Volunteer Blood Donors Ignore The Cuban Regime’s Business Dealings /
Iván García, 6 March 2017 — A sloppy piece of cardboard painted with a
crayon announces the sale of a discolored house in the neighborhood of
La Vibora, 30 minutes by car south of Havana.
If Amanda, the owner, who is raving poor, manages to sell the house for
the equivalent of 40,000 dollars, she intends to buy two small
apartments, one for her daughter and the other for her son.
The house urgently needs substantial repairs. But Amanda’s family
doesn’t have the money needed to undertake the work. Frank, 36, her son,
is the custodian of a secondary school and earns a monthly salary of 365
Cuban pesos, around 17 dollars, and to help support the family, he’s a
The Cuban regime doesn’t pay for these donations. Frank, who gives blood
up to two times a month, should receive some 10 pounds of meat, a
half-kilo of fish and three pounds of chicken.
“There are always delays. It’s a pain. In every municipality there’s a
warehouse assigned to distribute this food to the blood donors. But it
never happens. And what is worse, the government doesn’t reinstate you.
For example, you never receive fish. Several of us donors sent a letter
to the Ministry of Public Health complaining about the lack of supplies,
but we’ve never received an answer,” complains Frank.
The material insecurity in Cuba is brutal. A growing number of families
have furniture in their homes that is half a century old, or more. They
lack modern appliances and must make their clothing and shoes last forever.
But the biggest problem is food, which devours between 80 and 90 percent
of the average salary, which, according to official data, is the
equivalent of 26 dollars a month.
Odalys, a nurse in a blood bank, says that “most volunteer donors give
blood in order to take some food home. There are also people who
occasionally give blood in order to receive a little snack of ham and
cheese and a soft drink.”
The CDRs (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution) are paramilitary
organizations, created as embryos of support for special services, to
collect commodities. They also conduct night patrols to expose
dissidents and those suspected of “illicit enrichment,” an aberrant
judicial heading applied by the Castro government to any person who
improves his quality of life.
Also, the CDRs have campaigns for blood donations. A resident of Lawton,
the president of a CDR, affirms that “every time there are fewer people
who want to donate blood. The CDRs have become a mess. They’re only busy
snitching on the dissidents. They haven’t done night duty for some time
on my block, much less organized recreational activities.”
Danaisis, who’s been a doctor for three years, recognizes that “even in
the large hospitals in Havana, where there are dozens of surgical
interventions every day, they don’t have sufficient plasma in their
blood banks. When a patient has to have an operation, family members
must donate blood. Or buy it from people at 20 dollars a donation.”
Like Frank and the rest of blood donors in the 10 de Octubre
municipality, the nurse, Odalys, and the doctor, Danaisis, don’t know
that the State exports, annually, hundreds of millions of dollars worth
of human blood derivatives.
According to María Welau, the executive director of the Cuba Archive
project, in an article published June 4, 2016, in Diario de Cuba, “For
decades, the Cuban State has coordinated a multimillion dollar business,
based on the commerce of blood extracted from its citizens, who ignore
this trafficking and don’t receive any remuneration for their donations.
Already in the middle of the 1960s, reports indicate that Cuba sold
blood to Vietnam and Canada. In 1995, Cuba exported blood worth 30.1
million US dollars, and this commerce represented its fifth export
product, surpassed only by sugar, nickel, shellfish and cigars.”
Werlau provides figures. “These exports don’t appear in the official
statistics of the Cuban Government, published by the National Office of
Statistics and Information (ONEI), but data from the world commerce
indicate that in the 20 years between 1995 and 2014, Cuba exported 622.5
million dollars worth of human blood derivatives — which gives an
average of 31 million dollars a year — under the category of Uniform
Classification for International Commerce (SITC 3002), for human blood
components (plasma, etc.) and medical products derived from plasma (PDMP
is the acronym in English).
In this article, the Cuba Archive Director denounces the fact that “the
largest amount of these exports has been allocated to countries whose
authoritarian governments are political allies of Cuba, probably to
state entities that apply less strict criteria and have the same ethical
standards (Iran, Russia, Vietnam, Algeria until 2003; then to Venezuela,
Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador).
“According to Cuban Government reports, 93 percent of all units of human
blood collected are broken into their components, which permits a much
more lucrative business than if only plasma is sold, and facilitates the
production of derivatives of high value, like interferon, human albumin,
immunoglobulins, clotting factors, toxins, vaccinations and other
pharmaceutical products. This export commerce gives Cuba a considerable
advantage over its competitors, because it saves the usual cost
represented by payments to the doors, whose blood is the raw material of
Exporting plasma, whether animal or human, isn’t a crime. What’s
despicable is the lack of transparency of Raúl Castro’s regime. Or that
Cubans like Frank have to give blood in exchange for a handful of meat
and a few pounds of chicken. Food that the State doesn’t deliver most of
Translated by Regina Anavy
Source: Volunteer Blood Donors Ignore The Cuban Regime’s Business
Dealings / Iván García – Translating Cuba –