Lawmaker Blasts US Participation in Cuba Ebola Meeting
Last updated on: October 31, 2014 7:11 AM
One of Washington’s most vocal opponents of the Castro brothers’ regime
in Cuba has blasted the U.S. decision to attend an Ebola conference in
Havana this week.
Representative Mario Diaz-Balart called the participation of a mid-level
official from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the
two-day multinational meeting “a disgrace.”
The United States has no official diplomatic relationship with the
Communist island nation.
Dr. Nelson Arboleda, Director of CDC’s Guatemala office and Regional
Programs, represented the CDC at the conference that ended Thursday.
“It’s been a very rich technical experience in which we’ve learned all
the different plans of all the different countries and that helps us, as
a bloc, identify the needed areas to be better prepared in our region,”
Multinational Ebola meeting
Cuba’s state news agency Granma said nearly 300 experts from 34
countries gathered to coordinate a regional strategy on the prevention
and control of Ebola, which has killed about 5,000 people in West Africa.
The meeting was organized by the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of
Our America (ALBA), a nine-member regional bloc created by the United
States’ top diplomatic foes in the Western Hemisphere, Cuba and Venezuela.
Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American lawmaker from south Florida, said it was
the left-leaning ALBA’s involvement that made the U.S. decision to
participate in the conference “ludicrous.”
“ALBA … was created solely to oppose U.S. interests in our hemisphere.
It enjoys the support of other anti-American regimes such as Syria and
Iran. That the U.S. would send a representative to such a meeting is by
itself ludicrous,” the congressman said.
Other participants in the meeting included Colombia and the island of
St. Lucia, which were the first countries in the region to ban travelers
arriving from West Africa. More followed, such as Belize, Guyana, and
Jamaica. Several small island states are concerned about whether they
could handle even one case of the deadly disease.
Sending aid in Ebola fight
Cuba has received international attention – including rare positive
comments from U.S. government officials – for sending hundreds of
doctors and nurses to West Africa to mitigate the spread of Ebola.
Citing the medical staff’s working conditions, however, Diaz-Balart said
there is “nothing charitable about the Cuban dictatorship’s actions in
“Cuban doctors are hastily trained, poorly equipped, and forced to work
in dangerous conditions while most of their pay is siphoned to the
Castro dictatorship. That a U.S. official would condone their overt
exploitation is outrageous,” said Diaz-Balart. “The U.S. does not belong
at an ALBA meeting, nor should it applaud the Castro regime’s use of
forced labor under any circumstances,” he added.
When pressed for comment at multiple news conferences this week, a U.S.
State Department spokeswoman would not elaborate on Ebola prevention
efforts with Cuba.
However, earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called
Cuba’s dispatch of healthcare workers to West Africa “impressive.” U.S.
Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power also lauded Havana’s
More than half of the roughly 450 Cuban doctors and nurses trained to
treat Ebola have deployed to West Africa.
Earlier this week, the United Nations voted for the 23rd time in favor
of a resolution to end the decades-long U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.
Ambassador Ronald D. Godard, U.S. Senior Area Advisor for Western
Hemisphere Affairs, addressed Cuba’s role in Ebola prevention during a
speech in New York opposing the resolution.
“Though Cuba’s contributions to the fight against Ebola are laudable,
they do not excuse or diminish the regime’s treatment of its own
people,” Godard said ahead of the vote.
Source: Lawmaker Blasts US Participation in Cuba Ebola Meeting –