In recognition for the Cuban doctors’ efforts to aid nations across the world to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, there have been recommendations for the Henry Reeves Medical Brigade to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The brigade was founded by the Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro after the U.S. rejected Cuba’s offer of humanitarian aid in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
In 2015, the Henry Reeves Medical Brigade was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for its contribution to fighting the Ebola pandemic, in which Cuba’s medical and humanitarian aid stood in sharp contrast to the militarisation employed by the U.S.
The prize carries with it recognition as well as notoriety. Among the winners are Henry Kissinger, who introduced Chile to neoliberalism and dictatorship in a bid to prevent the Cuban revolutionary influence from spreading across Latin America through democratic elections. Other winners include the UN Peace Keeping Forces which have been accused of several human rights violations including sexual abuse, the UN itself, which has abdicated from its responsibility to eradicate colonialism, Barack Obama, under whose rule military interventions ravaged the Arab World under the pretext of the Arab Spring and the EU, which prides itself on peacebuilding yet supports Israeli colonisation and military interventions as determined by the U.S., the UN and NATO.
Contrary to popular opinion, there is nothing noble about the Prize. The spectrum of winners, from individuals who have truly made a positive difference to the world, to war criminals lauded as peace purveyors, indicates dynamics other than altruism at play. The Nobel Peace Prize can also serve a political agenda which is far removed from the revolutionary principles and practices of Fidel, the Cuban Revolution and the Cuban people.
As the first Cuban doctors reached Europe, talk of ending the illegal U.S. blockade on Cuba ignited and later dwindled to less than echoes. As the pandemic shows initial signs of abating in Europe, the political rhetoric followed suit. Cuban internationalism has set an example on its own for the entire world. The international community, on the other hand, refuses the principles which contributed to enhancing the well being of civilians.
There was little chance of world leaders offering more than recognition of Cuba’s exemplary internationalist role. In Europe, additional surveillance and pushbacks were implemented under the guise of preventing a further pandemic spread. Militarising borders and the Mediterranean remained the order of the day.
Cuba has performed both a humanitarian and a political gesture. Saving lives is humanitarian. The internationalist principles which Fidel imparted and consolidated through revolutionary education processes across the island are political. Socialist principles have been proven as a sustainable solution, yet the rhetoric has already shifted from political action to transient recognition of Cuba’s efforts to help curb the coronavirus spread.
If the Nobel Peace Prize recommendation is taken further, the international community will be handed an opportunity to exploit the recognition. For decades, the only concession the UN has given Cuba is regular voting against the U.S.-imposed blockade, but no political action to end the isolation.
True to form, the UN’s latest call to the U.S. to lift the illegal blockade has been articulated within the context of COVID-19. The statement partly reads, “In the pandemic emergency, the lack of will of the U.S. Government to suspend sanctions may lead to a higher risk of such suffering in Cuba and other countries targeted by its sanctions.” Had there been no coronavirus pandemic, the UN would not have felt the urgency to issue a statement calling for the lifting of the illegal blockade. The international community is exploitative, yet Cuba responded with principles, dedication and collective action to save lives. A Nobel Peace Prize is far from satisfactory. Cuba does not need compensation in the form of glorified recognition, but a unified international front against the U.S. blockade based on principles, not on pandemics.