HAVANA.- “Fidel not only belongs to Cuba, he belongs to this world of ours, to Our America,” stated eternal President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez Frías, August 13, 2001, while we Cubans know that our leader was bound by neither limits, borders, space, or time.

We were witness to his vocation for solidarity, there following a natural disaster, an act of injustice, a people in need of healthcare, or youth desperate to study. He understood that poverty is eradicated through cooperation, not with bombs.

He made internationalist solidarity a pillar of Cuban foreign policy, and offered support to national liberation movements in Latin America, Africa and Asia in the 1960s.
Algeria was the first country to benefit from Cuban assistance in December 1961, as it fought against French colonial rule.

Another of Cuba’s noteworthy internationalist efforts was the support it offered Angola between 1975 and 1988, when thousands of Cuban combatants helped the young African nation to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity against the schemes of the former Apartheid regime in South Africa, equipped with modern weaponry supplied by western capitalist powers.

The Cuban Revolution, led by Fidel Castro, also supported Vietnam’s resistance to U.S. military intervention in their country and once victory had been achieved, opened up its educational institutions to train thousands of Vietnamese in diverse professions.

The island also welcomed militants from Latin American leftist organizations, forced to seek refuge from persecution by military regimes in the 1970s.

The island’s main contribution has been in the health sector, which has treated and healed millions of disadvantaged people worldwide. In 1960 Cuba sent healthcare professionals to Chile following an earthquake which destroyed the country. By 1963 the first medical brigade had been created, composed of 55 collaborators, who traveled to Algeria to help the people of that nation.

Since then the island has helped to improve health indicators in 158 countries; while some 50,000 professionals are currently offering medical services in over 60 nations worldwide. Other noteworthy results include the country’s Comprehensive Health Program, which has benefited communities across Central America, after the region was hit by a hurricane in 1998, as well as Operation Miracle, which has provided eye surgery to people with few resources in various countries of the so-called Third World.

Solidarity with Cuba is present in practically all countries on the planet. Photo: Prensa Latina/ taken from GranmaSolidarity with Cuba is present in practically all countries on the planet. Photo: Prensa Latina/ taken from Granma

Meanwhile, the Henry Reeve International Contingent of Doctors Specialized in Disaster Situations and Serious Epidemics, was founded on September 19, 2005, on the proposal of Fidel after Hurricane Katrina struck the southern United States. Although this offer of solidarity assistance was rejected by the country’s President at the time, George W. Bush, the initiative led to the establishment of another 40 brigades, which have responded to emergency situations in 23 countries.

Furthermore, the commendable work of Cuban doctors who combated the lethal Ebola epidemic in West Africa and the mortal cholera virus in Haiti must also be highlighted.

Cuba has trained almost 40,000 health professionals worldwide. Also deserving of mention are the thousands of foreign post-graduate students who have received tutorship and advisory services from Cuban teachers. Likewise, over the last 17 years more than 27,500 students from 89 nations have graduated from the Latin American School of Medicine, a project created by Fidel on November 15, 1999.

Regarding education, in 2003 Cuba designed and implemented the Yo, sí puedo (Yes, I can) literacy method on the proposal of Fidel Castro, with the aim of ending illiteracy worldwide. This program has enabled Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua to eradicate this scourge over the last decade.

The method is implemented in various countries across the continent and world, is available in several languages including French, Creole, Guaraní, and Maorí, and continues to provide thousands with the gift of reading and writing.

During the closing ceremony of the Wold Solidarity with Cuba Encounter, held in Havana on November 25, 1994, Fidel stated, “When we were helping revolutionaries in Central America, the U.S. said that they would lift the blockade if we stopped helping them. Such a thing never crossed our mind. On other occasions they told us that they would be willing to lift the blockade, if we stopped helping Angola and other African countries, and it never crossed our minds to negotiate our relations with other countries. At other times, they said that they would lift the blockade if we broke-off relations with the Soviet Union, and such a thing never crossed our mind, because we are not a party or political leadership that negotiates its principles. At this price, the blockade will never cease to exist, because it’s a price we are unwilling to pay.”

At that time and throughout his life, Fidel vehemently defended Cuba against every form of U.S. aggression. His speeches were exceptional lessons to help guide the masses in how to free ourselves from global capitalist domination.

He met with young people from around the world and the U.S. itself, who defying the criminal laws of the economic blockade of the island, traveled to the country to learn about Cuba’s reality. He spoke with them for many hours, explaining that the Revolution needs the participation of all in every trench, across the entire Planet. Fidel was, and is, an ally of global solidarity.

“Fidel believes that heaven on Earth is possible,” stated Brazilian friend Frei Betto; we say: “Fidel made heaven on Earth possible, and vice versa.”