Fidel's Legacy Is Cemented

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Some 20,000 Cuban medical professionals are working in Venezuela alone and the Commandante has told the United Nations that it is willing to send 4,000 doctors to Africa to fight the spread of HIV and Aids. More than 200 Cuban doctors are working in Zimbabwe while 2,000 others are still working in South Africa, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Zambia...

(A young Castro shown with Kwame Nkrumah examining blueprint for a United Africa).

While the US regime and other opponents of Cuban President Fidel Castro rub their hands with glee about his precarious health, many people in Africa recall the veteran Commandante's deep sense of service to the continent and the training of thousands of students in various scientific and medical fields over the years.

It is no secret that the mainstream international media is preparing to press the button on of “canned obituary” copies on this exceptional politician of great international authority who still enjoys the solid support of Zimbabweans and Africans at large for helping end colonialism and apartheid.

The death of Castro would be a great loss to Zimbabwe and Africa and many wish him speedy recovery and long life given the support the Commandante has made to the continent. Despite the oblique criticism Castro had endured in his 47-year-old rule, his greatest accomplishment is in the sciences where Zimbabwe and Africa have benefited in many ways.
Reading through the works of the Commandante, one finds Castro's great insight into the importance of science is shaping the future of developing countries.

"The future of our homeland," he said a year after the triumph of the Cuban revolution of 1959, "has to be necessarily a future of men of science, it has to be a future of men of thought, because that is precisely what we are planting, what we are mostly planting are opportunities for intelligence." This statement still resonates powerfully to Zimbabwe and Africa after more than four-and-half decades when Castro made the statements.

"One of the factors that make the great difference between the developed world and the developing world, a determining element of that huge difference, is science," he said in recent years reflecting on the role of science in human development. At the height of the Cuban revolution, there was a huge exodus of doctors and other skilled professionals to the US and other western countries at a time when most Cubans who were illiterate needed their services most.

Castro never mourned their departure but worked tirelessly to develop programs to raise literacy levels as well as develop intelligence. At the time, analysts say, one of the biggest steps taken in the formation of a scientific foundation in the country was the creation, by virtue of a Presidential Resolution signed by Fidel Castro on July 1, 1965 of the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNIC).

This institution has churned out more than 20,000 specialists in a wide range of scientific fields since it was established 39 years ago. The opening of this institution led to the rapid expansion of Cuba in the field of science and other critical sectors which have gained respect internationally.

Today, Cuba boasts of well developed research institutions specializing in agricultural health, pharmaceutical chemistry, biomedicine, genetic engineering and biotechnology, informatics and human health sciences. Cuba now produces unique medical products like the meningococcal vaccine (VA-MENGOC-BC) which has saved thousands of children in Asia, Africa and Latin America from death.

"It is a true revolution within the concepts of scientific research and hundreds of thousands of people are participating in this, hundreds of thousands," Castro said explain his strategies to promote research throughout the country 'to set everyone to research, to experiment, to reason, to innovate."

"We have many good hospitals, excellent medical teams, with their laboratories, their equipment and what we are promoting is research in all hospitals," he said in a speech marking the 30th anniversary of the Academy of Sciences of Cuba in the 1990s. His visions are evident and benefits to mankind all clear to see. Some 20,000 Cuban  medical professionals are working in Venezuela alone and the Commandante has told the United Nations that it is willing to send 4,000 doctors to Africa to fight the spread of HIV and Aids. More than 200 Cuban doctors are working in Zimbabwe while 2,000 others are still working in South Africa, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Zambia and other 21 African countries. Since 1980, Cuba has trained more than 3 000 science and mathematics teachers for Zimbabwe.

It is also working with Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania by supplying anti-retroviral drugs and conducting research on Aids vaccine. By the end of 2002, Cuba was providing anti-retrovirals to more than 30 000 patients in Africa, an outcome of Cuba's deliberate policies to advance through scientific development. Tens of thousands of African students have also studied in Cuba in various scientific disciplines.

Cuba has one of the best social systems with five times more doctors per citizen than rich countries like Britain and other western countries. "I am proud to be a friend of Fidel, a friend of the greatest man in living history," Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona once said in 2001 after meeting Castro went he went to Cuba to receive treatment. This shows how recognized the Cuban health institutions are worldwide. Some 3,000 poor Americans go to Cuba to receive free treatment while thousands more visit Havana for other specialist treatment services.

Castro remains a true friend of Africa and whenever he speaks of efforts to develop Cuba he also thinks of other countries.
 
Tsiko is The Black Star News’ Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare, Zimbabwe

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