COVID Update: Cuba

Cuban Internationalism stands out during pandemic

CoDev often accompanies delegations to meet education and public administration partners in Cuba. During these visits two things that inevitably stand out as sources of pride for our hosts are the country’s comprehensive public health system and Cuban internationalism.

Cuban internationalism dates back to the early 1960s, but more recently it has increasingly taken the form of assisting other countries in achieving the basic human rights of education and healthcare. Cuban teachers assist throughout Latin America to guide literacy campaigns, while Cuban medical personnel work in many countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean in everything from restoring sight, to developing rural health networks and even constructing entire national public health systems (while now a little dated, the 2006 film Salud! provides an excellent overview of this work).

At the same time, tens of thousands of healthcare professionals from around the world have been trained at Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine, with a special emphasis on providing care to rural and marginalized populations.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, these sources of Cuban pride have come together in new ways. Shortly after the outbreak began in the Chinese province of Hubei, Cubans sent anti-viral drugs to help alleviate the impact of the virus. When no one else would accept the COVID-stricken British cruise ship MS Braemar, adrift for days seeking safe harbour, the Cubans took it in and treated the passengers before returning them to their home countries.

CoDev’s partners at the Cuban teachers’ and public administration workers’ unions report that, as in Canada, they are attempting to social distance and are working from home as much as possible. With 1537 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 64 dead on the island of 11.5 million (as of May 1, John Hopkins University), Cuba has so far avoided the mass infections affecting the US, Europe and some parts of Canada. But the number of cases continue to rise, putting new strains on the country’s economic and healthcare resources.

Despite the growing need for medical staff at home, Cuba has recently sent medical teams to help numerous other countries combat the virus. This includes a large team to COVID-ravished Italy, whose own dedicated doctors have been stretched well beyond their limits caring for tens of thousands affected by the illness.

CoDev shares below a number of articles regarding Cuba’s remarkable medical internationalism in the face of the pandemic.  In response to the Trump administration warning countries against accepting Cuban medical aid, a petition is circulating that urges the Canadian government to publicly recognize the country’s contribution to the international effort to control the virus. CoDev supporters wishing to add their name to this petition can do so here.

Some useful articles on Cuba’s contribution to the international effort to control the CoVid 19 pandemic:

The world rediscovers Cuban medical internationalism – Le Monde Diplomatique
What coronavirus revealed about national mindsets across the world and how Cuba came out on top – The Independent

“Humanitarian Solidarity”: Even Under U.S. Sanctions, Cuba Sends Doctor Brigade to
Cuba’s Coronavirus Response Is Putting Other Countries to Shame – Jacobin Magazine
Cuba Under Media Attack for Sending Doctors, Not Bombs, to Help Covid-19 Victims – FAIR

A team of Cuban doctors prepare to leave for Italy to assist in the fight against Covid 19
(photo: Jacobin Magazine)

COVID Update: El Salvador

EL SALVADOR – ANDES 21 De Junio (National Association of Salvadoran Teachers 21 of June)

With borders closed between Central American countries, teachers are reaching out virtually to offer moral support and exchange strategies for coping with the health crisis. CoDev checked in during one of the meetings and is sharing a partner update from the National Association of Salvadoran Educators @andes21dejunio.

In El Salvador as of April 17, 426 people have tested positive for COVID-19, and 41 people have died.1

El Salvador is experiencing a situation similar to that across the region, in t that this pandemic has unmasked the current crisis of capitalism. Many governments wish to cover up all the false promises and inadequacies in providing basic public services to their citizens. We cannot move freely. At first the preventative measures that began on March 14 with a state of exception and national emergency were observed, but then the government announced the provision of economic support of up to $300.00USD without any established online mechanism, forcing people to breach quarantine measures and make long lines outside the 16 CENADE [National Centres for Attention and Administration of Subsidies] offices to verify their eligibility. Although the government has stopped electricity bills for the next three months, these will have to be paid in the next two years with interest, tightening the grip of debt on families.

Without a doubt, women are the front line of defense. In healthcare and at home, we are in charge of preparing food, maintaining hygiene and caregiving. This means that most of the work dealing with the current health crisis affects women and girls in particular. On top of that, there has been an increase in domestic violence. Many women are under quarantine with their aggressors and they can’t leave their homes to file complaints. There is much confusion in the healthcare system, already weakened by privatization. 4,325 people are in 100 quarantine centres across the country that are slowly becoming focal points of infection due to lack of personal protective equipment or preparedness plans. Although there are recognized specialists in infectious diseases in the country, the government has yet to call upon their expertise.

ANDES 21 de Junio and the Women’s Secretariat, have organized their members to provide assistance in case of emergencies 24/7 as well as the delivery of medicines for members with chronic illnesses. Active members, as well as contract teachers are covered by the ISBM [Salvadoran Institute for Educator’s Wellbeing], to ensure that the national hospital network provides services to all education workers in case of emergency. The ISBM also committed to providing teachers with one million masks and hand sanitizer.

Teachers are working with unstable salaries. We need to analyze the health and social crisis created by capitalism, as it is the working class that is the most impacted. We need to provide our students with the tools needed to address these local and global issues.

ANDES 21 de Junio’s Women’s Secretariat’s work to promote and develop gender-equity based education in Salvadoran classrooms is supported by @BCTeachersFederation, @Abteachers and @surreyteachers.


COVID Update: Honduras

COPEMH – (Honduran Middle School Teachers’ College)
PRICPHMA – (First Professional College of Honduran Teachers)

Central American women teachers held a virtual meeting to learn about how the health crisis is impacting their work, their students and communities. CoDev was asked to join the conversation and today we share with you an update from 2 partners; the Honduran High School Teachers’ College @COPEMH and the First Professional College of Honduran Teachers @PricphmaSeccionalDos.

In Honduras as of April 17, 426 have tested positive for COVID-19, and 41 people have died.1

On March 14, the government declared a state of emergency, prohibited gatherings of over 50 people and established a curfew between 3:00pm and 9:00am.

The current health crisis comes on top of historical debt that the government has with the Honduran people, in terms of basic public services, plus the high levels of corruption that had already been denounce; as in the case of the $21 million CAD that was looted by government authorities from the Honduran Institute of Social Security in 2014.

In some cases, doctors and healthcare workers are being threatened by authorities if they provide information such as the number of confirmed cases that are not “official” or if they don’t have the proper personal protection equipment. In other instances, healthcare workers are being stigmatized by their neighbours due to their contact with vulnerable patients. If that is not enough, we are also on alert for Dengue Fever and the Zika virus.

Teachers received instructions from the Secretary of Education to move towards teaching online and distance learning, but many of the families and communities, even teachers, don’t have access to wifi or the internet. In terms of pre-school education an important element is the socialization of children but under quarantine measures, children don’t socialize with their teachers or classmates. The government is expecting teachers to work from home, but there are no clear instructions on how that will play out. So far, only a national television channel has been established to provide classes through broadcast, without considering the communities who don’t have access to a television or electricity.

In secondary education, teachers are being asked to work with gang members and youth in conflict with the law by including these vulnerable students in the new distance learning through WhatsApp, placing teachers at a greater risk of extortion.

There are many students and communities experiencing hunger and job losses, particularly in the department of Cortes, which is the industrial capital of Honduras. Many sweatshops in the free trade zones have closed. There are workers whose vacation time or vacation pay has been taken away, and although labour lawyers ensure us that this is illegal, it is the owners of big businesses who make the laws in Honduras. In certain locations, communities are blocking traffic to ask for food, and others believe it is better to die from hunger than COVID-19.

The Ministry of Education is also offering new contracts across the country to individuals who are not trained as pre-school teachers or have any education background. There are more than 100 teachers who are not being paid. These are teachers who have worked for more than 20 or 30 years and are being asked to go to the capital to resolve their administrative issues. Many, particularly rural teachers, don’t have the money to make that trip. If they did, they face blockades and heavy military presence in the streets with many reports of abuse of power. Authorities continue to “warn” that thousands will die due to COVID-19, but we are also seeing that they are taking advantage of the health crisis to implement “social cleansing”. Women who defend their territories continue to be killed, like Iris Argentina Alvarez from the department of Choluteca.

The fear of becoming ill, of not being able to circulate freely even during “allowed hours”, the recent increase in basic food costs and the lack of job stability, particularly for those contract and informal workers, is generating a great deal of stress, anxiety, agitation and the disruption of mental health. The majority of pre-school teachers are women. Now more than ever we need to take care of each other, and exercise sorority.

CoDev’s programing with COPEMH and PRICPHMA is centered on developing and expanding Non-Sexist and Inclusive Pedagogy in Honduran high school and pre-school classrooms. This work is supported by @BCTeachersFederation, @ABteachers and @surreyteachers.


COVID Update: Costa Rica

COSTA RICA – SEC (Union of Educational Workers of Costa Rica)

Central American teachers have been checking in with one another through virtual meetings, CoDev was gladly invited to join the discussion and today we bring you a brief report from our Costa Rican partner the Education Workers’ Union @sindicatosec.

In Costa Rica as of April 17, 649 people tested positive for COVID-19, 34 of these are foreigners, 24 people have recovered, and 4 have died.1

On March 16, the government declared a state of emergency, closing public institutions including schools, for an indefinite period of time; suspended work contracts, and issued information on social distancing and hand washing to reduce the risk of infection.

In November 2019 the Executive presented Congress with a Bill called “solidarity contribution”; a tax on wages and pensions, for May, June and July, which help finance a plan to support workers who lost their jobs due to current health crisis.

Mobility and travel restrictions are strict with an increase in fines for vehicles circulating between 10:00pm and 4:00am from $56.00CAD to $245.00CAD. The only exceptions are for cargo transportation, emergency services and media. During Holy Week, only those with assigned plate numbers will be allowed to circulate. In addition, the government created a Medical Centre for COVID-19 patients only.

According to our education partners, the government favours projects from companies both inside and outside the free trade zones in order to add flexibility and reduce working hours. Big businesses and corporations have been pardoned their debt with the National Treasury. It was also announced that the annual wage increase for workers will not happen this year and workers with accumulated vacation will be forced to use it. IN some cases, and others will have to take anticipated vacation time.

The Ministry of Education is offering online teaching training through various platforms beginning at the end of April. SEC and the Women’s Secretariat are demanding the government ensure free WIFI and internet access for students and teachers in order to implement distance learning.

Eighty percent of elementary and secondary teachers are women; many are heads of their households and will have to add these new tasks to their regular unpaid domestic and care work. A health crisis should not lead to another social crisis.

SEC’s Women’s Secretariat’s work to empower women and improve their participation with their union is supported by @BCTearchersFederation.

Further update on actions: As a measure to ensure food security, SEC’s Cooperative, which normally provides school materials for every level of education to teachers and parents, is now also responding to the health emergency by offering up to 50% discount on food hampers and deliveries to all affiliated members and public in general.


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Spotlight on Colombia: Cultures of Resistance

Saturday, October 17, 2020
3-5PM (Pacific Time)

Share in an afternoon of solidarity with our Colombian Partners, featuring presentations
and cultural activities from the Buenaventura Strike Committee and
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We invite you to listen, learn and ask questions. This is an exceptional opportunity to hear directly from our partners about what is taking place in southwestern Colombia in the midst of the global pandemic.

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