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Vol. 79/No. 21      June 8, 2015

Cuba internationalist care
‘product of revolution’

MONTREAL — There were just 6,000 doctors in Cuba, concentrated in the big cities, when working people overthrew the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959, and half of those took off for the United States. Life expectancy was less than 60 years.

Today Cuba has more than 134,000 doctors, and life expectancy is 78.8 years. “There are 25,000 Cuban medical doctors active in 67 countries” on internationalist missions, said Dr. José De Jesús Portilla, who served as chief of Cuban medical personnel in the former Republic of Congo in 1974 and in Angola from 1983 to 1985. Cuba’s recent medical contingent to West Africa has helped lead the fight against Ebola there. “None of this would have been possible without the revolution,” he said. Portilla is on a cross-Canada tour titled “Africa Called, Cuba Answered.”

Portilla expressed his pride in “what the Cubans contributed to the liberation of Angola, Namibia and the end of apartheid in South Africa.”

“Health care in Cuba is not a business, but a right guaranteed in the constitution,” Portilla said.

“Less than 1 percent of our doctors yield to the temptation to defect despite offers of more money and a guaranteed visa,” he said in response to a question on U.S. attempts to get Cuban health workers to abandon the revolution and defect. “And the new generation is even better with more commitment.”

Some 70 people attended the May 25 meeting with Portilla here at the invitation of the Table de Concertation de Solidarité Québec-Cuba.

Portilla also spoke in Vancouver, British Columbia; Calgary, Alberta; and Ottawa, Ontario; among other cities. The tour ends May 30 in Toronto where he will join Fernando González, one of the Cuban Five, at a public meeting during the convention of the Canadian Network on Cuba.
Related articles:
Cuba defends its socialist revolution in talks with US
New Zealand event discusses Cuban 5, miners’ struggles
Cuban Revolution: Example of fight against Jew-hatred
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