Cuba boosting ‘Pacific connection’ in defiance of US blockade

Leima Freire … New Zealanders should read more Cuban writers, journalists and bloggers. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
Leima Freire … New Zealanders should read more Cuban writers, journalists and bloggers. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

David Robie also blogs at Café Pacific

This report by Michael Andrew was filed for the Pacific Media Centre and Pacific Media Watch:

Cuba will develop relationships with Pacific countries despite pressure from the United States, says a visiting advocate.

On a tour of New Zealand, Leima Martinez Freire, Asia Pacific director of the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) said Cuba was in a position to offer support to Pacific nations.

The Latin American country currently provides medical aid, doctors and training programmes to Kiribati, Vanuatu and others through bilateral agreements.

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However, Freire said that the US was attempting to dictate how these countries engaged with Cuba.

“The objective of the policies of the US is to isolate Cuba and prevent other countries from receiving Cuban help,” she said.

US blockade
The US imposed an embargo on Cuba in 1960 in response to the Cuban revolution and the nationalising of American owned oil refineries.

Known as El Bloqueo, or “The Blockade”, the embargo is still in place and prohibits trade between the two countries. It also restricts foreign subsidiaries of US companies from doing business with Cuba, making it difficult for foreign countries themselves to conduct trade.

Freire said Cuba’s relationships with Pacific countries allowed the sharing of expertise and humanitarian aid.

“We’re talking about bilateral relationships that brings in programmes that are for the benefit of the most disadvantaged people.”

Cuba also offers trading programmes for students of Pacific countries to travel to Cuba and receive full medical training.

Medical training
Thirty ni-Vanuatu doctors were trained through the programme and more would be sent to Cuba for study.

Freire said the schemes were important because they were completely funded and once trained, the doctors would return to their countries where they could serve the community.

“They don’t pay for accommodation, food, school supplies. The only commitment is to study hard and return to their communities.”

Despite the pressure from the US, Freire said she was positive Pacific countries could make their own decisions about what was best for their people.

“I’m positive and optimistic that the different countries could decide their own future for the benefit of the people.”

Cuba-China relationship
Cuba also had a strong relationship with China through which it traded in biotechnology, clean energy and received financing.

Freire, who also spoke at public meetings in Auckland and Wellington, said she hoped the relationship would enable more help to reach the Pacific.

“I know China has their interests in the Asian Pacific region, I think that together we can implement programmes for the benefit of the people,” she said.

“Probably China with the resources they have and Cuba with the knowledge we have, it could be tremendous support for the populations of the Pacific.”

Freire was visiting New Zealand and Australia on behalf of ICAP before she returned home to Cuba.

She hopes ICAP – founded 59 years ago by former President Fidel Castro – can reach as many people as it can.

She implored New Zealanders to learn more about Cuba and especially by reading content from Cuban writers, journalists and bloggers.

Correcting ‘misinformation’
“There is a lot of misinformation about what is happening in Cuba. Always try to contrast that information.”

She said the best thing was to visit Cuba to see how the society solves its own problems under the US embargo designed to cripple a socialist country.

“I think what is happening to Cuba it is common to other countries. It is the powerful countries telling small countries what they should do.

“That is what we all should denounce. Every country has the right to develop itself and be independent.”

The Cuban ambassador to New Zealand, Mario Alzugaray Rodriguez, was present at Freire’s talk in Auckland.

Michael Andrew is the Pacific Media Centre’s Pacific Media Watch freedom project contributing editor.

Cuban posters at the Auckland Trades Hall meeting of Leima Freire last week. Image: Del Abcede/PMC


  1. what a disgrace the usa is trying to block improved healthcare for Pacific Island Nations.

    Cuba is next on the list of ‘Hard’ regieme changes …. after Venezuela.

    Thats if the usa Regime change war criminal Eliot Abrams … has worked his death squad and genocide magic successfully there .

  2. Cuba can teach Kiwis a lot.

    They showed the world how to grow food and survive without oil, a lesson we all need to learn.

    NZ can’t even train enough Doctors for its own population while Cuba trains more doctors per capita than any other country in the world and exports doctors to help poor countries so earning a high reputation which is well recognizsd by most UN countries , but not the lackeys of Anglo /US capitalism.

    Beware Cuba as the US is making moves to have commercial operations in Cuba. The trojan horse.

    NZ should welcome trade and education exchanges with Cuba.

    • Maybe we should send New Zealand medical students to Cuba for Medical Training they have one of the best health systems in the world and they are a 3rd World Country ?

      Why do we not train more health professionals here in NZ and why is it so expensive to train Doctors here in NZ ?

      Serious Questions ?

  3. I am ok with Cuba, but I worry about their close relationship with China, probably a necessity, due to the US continuing a blockade in trade and so.

    China uses technology to widely control its population, with cameras all over the place, face recognition technology and so forth.

    It will become an Orwellian surveillance and control state, if it is not one already, and any country getting too friendly with China must bear this in mind.

    If we want freedom for ourselves and the smaller Pacific Island states, beware of China, same as US influence.

  4. I still do not understand why there are still sanctions against Cuba, it was a Spanish Colony until the USA invaded Cuba in 1900. Under the Baptista Regime it was a Police State until Castro & Guevera & the Cuban People took it back in 1959 ?

    USA now trying to do the same thing in Venezuela ?

    Who do the Americans think they are, they slaughtered 100 million Red Indians settling the USA ?

    • Cuba seems like where we were in the early 1950’s as a economy that built it’s own essential industry, power generation , white wear (Fisher & Paykel manufacture, carpeting mills, wallboard, (pinex) Bell TV and many more like this, though it all seemed small to us as we were growing up then.

      It was the stage that we went though to make something we needed if we needed it then.

      That was our time when we used the term “Kiwi can do” and we all were happier and proud of our self reliance.


      I checked that statement issue on wikipedia.

      “Who do the Americans think they are, they slaughtered 100 million Red Indians settling the USA” ?

      “epidemic disease was the overwhelming cause of the population decline of the Native Americans because of their lack of immunity to new diseases brought from Europe.”

      Impact on native populations
      Main article: Population history of indigenous peoples of the Americas
      From the 16th through the 19th centuries, the population of Indians sharply declined.[45] Most mainstream scholars believe that, among the various contributing factors,[46] epidemic disease was the overwhelming cause of the population decline of the Native Americans because of their lack of immunity to new diseases brought from Europe.[47][48][49][50] It is difficult to estimate the number of pre-Columbian Native Americans who were living in what is today the United States of America.[51] Estimates range from a low of 2.1 million to a high of 18 million (Dobyns 1983).[52][8][53] By 1800, the Native population of the present-day United States had declined to approximately 600,000, and only 250,000 Native Americans remained in the 1890s.[54] Chicken pox and measles, endemic but rarely fatal among Europeans (long after being introduced from Asia), often proved deadly to Native Americans.[55][56][57][58] In the 100 years following the arrival of the Spanish to the Americas, large disease epidemics depopulated large parts of the eastern United States in the 16th century.[59]

      There are a number of documented cases where diseases were deliberately spread among Native Americans as a form of biological warfare. The most well-known example occurred in 1763, when Sir Jeffery Amherst, Commander-in-Chief of the Forces of the British Army, wrote praising the use of smallpox-infected blankets to “extirpate” the Indian race. Blankets infected with smallpox were given to Native Americans besieging Fort Pitt. The effectiveness of the attempt is unclear.[60][61][62]

      In 1634, Fr. Andrew White of the Society of Jesus established a mission in what is now the state of Maryland, and the purpose of the mission, stated through an interpreter to the chief of an Indian tribe there, was “to extend civilization and instruction to his ignorant race, and show them the way to heaven”.[63] Fr. Andrew’s diaries report that by 1640, a community had been founded which they named St. Mary’s, and the Indians were sending their children there “to be educated among the English”.[64] This included the daughter of the Piscataway Indian chief Tayac, which exemplifies not only a school for Indians, but either a school for girls, or an early co-ed school. The same records report that in 1677, “a school for humanities was opened by our Society in the centre of [Maryland], directed by two of the Fathers; and the native youth, applying themselves assiduously to study, made good progress. Maryland and the recently established school sent two boys to St. Omer who yielded in abilities to few Europeans, when competing for the honor of being first in their class. So that not gold, nor silver, nor the other products of the earth alone, but men also are gathered from thence to bring those regions, which foreigners have unjustly called ferocious, to a higher state of virtue and cultivation.”[65]

      Through the mid-17th century the Beaver Wars were fought over the fur trade between the Iroquois and the Hurons, the northern Algonquians, and their French allies. During the war the Iroquois destroyed several large tribal confederacies, including the Huron, Neutral, Erie, Susquehannock, and Shawnee, and became dominant in the region and enlarged their territory.

      In 1727, the Sisters of the Order of Saint Ursula founded Ursuline Academy in New Orleans, which is currently the oldest continuously operating school for girls and the oldest Catholic school in the United States. From the time of its foundation, it offered the first classes for Native American girls, and would later offer classes for female African-American slaves and free women of color.

      1882 studio portrait of the (then) last surviving Six Nations warriors who fought with the British in the War of 1812
      Between 1754 and 1763, many Native American tribes were involved in the French and Indian War/Seven Years’ War. Those involved in the fur trade tended to ally with French forces against British colonial militias. The British had made fewer allies, but it was joined by some tribes that wanted to prove assimilation and loyalty in support of treaties to preserve their territories. They were often disappointed when such treaties were later overturned. The tribes had their own purposes, using their alliances with the European powers to battle traditional Native enemies. Some Iroquois who were loyal to the British, and helped them fight in the American Revolution, fled north into Canada.

      After European explorers reached the West Coast in the 1770s, smallpox rapidly killed at least 30% of Northwest Coast Native Americans. For the next eighty to one hundred years, smallpox and other diseases devastated native populations in the region.[66] Puget Sound area populations, once estimated as high as 37,000 people, were reduced to only 9,000 survivors by the time settlers arrived en masse in the mid-19th century.[67]

      Smallpox epidemics in 1780–82 and 1837–38 brought devastation and drastic depopulation among the Plains Indians.[68][69] By 1832, the federal government established a smallpox vaccination program for Native Americans (The Indian Vaccination Act of 1832). It was the first federal program created to address a health problem of Native Americans.[70][71]

      • And if you believe that you could probably get a job at msnbc. Copying and pasting from wikipaedia may be a good way of reinforcing the whitemans tales but as ever negkects the stories from those that the horrific genocide was applied to. You seriously underestimate the intention that was always with the settlers which was to access the land as a resource that they could own. Ownership of colonial controled lands always require the destruction of the original inhabitants culture. Try enlarging your mind with a less onesided take on history. Never hurts to listen to the victims

      • Same thing happened here in NZ where 40,000 to 60,000 Maori were killed in the Musket Wars 1820-1840. The Maori population declined further through the 18th Century with the introduction of diseases from the Europeans and with the land confiscations 1850-1870’s Maori lost their economic base and their traditional homelands to the Settlor Government’s, further hardship and ill health was the outcome for those Maori Tribes.

    • Yes and that was after the Indians had saved them from starvation over the course of the first few winters. How do you justify such an apalling attitude. Well its quite simple really. It wasnt the Indians that saved them. In their religous fantasy of make believe and fairies it was god that caused the Indians to aid them. I know. Its very disturbing but Christians of a certain type rejected the message of love and viewed themselves as the new chosen people.

    • That is the psyche of the USA. Greedy genocidal maniacs in charge with a huge following of a similar kind.

      THEM ( being other who are not not human) and US ( who are privileged above all others – Chosen by “God”)

      How did Maori loose their land here.

      A very similar greed boosted by guns and diseases with eager profiteers backing the process.of land alienation.

      The missionaries also helped the alienation. Fear is a great weapon.

    • The people may like the idea of peace and living without fear but they will never be allowed to.

      They also might like some honesty but that dream is not a founding principle.

    • Peace is the futherest thing from their mind. The machinery of war is about all they know how to build anymore and no ones buying in times of peace.

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