Venezuela Backs Cuban Medical Brigades for Nobel Peace Prize

Havana and Caracas strengthened bilateral relations following a visit from Cuba's vice-prime minister.

By Paul Dobson
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A global campaign has been launched to award the internationalist doctors the prize. (Ariel Ley / ACN)
A global campaign has been launched to award the internationalist doctors the prize. (Ariel Ley / ACN)

Mérida, February 1, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela has nominated Cuba’s Henry Reeve International Contingent of Doctors Specialized in Disasters and Serious Epidemics for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Caracas joins a long list of international organisations and personalities already backing the bid, including the World Peace Council, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and US academic Noam Chomsky. Nearly 40,000 people have also signed an online petition in support and a number of Venezuelan grassroots movements, including the Committee for International Solidarity and the Struggle for Peace (COSI) and the Venezuela-Bolivia Revolutionary Friendship Group, have likewise endorsed the nomination.

Speaking in Caracas last Monday, Venezuela’s Vice Foreign Minister Carlos Ron, who is also president of the Simon Bolivar Institute for Peace and Solidarity between the Peoples, formalised the postulation, highlighting the brigades’ efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We call on the postulations committee of the Nobel Peace Prize to recognise the labour of the Henry Reeve Internationalist Cuban Medical Brigades, which have attended to millions of people across the globe since the pandemic began, always in a selfless and sacrificing manner and risking their own lives,” Ron explained.

For his part, the head of the Cuban medical mission in Venezuela, Reynol Garcia, thanked Venezuela, saying that “our contribution is the humble presence of our doctors, and not our bombs, in the most remote parts of the planet.”

Other candidates for the prize include US civil rights movement Black Lives Matter, Russian rightwing dissident Alexei Navalny, the World Health Organization (WHO), climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and both Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Nominees are due to be short-listed in March, with the laureate announced in October.

Venezuela has been the recipient of Cuban medical internationalism since the arrival of former President Hugo Chávez. The Barrio Adentro network of community hospitals, that includes 20,000 Cubans, was launched in 2005 while other programs such as the sight-restoring Miracle Mission and the Jose Gregorio Hernandez Mission, which looks to provide physiotherapy and prosthetic limbs for disabled people, soon followed.

The Henry Reeve Brigades were created by Fidel Castro in 2005 after the White House rejected an offer of medical assistance for the population of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. They are named after the US-born youth who fought alongside the Cubans in their first War of Independence (1868-78).

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the brigades have been deployed to nearly 50 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America free of charge, warranting international commemoration. Two thousand brigade members are currently working in Venezuela, according to official data.

Cooperation agreements signed

Alongside the nomination, Havana and Caracas strengthened bilateral relations over the weekend with the visit of Cuba’s Vice-Prime Minister Ricardo Cabrisas.

A range of agreements were signed between the two allies in Caracas, including in culture, education and healthcare, with both countries vowing to work together to vaccinate their populations against the Covid-19 virus. Venezuela has already hinted that it plans on purchasing large amounts of the Cuban “Sovereign” vaccine when finished to complement the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine already en route.

Equally, a geological plan was signed between Cuba’s and Venezuela’s respective ministers to share experiences in “technical training” and the use of “environmental friendly technology” in mining, according to Magaly Henriquez, Venezuela’s ecological mining development minister.

Likewise, the two governments signed cooperation agreements for Caracas’ Hugo Chavez Health Sciences University and the Salvador Allende Latin American Medical School, which already has an extensive Cuban presence.

According to Venezuelan government sources, over 13,000 joint projects are currently underway between the two countries, including the recently launched bi-national observatory to evaluate and counter the impact of US sanctions, especially in counter-pandemic efforts.

“We are the continuity of the legacy of [Hugo] Chavez and Fidel [Castro], and this will allow us to defeat any difficulty presented to us,” Cabrisas said from the Aquiles Nazoa Cultural Centre in Caracas at the end of his visit.