Havana. June 13, 2013
UNASUR funded hospital opens – Cooperation with respect for sovereignty
Leandro Maceo Leyva, Special correspondent
PORT-AU-PRINCE.—The Community Reference Hospital in Corail, Grand’ Anse department has reopened after reconstruction and expansion works funded by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), with Cuban, Venezuelan and Argentine cooperation.
In this context, during a video-conference with his Argentine counterpart Cristina Fernández, Haitian President Michel Martelly expressed his thanks for the support given to his people and government, while advocating continued cooperation.
Martelly said that he received with pleasure the keys to this hospital, which will provide health services for a population of 150,000-plus, already receiving medical attention from Cuban doctors.
He highlighted Cuba’s contributions in Haiti which, as he stated, extend to many levels. “We have identified Cuba as a country that wishes to share everything it has with Haiti.”
The Haitian leader also made reference to Néstor Kirchner, the deceased former Argentine President and architect of UNASUR’s presence in Haiti, describing him as “a great leader for peace and integration in the region.”
In this context, Cristina Fernández expressed her thanks, “as a person, a woman and a president,” for naming the hospital – which she defined as UNASUR’s first physical work – after Néstor Kirchner.
“Let us hope that the four countries in development which have come together to rebuild this hospital will mobilize a little more the developed countries, which have a lot to do with Haitian realities,” President Fernández noted.
Argentine Vice President Amado Boudou, who was with the Haitian President, emphasized, “The construction of the hospital is the result of South-South cooperation without intermediaries or consultants… and is a joint work among sister peoples to solve concrete issues.”
Cuban Deputy Health Minister Marcia Cobas reiterated the will of the Cuban government and people to continue supporting Haiti.
IT is a truth that great undertakings can emerge from major disasters. The January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, with its terrible consequences, led to the installation of a Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) headquarters there and its presence and work has been constant ever since. Its aid has resulted in a joint hospital project within the regional bloc, linked to Cuba, Venezuela and Haiti itself.
In this context, to have some understanding of the dimensions of this shared effort, as well of the realities of Latin American countries, Granma interviewed Argentine lawyer Rodolfo Mattarollo, UNASUR representative in Haiti, who believes in “a more auspicious future for the country.”
What is the reason for UNASUR’s presence in Haiti?
The starting point is that UNASUR is a new kind of regional integration organization, established on a footing of total equality among its members. Homogenous as far as it is of Our America, where fraternity reigns and there is a climate of joy, unfortunately overshadowed by the death, first of Argentine President Néstor Kirchner – its first secretary general – and second, of Comandante Hugo Chávez, leader of the Bolivarian Revolution and the great inspirer of coordination among all the Latin American countries. But their spirit is still alive and we are trying to follow their example. On the other hand, there are UNASUR’s political, economic and social objectives, in which the struggle against existing differences among us is one of the distinctive aspects, and the one which brought us to Haiti.
Where are these actions directed?
There was a kind of combination of urgency – in other words, the need to respond to the great tragedy of the earthquake, and at the same time, to have a base in Haiti. Having a regular presence called for longer-term tasks because, to a certain extent, Haiti’s problems existed before the earthquake. There was a program for the reconstruction of the country’s infrastructure and housing, as well as important activities in the health sector, which had two directions. We worked on cholera prevention, given the epidemic which followed the quake, compounded by cyclones and, on the other hand, with Cuba and Venezuela, we jointly undertook the reconstruction and expansion of Corail Community Reference Hospital, in Grand’ Anse department. This was an action agreed with the Haitian government and the Ministry of Public Health and Population. One also has to bear in mind the food security programs, directed at promoting production unrelated to market labels, but an agriculture which attempts to ensure the subsistence of the population in situations of extreme poverty and, in this context, seek improved technological aspects, such as seeds, even more needed in a country like Haiti.
Corail is a place of difficult access, where there is just one hospital for a population calculated at 150,000-200,000 people. With Cuban and Venezuelan cooperation, UNASUR financed, to a total of more than $800,000, the reconstruction and expansion of the facility, a modern building. It seemed right to give a symbolic dimension to this creation, so we decided to name it after Néstor Kirchner, an initiative approved by the Haitian government.
What value do you concede to collaboration with Cuba?
It has been very important to collaborate with a country in Our America like Cuba, with such a fundamental evolution in the 20th century and in the present one, opening the way to human and social development, a country which has so exceptionally enriched the continent’s political panorama. Cuba brought this star of socialism to Latin America and profoundly changed the dominion of oligarchies with a new concept of revolutionary thinking, which had become paralyzed. A Lula in Brazil, a Kirchner in Argentina, an Evo Morales in Bolivia, or a Chávez in Venezuela would not have been possible without Cuba. Fidel is one of the great figures of the 20th century, who has made possible an extraordinary advance of authentic democracy on the continent, which is absolutely not reduced to electoral events, but is a democracy with social justice, which fights inequalities, with a participative nature and one which integrates social sectors. It is fundamental to the UNASUR project.
In Haiti, when we made the decision to navigate within this shared enterprise which was the reconstruction of Corail Hospital – to be followed by other similar projects in the next few months – we believe that we based ourselves on the healthiest form of international cooperation with this country. A collaboration respectful of Haitian sovereignty, in an absolutely positive terrain like public health and directed at the most dispossessed sectors of the population. When we see the way in which Cuban doctors conduct themselves, their dedication and the care with which they treat the Haitian people, one blindly understands that one is witnessing an attempt to improve human beings.
How do you see the current Latin America panorama?
The panorama is one of great challenges, given that the oligarchies are not prepared to lose their privileges. For example, there has been an attempt to destabilize the government of Evo Morales. This reaction on the part of the oligarchies and privileged sectors is going to accentuate as members countries of UNASUR and ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) advance. It could even take the form of criminal acts, so one has to be very attentive. The class struggle has not disappeared, it continues to be something which could present itself in new forms, but which persists.
And the Haitian panorama?
Haiti is changing. There are sectors visible today which were previously unforeseen, although we cannot forget the structural problems and their tremendous seriousness. The Haitian press is now a place for debating ideas, a project of society.
Given this reality, what place is occupied by this joint cooperation, of which UNASUR is part?
The people are benefiting from this enterprise. South-South cooperation has innovative and original characteristics. It is a contribution which does not seek to replace the state which it is trying to help, but strengthen its independence. It is a contribution which tends to foster the creation of sovereignty, not to replace it, but to create or fortify it. We wouldn’t do anything without consulting authorities, without responding to demands beyond any doubt from the civil society and its organizations. There is an entire history of foreign interventionism, of tutelary powers, from which the Latin American component of UNASUR is very much distant.