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Washington’s Cuba Policy Threatens Health in Cuba and the United States

Washington’s Cuba Policy Threatens Health in Cuba and the United States

December 13, 2017  Havana, Cuba

MEDICC’s Joint Academic Council calls on the Trump administration to reverse its recent hostile course towards Cuba, which negatively impacts joint efforts to improve health in both countries. The Council, our members including prestigious experts from the U.S, and Cuba, advises MEDICC, a US non-profit that is celebrating its 20th anniversary promoting bilateral health and medical cooperation.

The actions taken by the US government and their direct impact include:

  • The US administration has discouraged and even prohibited engagement with Cuba in key sectors such as health. IMPACT: With the new and regressive Cuba travel, trade and investment regulations that took effect in November, the US has taken a giant step backwards and tightened the 55-year embargo on Cuba’s 11 million people. This brutal policy punishes Cubans in all walks of life, further denying them the hard currency needed to develop their national and household economies. US people’s health will also suffer. Americans need the medications, experience and health strategies that have earned Cuba impressive health outcomes. For example, Cuban biotech has developed a medication that’s shown to reduce amputation risk by 70% from diabetic foot ulcers, while in the US, the condition results in 70,000 amputations annually. This and promising Cuban-developed cancer treatments are examples of losses to Americans if President Trump has his way.


  • The regulations restrict the right of Americans to travel to Cuba, exchange with Cuban colleagues and institutions and do business with Cuban enterprises, both public and private.  IMPACT: The rules and the embargo itself threaten to undo progress in health cooperation made under President Obama, whose administration signed two Memoranda of Understanding with Cuba’s public health sector, one directed at joint efforts to tackle cancer. This hampers cooperation to fight such diseases and to learn from Cuba’s universal public health system, developed despite the embargo.


  • President Trump has ruled Cuba off limits for travel by US government scientists, effectively cutting off budding joint efforts between health authorities of the two governments, specifically ending collaboration to fight Zika.  IMPACT: Cuba’s Tropical Medicine Institute is the hemisphere’s PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center for Zika and dengue, diseases unfamiliar to the US but now on its doorstep, as 75% of the continental United States is now home to the illnesses’ mosquito carriers. Cuba’s knowledge will go untapped for US patients.


  • Washington has leveled scientifically unproven charges against Cuba that health symptoms reported by US diplomats in Havana were the result of “sonic attacks” by unidentified sources. Despite Cuba’s welcoming the FBI three times to investigate in Havana, and setting up its own commission involving some 2,000 experts, no proof of any “attack” has been found by either. Nor, despite insistence by Cuban authorities, has the US collaborated to help determine what actually occurred. But the Trump administration has blamed Cuba for the incidents and issued a travel warning that indeed attacks Cuba’s tourism industry…one more attempt to cripple the Cuban economy.
  • IMPACT: The “sonic affair” was used to justify drawing down some 60% of US Embassy personnel from Havana, mandating the Cuban Embassy in Washington DC do the same. This threatens travel, investment and cooperation in health and other fields. It also endangers the wellbeing of Cuban families, as the Cuban Consulate in Washington DC has fewer resources to handle Cuban-American travel to the island, and the US Consulate in Havana has virtually shut down, advising Cuban citizens to go to third-country US embassies for visas to visit their relatives in the United States.

MEDICC declares:
In the toxic climate created by this US administration, now, more than ever, pursuing bilateral collaboration with Cuba is a must—for the sake of everyone’s health. In the common purpose of better health and health equity, we will also find common ground to move forward. Thus, on the 20th Anniversary of MEDICC, the Academic Council reaffirms and redoubles our efforts to bring together the US, Cuban and global health communities.

Contact: Gail Reed 
 +535 280 2306 or +1 404 775 6941