Open Letter from Cuban Medical Professionals to regime leaders

Política. Carta anónima de Médicos cubanos.
Traducción al inglés. Ana Hebra Flaster.

Fallecidos en hospital cubano. Foto tomada de Cubanet. reported on this letter today at. 5 pm. The letter has been circulating on social media, but in Spanish. I’ve translated it as it appeared on a Cuban doctor’s Facebook page for you to read and consider. The bulleted section is my own formatting, to help with clarity.

Because of on-going threats to medical professionals who’ve denounced the regime’s handling of the pandemic, it’s understandable that the signatories want to remain anonymous. Even so, some Cuban doctors posted the letter on Facebook to support their colleagues. Cubanet quotes one of these doctors: “They (State Security) said if I kept denouncing the situation they’ll disappear me.” According to this source, all of the doctors who posted the letter received visits from State Security. Some were forced to delete their accounts, others have been detained–some remained in detention for more than 24 hours. Due to the threats they’ve received, including job loss, Cubanet was unable to confirm the total number of signatories.

The letter is long, but it’s worth reading. It’s full of examples of the horror taking place across Cuba, which recently had the fourth highest Covid contagion rate (per 100k inhabitants) in the world. The medical workers who wrote it believe in their cause, and want the world to know what is happening.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments.


From a group of colleagues whose names I will omit for obvious reasons

Cuba, August 6, 2021

Sr. Miguel Díaz Canel Bermudez, First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party and President of the Republic
Sr. Manuel Marrero Cruz, First Minister of Cuba
Sr. Esteban Lazo Hernández, President of the National Assembly and the Counsel of State
Sr. José Ángel Portal Miranda, Minister of Public Health
Sr. Francisco Durán García, National Director of Epidemiology

Recently the OPS (Panamerican Health Organization) recognized that the covid-19 pandemic situation in Cuba pandemic “is worrisome and complicated,” and cited clearly that, in recent weeks, our country was in first place in Latin America and fourth in the world for covid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. In terms of number of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, it is third in Latin America (after Paraguay and Argentina) and ninth in the world.

Although these statistics are based on official reports from the State, which you serve at that highest levels, we doubt they represent the true situation this country is facing.

The hard reality in each province is far from the cold statistics that are reported on a daily basis.

The hospitals have collapsed.

  • The sick must wait long hours to be seen.
  • There aren’t enough tests to confirm positive cases.
  • Many of the sick or suspected of being sick are sent home for domestic isolation. without, in many cases, being evaluated on a daily basis by medical personnel.
  • There are no medications in pharmacies.
  • There are so few available ambulances that the sick must wait hours or days to be transported.
  • Some of our compatriots have died in their homes and their families have had to endure in silence the unbearable pain of having the body in front of them for long periods because the morgues are overfilled and don’t the means to collect the dead.
  • Cemeteries are so full that common graves are often used, the dead orphaned from their loved ones’ last goodbye.

We who are writing this understand the situation very well. We are medical professionals on the front lines of this epidemic. We’ve seen with our own eyes everything we are writing about. We must deal with the desperation of the people each hour, minute, and day. We’ve been battling this for months, almost exclusively with just our dignity and sense of professionalism. For this reason we don’t care at all if you like what we are about to say, because none of us has public roles or lofty positions, none of us would exchange science for the filthy politics that have taken Cuba to this disaster under your responsibility. For this reason, many things must be said, and we will not stay silent about this disaster.

Science is in a global battle against SARCoV2 that should be led by scientists, not politicians. MINSAP (Ministry of Public Health) has the national directive, in this case on epidemiology led by Sr. Durán, and should be advising the PCC (Cuban Communist Party) and the government on how to handle scientifically the epidemic. MINSAP has the technical knowledge and expertise to do this.

Cuba’s public health strategy is political. This is clearly stated in Law Number 41 of Public Health, which defines the universal, free access to public health, it’s social character, etc., etc., etc. But the tactics for reaching that constitutional right to public health care, and the state’s obligation to guarantee that care, must be eminently scientifically based. Only in this way can the government know what is needed at any given moment, and scientists are the ones who can define how to confront a crisis. It shouldn’t be the reverse, as has happened now. This is why we are facing this disaster, why its management has slipped from our hands, and why the people are paying for it with their lives.

Have you seen the videos on social media showing the chaos in our hospitals and clinics? Have you seen people dying in front of their desperate loved ones’ cell phones lenses? Have you seen mothers, sisters, children crying with impotence as a family member agonizes in a clinic that looks more like a war zone than a place where lives are saved?

The people are showing the true situation we’re living in Cuba. That’s the reality we are suffering, not the one shown through official media, whose reports are more like a Machiavellian satire of “magical realism,” or better said in this case the transmutation of Dante’s inferno to a Caribbean island that one day dreamed of paradise. What we see on social networks isn’t always “fake news” financed by a foreign intelligence agency to discredit someone, as you try to convince us. It is the cry of a desperate population that has no one to complain to because its leaders are blind and deaf to the reality of their daily lives. Dedicate more time to what people are showing you and less time to tweeting about topics that have nothing to do with everyday life and only prove the distance between the lives you live and the life lived by the rest of the country.

Mr. Díaz Canel, lower yourself from the podium of the working group for the prevention and control of the pandemic, where you systematically appear, and instead sit humbly and listen to what those who know how to confront a pandemic have to say. Your role as premier secretary of the Cuban Communist Party is to finance and guarantee that the directives given by Portal and Durán are carried out by this country’s administrators. And as head of state, whose power supposedly flows from its citizens, you should ensure that people suffer as little as possible during this precarious situation. Demand that the first secretaries in all the provinces leave their elevated statuses behind and guarantee that provincial health directors can take on the work that is meant for them.

Mr. Marrero, your role is to implement from executive and administrative levels all the necessary measures for MINSAP’s science-based plans. You have the resources allotted to all the nation’s ministries and should use them to realize MINSAP’s directives. If there are no ambulances, demand that the minister of the interior (MININT), through its agents across the country, uses its thousands and thousands of patrol cars for for medical purposes. Each one of those, with a sick passenger inside, could solve the transport problems that are keeping the sick from reaching medical help in a timely manner. Your decision to use bicycle taxis, horse-drawn carts, and privately owned cars for this purpose shows a lack of respect for the afflicted. Doesn’t it shame you that the country has been shocked to see the vast amount of money spent on modern patrol cars and trucks for transporting special forces to repress the population while the public health service lacks the ambulances needed to save those same lives? No other Cuban would have to wait long periods to be rescued when complications arise in their homes, no other Cuban would die in their home and then subject the household to the horror of having their loved ones’ body in front of them for many hours before it can be taken to its final resting place. This would be a good way for the PNR (National Political Police) to begin washing the blood off their clothes after the brutal beatings, arbitrary detentions and imprisonments since July 11th that have generated so many grievances against a force whose principal function is to protect citizens, not massacre them.

Direct the minister of justice and the country’s general controller to be the strict watchdogs of the country’s resources. They should guarantee that the corrupt leaders who swarm around the middle of this chaotic situation should not divert the scarce resources we all depend on to fill their own refrigerators or build their own homes with materials unavailable to the rest of the population. Sanction the children of the revolutionary leaders who live the lives of “millionaire proletariats” while the rest of the country wrestles desperately with so many unmet necessities. End once and for all the nepotism deeply rooted among the elite. Audit state-controlled institutions, including the military emporium GAESA so the country can put to use the millions in hard currency it controls and use it to buy items of top priority for all Cubans. The military exists to guard the country against foreign threats that attempt invasion, not to become capitalist empresarios with control of the nation’s coffers! This would all be more effective than wasting resources in multitudes of shameful processions without guaranteeing the protection of thousands of young people who, on the whole, only took to the streets to express and demand their constitutional rights. Commit to provide uninterrupted water service to the country, something so necessary for maintaining hygiene during this epidemic, put an end to the blackouts, guarantee that the various national agencies do what they are supposed to do to meet the needs that Cubans are owed.

Sr. Lazo, convoke the National Assembly to analyze, free from the castrating effects of forced unanimity and the strangulation of divergent views, a genuine referendum to evaluate and correct the multiple errors committed by the executive in its management of this crisis and which even now continue to be committed. Who will explain to the nation the decision to permit the flow of tourists from countries with high contagion rates to our tourism zones? When will the president be held to account for essentially calling for a civil war, calling for people to confront with beatings and clubs the calls for redemption of their own countrymen. Will you hold accountable those who, despite all the warnings, imposed at the worst possible moment the disastrous “Re-ordering” which has caused our nation so much suffering and thrown our economy into a profound and possibly irreversible crisis? We believe the National Assembly, if it truly represents the power of the Cuban people and expresses its sovereign will, has many long and uninterrupted work sessions ahead.

Sr. Portal Miranda, you have permitted one of the so-called “jewels” of the revolution to become a phantasm drowning in its own lies. The public health system has collapsed, it is disorganized and exhausted. Hundreds of health care professionals have died from CoVID. We work without adequate personal protective equipment, the isolation areas are a disgrace, the APS (Ministry of Public Health) can’t address the needs of those who are sick and at home. We work with passion, but that’s not enough. Reorganize our system so we can confront this pandemic.

Some essential questions must be asked: How many autopsies are done on those who’ve died from CoVID in our country? As the minister responsible for these issues, haven’t you wondered about the scientific explanation for why the epidemic has sickened so many young people here and, importantly, what has caused such elevated numbers of pediatric cases in our country, something that hasn’t occurred in any other country until now? But to get the true answers to those questions, autopsies must be done. Are our own medical protocols up to date with the latest global advances in treating CoVID? It’s humiliating that alternative medicines are being recommended for treating a potentially mortal disease. Are Cubans living in the cave-dwelling age?

We know that medical personnel are arriving from Cuban medical missions overseas to support critical provinces like Ciego de Ávila, Matanzas, Cienfuegos. This may help, especially as support for those of us who’ve been working for months on end without rest and risking our own lives, the lives of our own families and children, but without enough resources little can be done. You know this very well. The thousands and thousands of dollars the country earns for these overseas medical missions should be used to buy supplies, medicine and all that is necessary to confront with dignity this epidemic and provide proper care to our people. Nothing should be more important today than the lives of our brothers and sisters.

Dr. Durán, it’s been extremely painful for us to see you encourage, on a daily basis on national TV, the UJC (Cuban Youth Union) caravan. How is it possible that the highest epidemiological authority in the country, who for months has been calling for public discipline, social distancing, the person who best knows that this virus finds the best broth for propagation in these kinds of gatherings, be so hypocritical and, thinking more of saving your own job than fulfilling your profession duty, bless the stupid decision to continue calling for these large gatherings that will only increase the spread of this disease and worsen the number of deaths? Your professional and moral obligation, based on your medical experience, and your years of service, in your high post should have been, from the beginning, to demand the urgent closing of our borders when the country was still not seriously impacted by the disease. You did not deny the entrance to the country of hundreds and hundreds of Indian construction workers arriving from areas where the Delta variant was circulating, with its higher contagion and mortality. You didn’t raise your voice against the illogical curfews at night when the rest of the day the entire country was standing in interminable lines to beat back the hunger that grips them every day. You have endeared yourself so much to doctors and reporters that you’ve learned to lie better than they do. You know very well that the statistics are pure fallacy and shaped strictly by political needs. There cannot be truth in that information when there are no diagnostic tests available for all, when labs in several provinces have collapsed under the great number of samples they’ve had to process. When the numbers of deaths are skewed to avoid, for example, those who tested positive for CoVID but were then negated, but the death was still due to a variant, the case isn’t reported in epidemic statistics, or when, despite having symptoms, the patient dies without having had a PCR, the death isn’t attributed to CoVID, and so on with innumerable lies concocted so the world won’t know that we are up to our necks in so much shit. We may have missed many topics in this missive, but the cathartic benefit of exposing those we have to you, the principals responsible for the situation facing our country, and to not be the spawns of the macabre system that exists today and that was once a beacon for the dispossessed, soothes our hearts and souls. We will not be accomplices to so many lies, to so many errors, to so much trash. Our country must know the truth. As for all of you, history will not absolve you.


Cuban medical professionals, exhausted, betrayed, but determined to continue the battle to save our brothers’ and sisters’ lives.

About the Author

Hi. I’m Ana. I was five when my family emigrated from Cuba to the U.S. in 1967. Ever since, I’ve been striving to honor my family’s story and Cuban American culture through storytelling. Currently, I’m at work on Radio Bemba, a full-length memoir about my family’s experience. In the past, my commentary been featured in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, and more. I’ve also appeared on PBS’s Stories from The Stage and NPR’s All Things Considered.

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