Switzerland and Cuba: Hypocrisy in a time of epidemics

By Franklin Frederick

The coronavirus epidemics already showed us the complete failure of the neoliberal policies worldwide: the tragic situation  in Italy and Spain, in France and, worst of all, in the US today, are mainlydue to decades of austerity policies  and cuts in public health funding, added to the short view of the capitalist class preventing governments to take the necessary measures. A privatized, profit-oriented medicine, as implemented by neoliberalism, simply cannot cope with such epidemics, it does not even have the basic materials – masks, hospital beds, ventilators – and needed trained personnel to manage dangerous viruses.

Socialist oriented countries such as China and Vietnam are doing much better. Venezuela, after years of criminal economic sanctions imposed by the US and its allies, is also doing much more on behalf of its population than its neighbours Ecuador and Colombia – so often praised by the mainstream press – not to mention Brazil. Above all, Cuba, also suffering from years of sanctions and embargoes, is not only in a much better situation regarding the epidemics but is still able to send indispensable medical help abroad. That Cuba has been a beacon of South-South cooperation since decades is well known: its medical doctors have been to many Latin American countries, to Africa – where Cuba had a key role in controlling the Ebola virus – and elsewhere.  But what is new is Cuba helping a rich northern country like Italy or France. The work being done by the Cuban personnel in the region of Lombardy in Italy is remarkable and must be praised by everyone. By helping to control the epidemics in Italy, Cuba is also helping to prevent the virus to spread to the neighbouring countries like Switzerland. It is unfortunate however that some Swiss organizations do not even mention the Cuban solidarity work in this crisis we all face.

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For Alliance Sud, the political platform of the main Swiss Development Agencies – Caritas CH, Action de Carême, EPER, Bread for All, SwissAid and Helvetas- it seems that Cuba does not even exist. In Alliance Sud recent newsletter, in an article entitled  ‘A global Crises needs global solidarity’ https://www.alliancesud.ch/de/politik/entwicklungspolitik/eine-globale-krise-braucht-globale-solidaritaet – Cuba’s solidarity work is not  mentioned.  On the other hand, the Swiss banks fully support the economic sanctions against Cuba imposed by the US, and none of the main Swiss banks allows financial transactions with Cuba. Small swiss organizations have petitioned the Swiss Government to end the sanctions against Cuba without success. In thementioned newsletter, Alliance Sud makes four public demands to the Swiss Government, none of them including the end of the Swiss banks sanctions against Cuba.To put it clearly, while Cuba, at the risk of its own personnel, is helping to save lives in Italy and consequently in neighbouring Swiss Ticino, Swiss banks are punishing Cuba and for Alliance Sud Cuba does not deserve Swiss solidarity.

There is a reason for such hypocrisy. Neoliberalism has been fully supported by the Swiss Government – as by the European Union – since long. For neoliberalism, the private sector and ultimately the market have the real decision power over the allocation of societies’ produced wealth. For Cuba, on the contrary, the PEOPLE have this decision power and PEOPLE come before the market. It is the excellency of the Cuban PUBLICLY FUNDED and State supported medical doctors and trained personnel who are helping Italy, France, Brazil and others to fight the epidemics. That Cuba is showing clearly the failure of the PRIVATE sector – and therefore of the market and of the neoliberal ideology –in coping with the coronavirus is a fact that must be hidden from social consciousness at all costs.

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Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency – SDC – the main financial supporter of most of the big Swiss NGOs and Development Agencies – has since long internalized the ideology of the superiority of the private sector in promoting social development and in organizing society. In its ‘Un Seul Monde’ magazine from December 2015, the cover article was ‘Private Sector: Motor of Development’. The article praises the achievements of the private sector and I could not find any article by SDC with comparative praise for the fundamental importance of the PUBLIC sector. Parallel to the advocacy of the private sector and the market as the key elements in the organization and development of society comes an attack on the achievements of socialist oriented countries.

Another ‘Un Seul Monde’ article from March 2014 written by Swiss journalist Sandro Benini praise the achievements of Colombia in reducing poverty, etc., as compared to Venezuela. And the recent ‘Un Seul Monde’ magazine, from March 2020, has an article about the refugees from the Venezuelan economic disaster. The refugees from the Honduran economic disaster does not deserve the same attention from SDC – or the economic disaster brought to Argentina by the neoliberal government of Macri – so well praised by Sandro Benini in other articles – to mention just a few examples. Then, in 2019, came the neoliberal catastrophe: the explosion of unprecedented popular manifestations in Chile, in Colombia, in Ecuador – but, surprisingly NOT in Venezuela – against its governments. It seems that the people from Colombia, Chile and Ecuador do not agree with SDC’s vision. The Venezuelan achievements in housing and education did not get any praise in the pages of ‘Un Seul Monde’ – and I doubt that SDC will ever mention how Cuba and Venezuela are dealing much better than the ‘model’ country Colombia -or Ecuador – with the coronavirus epidemics. For SDC, the swiss banks and Alliance Sud, Neoliberalism, the market, and the private sector are the ones to give the appropriate answer to the coronavirus epidemics, not Cuba – regardless of the concrete evidence.

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For its new strategy 2021 -2014 SDC wants to engage even more with the private sector – through public-private partnerships – in Development Aid, thus reaffirming the neoliberal ideology. However, in the face of the neoliberal failure amply demonstrated by the coronavirus epidemics, it is expected that a deeper discussion about the role of the PUBLIC sector in the development of a society will be called. SDC, Alliance Sud, the swiss banking establishment and others will try their utmost to prevent such a discussion, as the denial of the Cuban role by such organisations already show. I can only hope that those in Switzerland who are thankful to Cuba, who recognize the fundamental importance of a complete change in how we organize our economy and society will raise their voices and  put important questions to some Swiss organizations.