Monday, January 25, 2010

Cuba News Update: Haitians Describe U.S. Marine Landing as Occupation; Hospital Operating at Jacmel

Havana January 20, 2010

Haitians describe landing of yanki Marines as occupation

PORT-AU-PRINCE, January 19— Hundreds of Haitians watched with a mixture of resignation and anger on Tuesday as several helicopters landed U.S. troops in the grounds of the Presidential Palace, an act considered by many Haitians as a loss of sovereignty, the AFP reported.

"I haven’t seen them distributing food downtown, where the people urgently need water, food and medicine. This looks more like an occupation," said Wilson Guillaume, a 25-year-old student.

At least four helicopters brought 100 U.S. soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division to the grounds, as hundreds of Haitians looked on stunned. Having lost their homes in the earthquake, they are living as refugees in the Palace gardens.

As the U.S. troops left the Palace to guard Haiti’s general hospital, overflowing with injured people, many people yelled "Go home!" and "Don’t occupy us!"

A fleet of amphibious craft also reached the coast of Haiti, transporting some 800 Marines expected to go ashore in the next few days to join the 2,000-plus soldiers already stationed in Haiti.

Also today, the UN Security Council today unanimously approved increasing the number of international military and police forces in Haiti by 3,500 to reinforce security.

Meanwhile, thousands of earthquake victims are trying to get onto buses to flee the hunger and violence of the destroyed capital, with the hope of finding food more easily in the countryside, AP reports.

(Translated by Granma International)

Havana January 22, 2010

And miracles happen in Jacmel

Leticia Martínez Hernández

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti.— Elizabeth lay under the rubble for one whole week. Just two weeks old, this tiny baby was trapped between the walls of her home when Haiti began to shake. Micheline Joassaint, her mother, had given her up for dead when a team of Colombian rescue workers found her.

The baby had just been breastfed and was dropping off to sleep just at the point when the whole of Port-au-Prince and its outskirts began to shake. From that moment until Tuesday, January 19, she wasn’t seen again and the absence of any crying indicated that the baby had died.

Telling the story today is pediatrician Zilda del Toro from Guantánamo province, still amazed and overcome with emotion, who relates that Elizabeth arrived at the hospital in Jacmel dehydrated, suffering from hypothermia and hypoglycemia, despite the fact that the rescue workers had put her on a drip, administered dextrose and covered her fragile body with sufficient clothing to warm her up.

"We started treatment straight away and the baby recovered. But even now, nobody can explain how Elizabeth is still alive, because she was alone the whole time, without receiving any liquids or warmth and she was wearing very light clothing. But the most surprising thing was that she hadn’t been hurt in any way. After we gave her liquid, she began to urinate, her hydration improved, her temperature regulated and she began to breastfeed. All of this happened in under an hour."

Today, Elizabeth is the miracle of Jacmel, a city situated 75 kilometers from the Haitian capital, where the Cuban doctors arrived some years ago and where they continue to save lives after the devastating earthquake. But Elizabeth is not the only miracle in this place. The establishment of a field hospital is a further addition to the labors of our doctors there, with sweat, intensive work, hours without sleeping and many other risks.


Cuban orthopedist Daniel Lorie, head of the field hospital and a veteran of missions in Pakistan, Indonesia and Peru, tells us that they came here with a will to work hard and attend to people in need of medical attention.

Our doctors were setting up an operating room when we arrived at the hospital in Jacmel. The second Cuban field hospital in Haiti was put together with blue tents. It seemed like a simple task but the transfer of an operating table – which according to those present weighs over 500lbs – started to complicate matters. It required seven men to move the heavy load up a steep, cobbled path.

At the hospital in Jacmel, everyone was involved in all kinds of tasks, irrespective of their actual occupations, just attending to the emergencies that of the moment. Gynecologist Dionisio was cooking, Francisco – a specialist in internal medicine – was serving coffee, the Haitian students were erecting tents, pediatrician Zilda was looking after a dozen children, others were giving vaccinations…

"Here, you just can’t get tired. We’ve erased that word from our vocabulary. You can see me sitting down right now, but I’m not tired, I’m thinking how we can make the hospital better, how to make it function better," said Dr. Lorie.

Likewise, moving from one part to another was Dr. Mercedes Cuello, head of the Jacmel brigade. I think that I’ll never forget this woman: she was the first person I interviewed while the ground was shaking. The second aftershock of the day surprised us while we were talking about the Cuban mission. When the first one happened, Mercedes was with several Haitian students giving vaccinations against tetanus, which is rife on the streets.

When the tremors ended, Mercedes went on with her work as if nothing had happened: "We are in a recovery phase. Yesterday, orthopedists, surgeons, OR nurses, and a new group of Haitian residents studying in Cuba arrived. We began to carry out preventative work, provide lessons in sanitation and to vaccinate people."

Mercedes comments that the days after the earthquake were dire, that they were left homeless and, from that moment on, slept under canvas sheeting, but delights such as a birth on January 12 make them smile. It was the same with gynecologist Dionisio Fernández – who has carried out four Cesareans and attended seven normal deliveries since the earthquake occurred, some of which he was forced to perform in the most basic of conditions because there was no other option.

For this reason, Dr. Lorie, a member of the Henry Reeve brigade, cannot fail to be proud of the doctors from his country, those who have recently arrived and those who felt the impact of the earthquake when it happened; that is what we have always done.

Perhaps without intending to do so, Dr. Lorie acknowledges our doctors who are sleeping in tents and living alongside the population. These are the doctors who yesterday began operating on more than 30 Haitians who have been waiting for orthopedic surgery for eight days.

Because of them, we can speak of miracles in Jacmel today.

Translated by Granma International

Havana January 22, 2010

Haiti launches massive operation to house victims

PORT-AU-PRINCE, January 21— Haiti launched yesterday a huge operation to rehouse in different part of the country thousands of people who lost their homes in the January 12 earthquake, AFP reported.

Haiti launches massive operation to house victims"The government has provided free transportation for the population. It’s a massive operation: we are in the process of moving the homeless," Haitian Interior Minister Paúl Antoine Bien-Aime stated.

He explained that camps with the capacity to shelter up to 10,000 victims each are to be established.

At least 500,000 people were left homeless just in the Haitian capital, where 447 improvised camps have been set up, according to the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM).

"We have three priorities: the first is to continue providing humanitarian aid; the second is to provide security and stability for Haiti, and the third is to begin the reconstruction effort," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon affirmed, according to Notimex.

Prensa Latina reported that the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) has called on all Haiti’s international creditors to find ways of canceling the credit obligations of that devastated nation.

Translated by Granma International

Havana January 18, 2010

With the Cuban doctors in Haiti: January 17

The worst tragedy is not being able to do more

Leticia Martínez Hernández

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The little boy, with a drip attached to his hand — although at that stage it wasn’t helping him very much — couldn’t stop trembling. The fluid that perhaps in other circumstances would give him some strength was not passing through his collapsed veins. Lying on a piece of cardboard, his life was ebbing away while, at his feet, a Cuban doctor lamented not being able to do more.

"They brought this little angel in this morning. He was buried under the rubble for three days. A rescue team member brought him; he has no family and he’s unlikely to survive. We’ve given him everything, we’ve cleaned him up, we’ve treated his injuries, and I don’t know what else to do to help him. This tragedy has been merciless on the children, the pain is unbearable."

The doctors are working continuously and amputations are the most frequent operations.

Aged 28, Sergio is already familiar with the face of death. These last few days have been terrible for this doctor from Santiago de Cuba who has left his country for the first time to save lives. When asked what was the worst, he fired off two aspects from his heart: the suffering of little ones and not being able to help them all. That was what Sergio Otero González said, while a woman with bruised face clung to his hand.

It is time to move away from the little boy and attend to people arriving. When he comes back, maybe this nameless innocent will have stopped breathing, and he will have to accept having done everything possible to restore life to a child born marked by tragedy.

Today, Haiti is replete with these sad stories. Hospital centers like Delma 33 (ironically called La Paiz) and La Renaissance have many horrors to recount, but the Cuban doctors there are intent on writing large the word LIFE, while news agencies are minimizing that effort or even refuting it, like the U.S. TV channel Fox News. Are we going to have to put speakers on the moon so that people know that Haiti has known Cuban doctors for many years before the earthquake struck?


Paradoxes have taken hold of Haiti; with every glance I discover a contrast, another one…. I’d thought that the contradiction between the happy faces looking out from advertisement boards and the crumpled faces of those passing below them was the greatest irony, but I was wrong. Finding the words ‘Peace’ and ‘Renaissance’ on the façades of the most dismal hospitals that I have seen in my life, exceeded any incongruence… So I decided to find the answer in the fluttering of my country’s flag over their doorways.


It would seem that the Haitians are coming to the hospitals where the Cubans are working to find peace. They arrive in an endless stream; everyone wants to be seen immediately, the intolerable pain of their bodies is mixed with a rooted lack of affection, which seems to be instantly cured when one of our doctors gently caresses them. Entire families are moving into the hospital grounds. They have set up their shelters, placed the sick person in the middle, piled up the few possessions left to them and the family, when there still is one, leaves to seek help. Others transport their injured on pieces of hardboard, boards, mattresses… until they virtually corner a doctor.

An unbearable stench emerges from the rubble, as people wander the streets.

There, among the many, I found the Doctor Madelaine in La Rennaissance hospital center. Reaching her was a balancing act. One foot first, then the other… stop to recover my balance: beneath me various Haitians writhing in agony, just to have touched them would have been unpardonable. However, the odyssey didn’t end there. Now I had to convince her to recount her experiences. This 32-year-old woman from Granma province is an expert in her work, but shakes when faced with a cassette recorder.

"This cannot be compared to anything that I have ever seen. When I arrived, I was frightened but had no time to allow that fear to grow. I still haven’t forgotten the face of a little two-year-old who they pulled out of the rubble and who arrived in agony. They are bringing lots of people here, but when it’s a child, your heart is wrung even more."

Don’t you despair when you’re being called from all sides and at all times to help people?

"They are desperate, what they have experienced is unthinkable. But we’ve learned to stay calm and treat them with delicacy even though we’re stressed. If you despair you’re not helping anyone and wind up being useless."

Surgeon Abrahana del Pilar Cisneros Depestre emerges from the improvised operating room with a similar equanimity. From inside, covered by sheets, a terrifying sound can be heard. "We’re amputating a leg," she says and invites me in. But my strength doesn’t stretch that far, so I decide to wait for her outside to talk. The only thing that I know about her is that she ended her vacation early to return to Haiti and help.

"Everything is so sad and desolate. The injuries are extremely grave. The most frequent are traumatalogies; many people come in virtually self-amputated, with their limbs almost torn off, with burns incompatible with life, like those of that girl who is looking after a neighbor right now because her mom died and no other family member has been found."

With the passing of days, the possibilities of salvation are minimal for those recently found, says this doctor, who has already lost count of the people who have passed through her hands. "On Friday (January 15) we operated on 15 people; today, Saturday, we’re on our 17th and the day’s not over, there’s one after the other. The severity of injuries is greater, the cases are extremely septic."

And the family members, doctor, what are they saying to you?

"Many people come in alone, but when their families bring them, the pain and sadness is so much that they just look at us, I think that they say it all with that, there’s no need for the word thanks."

Are you tired?

"It’s a fact that we’ve worked really hard, that the days have all merged into one another, but the desire to help is so great that we’re not allowing ourselves to feel tired; on the contrary, maybe we could manage to do more."

Injured people are constantly arriving. It is heartrending to see the large numbers of children.

One might suspect that so much energy and desire to act are only happening here in La Renaissance. However, at the other extreme of the city, history is repeating itself.


In La Paiz University Hospital, known as Delma 33, other doctors confirm the words of Abrahana, Sergio and Madelaine. Another Cuba flag is waving there, and gives entry to an even more shocking scenario. Almost all the injured are to be found outside the hospital. The groans touch one’s heart, the tremendous wounds make you turn your face away, the desolation is pitiful, the looks seeking compassion pierce you to the bone. Everything would seem to ask: will such misfortune ever end?

The aftershock of the night before made them flee in terror, a juncture "utilized" by the doctors to better organize the place and assess the strength of the building.

When we arrived, the Cuban doctors were equipping new spaces, posting signs delimiting areas, disinfecting the floors, classifying the sick and admitting the gravest cases. It was surprising to see so many people helping. Chilean, Cuban, Spanish, Canadian and Mexican specialists were working shoulder to shoulder. They were all speaking one language: that of salvation. They all repeated the same phrase: teamwork.

Cuban Dr. Carlos Guillén, director of the hospital, defined it in this way: "It’s been perfect cooperation; they come to us, seek us out spontaneously for making any decision; we have a meeting in the morning and another in the afternoon with the representatives of each nation, where we define what we are needing, what the priorities are and we are sharing everything."

Rescue work continues although possibilities of survival are diminishing.

What most concerned Heriberto Pérez, a Chilean doctor, was the initial disorder, and for that reason, he defends that cohesion among everyone, no matter where they come from, because what really matters is saving lives.

Rosalía, a nun, was caressing a little girl whose leg was in danger due to gangrene. She came from Spain to join the tremendous team, which also includes the Haitian resident Asmyrrehe Dollin. For this doctor, who graduated in Cuba, helping his compatriots is the greatest thing that life has bestowed on him. So he is grateful to the island for having given him the possibility to do so. Working together with the doctors who at one point were his professors, is an immense pride for him.

It is only this closeness among the doctors that will alleviate Haiti’s pain. The injured will be back at dusk, but maybe tomorrow the groaning will be less. It will be a blessing when the placards saying "We need help," placed everywhere like shadows, begin to disappear.

Translated by Granma International

Havana January 20, 2010

Cuban Five send message to the Haitian people

THE Cuban Five, held as political prisoners in the United States for fighting terrorism, have sent a message of encouragement and hope to the Haitian people, devastated by a powerful earthquake.

The message, published on the CubaDebate website, emphasizes that at this tragic and painful time the Haitian people are experiencing, the Five send their condolences to the relatives of the victims of this catastrophe.

"We are sure," the message says, "that the determination of the Haitian people, together with international support, will make the recovery of your country possible. In that work, you will always have the help in solidarity of the Cuban people."

Ramón Labañino, René González, Gerardo Hernández, Fernando González and Antonio Guerrero ended their message with a warm and fraternal embrace for the long-suffering Haitian people.

(Translated by Granma International)

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