criminals of that description. This month he ended the charade and was welcomed back into the “family” – one of the two parties the Lords of Capital can rightly call “our thing” (la cosa nostra).

“Sanders cannot imagine life outside the corporate duopoly.

Sanders punked out early this time around, with language as contradictory and dishonest on-its-face as Trump-speak. “I will stay on the ballot in all remaining states and continue to gather delegates,” said Sanders in his surrender statement . “While Vice President Biden will be the nominee, we must continue working to assemble as many delegates as possible at the Democratic convention.” But of course, you cannot keep piling up significant votes and delegates while simultaneously conceding victory to a corporate flunky – thus making Sanders’s “suspended” campaign unfit for even “protest” votes.

For the second time in two presidential cycles, Sanders has lived up to Bruce Dixon’s depiction of him as a “sheepdog” for the Democrats. “Sheepdogs are herders,” wrote Dixon, the BAR co-founder who died last June, “and the sheepdog candidate is charged with herding activists and voters back into the Democratic fold who might otherwise drift leftward and outside of the Democratic Party, either staying home or trying to build something outside the two party box.” That’s Sanders to a T.

Sanders bowed out of the race the minute his momentum stalled, at the very same time that the greatest combined health and economic calamity in U.S. history was gripping the nation by the throat – a teaching moment if one ever existed, if health care and economic inequality were really Sanders’ top priority. He did acknowledge the ballooning crisis: “In terms of health care, this current, horrific crisis that we are now in has exposed for all to see how absurd our current employer-based health insurance system is. The current economic downturn we are experiencing has not only led to a massive loss of jobs but has also resulted in millions of Americans losing their health insurance.”

“For the second time in two presidential cycles, Sanders has lived up to Bruce Dixon’s depiction of him as a “sheepdog” for the Democrats.”

And then he quit the race, relinquishing the presidential primary bully-pulpit in favor of senatorial duties that could easily have been accomplished as a candidate, given that in-person campaign rallies and such aren’t allowed during the emergency. Bernie’s early Return of the Prodigal Son to the bosom of the Party allows him to escape the deep critique of capitalist medicine and political-economy that would be required of a “leftish” presidential candidate as this never-in-our-lifetimes crisis unfolds. In the presence of catastrophe, the logic of Sanders’ own rhetoric would have forced him to go beyond the limits of capitalist discourse – the only language Democrats allow – both in his analysis and campaign planks. Sanders chose to cut the process short, while he could still go home to the Party.

The bulk of older Democrats will wallow in the oblivion of Democratic Party politics, pretending that Trump brought on the crisis, and is indeed responsible for all the ills of capitalism, even though the Democratic National Committee insisted on sending the party faithful into primary voting spots  that were infested with viral death . Older Blacks will betray their own leftish world views – as they do every primary election — and stick with Biden as the only candidate that can beat Trump, although it was Sanders who actually fit that description. But crises do alter and crystalize people’s worldviews. A core of Sanders supporters, numbering possibly several millions, plus many others that did not consider themselves radicals until they saw how “the system” left them naked to COVID-19 and the accompanying economic immiseration, will experience a eureka moment and exit the Democrats, in body and mind. The only question is: will there be alternative, independent political vehicles for their anger and energies that are equipped to handle an influx not seen since the Sixties?

As BAR has maintained for the last two presidential seasons, the best outcome of the primaries would be a mass exit from the Democratic Party, the fraudulent left section of the oligarch-ruled duopoly. (The vast bulk of Republicans have chosen the right home for their racist ilk: The White Man’s Party.) Younger Blacks have not abandoned the historical Black consensus on social justice and peace, and some took part in renewed stirrings of “movement” politics during the “Black Lives Matter” struggles. They will have a lot to think about in the enforced relative isolation of CoronaTime – and may become the 21st century’s Black Left Generation.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com

Cuba continues to work to guarantee safe return of its kidnapped doctors

Source:  La Santa Mambisa

April 14 2020

Immersed in the great task of dealing with Covid-19, Cuba, its government and its president Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, do not forget for a second the two doctors, Assel Herrera and Landy Rodríguez, kidnapped in Kenya

Díaz-Canel, on his Twitter account, wrote that he had called the relatives of both doctors and assured them that, despite the current world situation of the covid-19, “we continue the efforts for their safe return to Cuba” .

The two Cuban health professionals were kidnapped in Kenya by the Al Shabab group, and taken to neighboring Somalia.

During all this time, Cuba has held systematic conversations with the governments of both countries, and its top leaders have assured the authorities of the Island that the collaborators of Medicine are alive, and all efforts are made for their release.

Coinciding with this first year of kidnapping, the spokesman for the Kenyan Executive, Cyril Oguna, assured the EFE agency that

“We work every day to make sure they come home alive.”

Asked if the Kenyan government has received any proof of recent life, Oguna replied: «Yes. We are working with our partners when it comes to sharing intelligence information. We have evidence that they are alive.

From the same day 04/12/19, in an informative note, the MINSAP announced that all channels were established with the Kenyan authorities, to reach a solution regarding the kidnapping of both internationalist doctors.

Two days later, on April 14, Miguel Díaz-Canel stated, on his Twitter account, that “Cuba is working tirelessly for the safe return of Assel (Herrera) and Landy (Rodríguez), our doctors kidnapped in Kenya.

With them and their loved ones we share the certainty that their humanitarian mission will be respected and recognized. We believe in the power of solidarity ».

On June 22 of the same year, on another Twitter, the president reported that he had “telephone conversations with the presidents of Kenya and Somalia, HE. Mr.

Uhru Kenyatta and Abdullahi Mohamed, as part of the permanent monitoring that we do of the actions to obtain the return of our kidnapped doctors Landy Rodríguez and Assel Herrera ».

On December 16 of last year, Cuba conveyed its gratitude to the Government of Kenya for the efforts made by that country to try to achieve the safe return of the doctors to the West Indian nation.

“The Kenyan authorities confirmed that both doctors are well and will continue efforts for their safe return,” said Inés María Chapman, vice president of the Cuban Council of Ministers at a press conference.

On December 30, 2019, Díaz-Canel held talks with the presidents of Kenya and Somalia, in which they exchanged on the current state of bilateral relations and on the efforts for the safe return of doctors to the Homeland.

During a meeting on January 17, 2020, with relatives of the doctor Assel Herrera in Las Tunas, the Cuban President reiterated to them the “full support” of the Government in the midst of the “unfortunately long and complex” process to obtain his return.

Then, on February 8, Díaz-Canel visited in Santa Clara the relatives of the Cuban doctor Landy Rodríguez Hernández, to whom he reaffirmed that Cuba continues to work constantly to guarantee the safe return of his compatriots.

Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration Blasts US Moves

Source:  TeleSUR
April 4 2020

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks during an interview with Xinhua at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 27, 2019Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks during an interview with
Xinhua at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela,
Aug. 27, 2019 | Photo: Xinhua

In a statement by its General Secretary David Denny, the organization blasted the continuous and escalating aggressions by the Trump administration towards Venezuela. 

The statement reads in full:

The Government of the USA has military ships in the Caribbean that have threatened the Government and People of Venezuela. This aggression is very serious and threatens our region with a war. War in our region will threaten the lives of all Caribbean People.

The Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration wants to know tonight what is the position of the Caribbean Governments and CARICOM in relation to the USA Military Ships in the Caribbean.

The Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration called on all Caribbean People to protest against the USA Military Ships in the Caribbean at this time.

Tomorrow Caribbean Anti-imperialists will hold a meeting to plan solidarity action with the  Government and People of Venezuela and Cuba and against this USA military aggression.

David Denny
General Secretary
Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration

Cuban Doctors Arrive in Angola to Train 1500 Health Technicians

Source:  TeleSUR
April 11 2020

Cuban doctors arrive in Luanda, Angola, April 10, 2020.Cuban doctors arrive in Luanda, Angola, April 10, 2020. | Photo: EFE

Cuban revolution keeps fighting the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide despite U.S. harassment.

Angola’s Health Minister Silvia Lutucuta informed that 1,500 health technicians will be trained by Cuban doctors in matters of family medicine for community epidemiological surveillance.

RELATED: Cuba: Government Implements New Measures to Prevent COVID-19

“The training will take place at Girassol Hospital… because it has excellent simulators for practical classes, which is an indispensable condition,” local outlet SAPO reported.

With that training, “Angolan doctors will visit the families assigned to them, at a rate of 1,000 inhabitants per professional, cohabiting with the Cubans who arrived in Angola for the purpose,” the Inter-ministerial Commission for Pandemic Response spokesperson explained.

On Friday morning, 256 Cuban health workers arrived in Angola to support the fight against COVID-19, which has already infected 19 people in this African country.

The Cuban team members will be distributed to 164 municipalities in order to contain the epidemic from the rural territories with the greatest needs​​​​​​​.

“Cuban doctors will not only stay in referral hospitals.​​​​​​​ They will put their knowledge to the benefit of Angola and Angolans, even in remote areas, especially with confirmed cases,” the Health Minister said.

The Cuban medical team includes 188 physicians and 24 nurses who are part of the Henry Reeve’s brigade of health workers specialized in disaster and epidemic situations.​​​​​​​

On Friday, Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel denounced the increase in Washington’s actions to isolate the country in the current epidemiological context.

“Amid this health situation, attacks are growing to discredit the Revolution. Recently, the U.S. government has launched the slander that Cuba takes part in drug trafficking,” he said.

The Cuban Revolution has sent teams of its respected health workers to at least 15 different countries as part of its strategy of promoting medical diplomacy amid the global crisis.

HeberFERON, a unique Cuban medicine

Source:  Granma

April 9 2020

HeberFERON, a unique Cuban drug to treat skin cancer. Photo: CIGB

Treating skin cancer

The extension of therapeutic coverage to all municipalities across the country, with the opening of more sites, is the key strategy in the application program for HeberFERON; a one-of-a-kind medicine to treat skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma), developed and produced by Cuba’s Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB).

HeberFERONis prescribed for perilesional (intradermal) or intralesional therapies of basal cell carcinoma previously confirmed by a biopsy. The drug can be used as alternative or adjuvant therapy with other treatments (surgical or not), in cases of lesions of any size or clinical subtype and in any high-risk area (area H mask area of face) or locally advanced lesions that are difficult to treat due to local invasion and/or proximity to vital structures such as the eyes and brain.

Extending therapeutic coverage

Dr. Katherine Batista Ochoa, dermatologist in the province of Holguín, told Granma that in order to achieve the goal of extending therapeutic coverage, which began in 2016, a greater number of professionals are being trained with support of the University of Medical Sciences, with maxillofacial surgeons, ophthalmologists and oncologists, as well as dermatologists and a group of specialists in Comprehensive General Medicine (CGM), who are interested in the new therapy and are actively monitoring skin cancer patients.

“Once health personnel are trained, we can facilitate the opening of more clinical sites per municipality. We have 30 clinical sites, in 26 health service areas and four hospitals. This effort allows us to guarantee that at least one institution per municipality will provide HeberFERON therapy,” explained the coordinator of the HeberFERON program in Holguín.

The dermatologist explained that Holguín treated 224 patients in 2019, 80% of whom responded positively. Also contributing to these results were health promotion and prevention activities with the organization of various activities to identify potential patients and disseminate knowledge of the new drug. “I am talking about health fairs, information on local media, and promoting knowledge of HeberFERON among health professionals and the population,” she said. She recalled that a patient, sculptor Argelio Cobiellas, after being treated with HeberFERON, created a website called Movimiento a la Piel de la Esperanza, to provide individuals facing epithelial carcinoma a platform to share information and insights about their experience.

Good results in clinical trials

Dr. Vladimir Sánchez Linares, in the province of Sancti Spíritus, expressed a similar opinion: “We had the experience of being part of HeberFERON clinical trials with good results at Camilo Cienfuegos provincial hospital. Based on that, we developed a strategy to work at the primary level of our health care system and train a greater number of physicians.”

He noted stated that Sancti Spíritus is facing has a high incidence rate of skin tumors, with municipalities where a significant number of basal cell carcinoma cases are reported, such as in Cabaiguán. Most of treated patients are of Spanish descent, with very white skin and a predisposition to the disease. A similar situation exists in Trinidad, a coastal area that includes the cities of Casilda, Yaguajay and Tunas de Zaza, with a large population of workers in agriculture and fishing.

“We are carrying out a targeted survey in these areas. We found people who had undergone surgery previously and with facial scars, as well as other patients who had experienced re-occurrences and several who had refused surgery. On the basis of this survey, we treated 165 individuals in 2019, of whom more than 90 recovered completely, demonstrating the effectiveness of HeberFERON,” Dr. Vladimir Sánchez reported.

The main challenge is to involve more professionals, who see surgery as the first option to treat skin cancer, Dr. Sánchez continued, adding that he believes these colleagues must have their own experiences to develop confidence in the new product, which is effective in regenerating damaged tissue. “For example, a lesion on the ear pinna usually leads to amputation, thus the ear is mutilated, but with the use of HeberFERON we can avoid cutting off pieces of that part of the body,” he said.

Training sessions

Dr. Yisel Piña Rodríguez, an expert dermatologist in Matanzas, reported that, in order to promote the advantages of HeberFERON in her province, training sessions are being held and events organized for professionals and patients to share experiences. She stated that all hospitals in Matanzas have opened clinical sites, while eight polyclinics in the 13 municipalities are also using the therapy, allowing a total of 341 patients to be treated in 2019.

“I think the impulse of the directors has been important, but we doctors who joined the program are the vital link.”

“This is a drug that has revolutionized epithelial tumor treatment, since surgery has always been considered as the main option for treating patients with basal cell carcinoma. Other very expensive pharmacueticals exist around the world that Cuba cannot afford to purchase. HeberFERON is similar to these international products.”

HeberFERON mixes two types of interferons: alpha and gamma, for effective treatment of basal cell carcinomas, a very common and high incidence skin cancer around the world. These tumors arise on the nose, ears, eyelids, facial areas around the eye and on the chest and back neckline.

This cancer evolves rapidly and is detectable when an abnormal formation of a tumoral nature is observed at the basal layer of the epidermis. They are generally seen in areas exposed to the sun or humidity.

Basal cell carcinoma is most commonly seen in older adults who have worked outdoors, in agriculture, fishing or sports training.

Those with a family history of skin cancer and known genetic factors often experience recurrent carcinomas.

Specific skin type more vulnerable; individuals with very fair skin, light eyes and hair are more likely to develop this type of carcinoma.

Patients with dark complexions and under 40 years of age are now being seen, due to the effects of climate change and damage to the ozone layer, which have led to greater exposure to ultraviolet rays for those living in the tropics.

Basal cell carcinoma has a significant impact in Cuba, where some 4,000 cases are reported each year.