For a policy of solidarity and humanism in times of pandemic
The world is facing a difficult epidemiological situation, which is being especially rough for the majority of countries that lack the economic and structural conditions to fight COVID-19 or provide assistance. On the five continents, we have successful examples of actions, but also flawed models. The world will surely learn many lessons from the pandemic.
When analyzing the situation in non-central countries – those that do not aspire to become international leaders –, an important example rises in Latin America, capable of illustrating how much more lethal the coronavirus can be turned by politics. Cuba, the country that was once a model of public health, has just provided assistance to British citizens who were in a very complicated situation.
In the second half of March, the BRAEMAR cruise ship, with over 1,000 passengers on board – most of them British –, arrived at the Cuban coast. The reason, unfortunately, was not to allow its passengers to appreciate the natural beauty of that country, but to ask for help because of the suspicions of COVID-19's presence among passengers and crew.
At least 25 passengers and 27 crew members showed symptoms characteristic of the coronavirus infection. Before, the ship remained sailing for about one week, unable to dock at any port in the region. In that case, the fear of the spread of the virus was greater than solidarity.
In order to avoid a tragedy, the British authorities asked the Cuban government an authorization for the ship to dock at the Port of Mariel, near Havana. The operation also allowed passengers to be transferred to José Martí International Airport, where four flights awaited them with destination back to London.
The evacuation operation was carried out in compliance with all safety rules provided for in these cases. All measures were adopted for a safe, hospitable and fast transfer of passengers and crew of the vessel. Political and ideological differences between Cuba and the United Kingdom were overlooked in favor of humanitarian management.
It should be noted that no country of the British Commonwealth of Nations in the Caribbean agreed to authorize the mooring of the ship, neither to quarantine British citizens. The United States government, perhaps the UK's main ally in so many battles, also refused to help.
This is just one example of how political differences can be isolated for the common good. We are still far from knowing what the new “normal life” will look like, but it is a fact that solidarity is fundamental for the pandemic to be defeated. Humanity expects that its leaders will be able to provide mutual assistance, since only common efforts will help to defeat such a terrible virus.
The Brazilian government, for instance, could lead regional efforts not only in the search of a vaccine, but also to promote actions capable of minimizing the effects of the pandemic. We cannot follow verbatim the rulebook designed in Washington.
A strategic relationship with the United States cannot take Brazil away from its geographical surroundings and its Latin American vocation. The case of the British cruise ship makes it clear that the United States defends only its own national interests.
Brazil has a history of international solidarity that does not bend to fleeting ideologies. A history that has been tainted recently, but that can be rebuilt via pragmatic ties with traditional partners in the region, including Havana. The global fight against the coronavirus is only one of the fronts that could benefit from that.
Marcelo Rech is a journalist, editor of InfoRel and a specialist in International Relations, Defense Strategies and Policies, Terrorism and Counterinsurgency and the Impact of Human Rights on Armed Conflicts. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.