Havana wants the world to believe that Cuban hardship in healthcare is caused by the U.S. embargo. But food and medicine are exempt from the embargo. As Julie Chung, now acting assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, tweeted in April 2020, the U.S. “routinely authorizes the export of humanitarian goods, agricultural products, medicine, and medical equipment to support the Cuban people.” Ms. Chung further noted that in 2019 the U.S. exported millions of dollars of medical goods to Cuba.
Cuba’s real problem is that it’s broke. And while all poor countries in the region have struggled to serve the public during Covid-19, only Cuba has made things worse by trying to use the pandemic as a way to earn hard currency for the ruling elite and boost its legitimacy around the world.
Shortages of medications for treatable illnesses in Cuba are routine. The contagious mite infestation of the skin known as scabies, for example, can be remedied with antibiotics and topical medicines like permethrin. Yet Cuban public-health officials have been helpless to stop it from spreading across the island.