Cuban Doctors Deploying To Medellín? Not All Roads Lead To Cuba In International Cooperation – Op Ed
The current global health crisis unleashed by Covid-19 has had an impact on social, economic, & political structures. The International Relations are not immune to this phenomenon, where multilateralism faces new challenges that further threaten global interdependence. These new global circumstances force local governments to adapt and their internationalization is not an exception.
During this global crisis, local diplomacy has shown that it has a key role to play. The internationalization of local governments, especially through decentralized cooperation and foreign investment, generates direct benefits for cities and regions.
Some cities have used their international ties to exchange information and material support according to their possibilities and needs. Likewise, there is cooperation between cities in the same country as in Colombia, where Medellin, with the joint action of the business sector & academia, has supported less economically favored Colombian cities such as Leticia, Quibdó, Ibagué and San Andrés, among others, which shows national solidarity between multiple regions.
However, there have been cases of misinterpretation of some types of international cooperation, such as what happened with the Magdalena Government and the Medellin Mayor’s Office seeking to hire doctors of Cuban origin to supposedly reinforce the local medical team in each region. In this case, nothing is more wrong than looking for external solutions to internal problems. On the contrary: it would aggravate the problem. Although international humanitarian aid exists, and it is true that crisis management solutions must be in the hands of those who know local conditions, cultures, and needs.
The opinions of guest editorial contributors are their own and not necessarily those of Finance Colombia, its publisher, editors, or staff.
Cuba has received international recognition in terms of health coverage for its entire population, with the limitations that we all know. Likewise, the advances in some medical research in the field of oncology that are real have been valued. But from there to, its medical care system is available to countries with greater health resources and whose characteristics they do not know; with the background that we have today of its work in several countries whose results are unfortunate; added to the business model, by means of which, a percentage is paid to the Cuban State and another, to a lesser extent, to the doctors who perform the work, leaves much to be desired, as the UN says in a report in the beginning of this year that qualifies as “forced labor” its missions abroad.
This type of mission has a more political view than health component; more investigative (political or industrial espionage) than teaching; more commercial than humanitarian. These types of health brigades are quite different from those deployed by countries like the USA, Brazil, France, and even Colombia itself with friendly countries. In this sense, it is very convenient to coordinate the actions offered by international cooperation with the governing body of the country’s diplomacy, which is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and supported by the Presidential Cooperation Agency to avoid distortions in regional requests that generate setbacks in contacts with some countries such as Cuba, which Colombia has a tense relationship for political and security reasons. This is common sense. It is as if Germany asked countries like Haiti or Russia for medical help, with whom it makes no sense for widely known reasons.
International cooperation has revitalized various initiatives of Medellin’s diplomacy in organizations such as United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG); Metropolis; the AL-Las Project; IDB-Cities; Global Resilient Cities; C40 and more than a hundred similar organizations around the world, among others, that have allowed a dynamic exchange of successful and collaborative experiences on issues of common interest.
Therefore, crises such as climate change or the COVID-19 pandemic have had an impact on city diplomacy because local governments are also innovating in their external relations as players of international law that they are and generating new spaces of cooperation without generating unnecessary political controversies.
Photo credit: Laura LaRose via Flickr – Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license