The article points out the Cuban medical personnel also played a key role in treating cholera in Haiti after a disastrous earthquake in 2010. Some medical personnel returned to Cuba where there was the first cholera outbreak in a century. Cuba even offered a rapid response team of doctors to go to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, an offer that was not accepted by the US. US authorities are apparently quite happy that Cuba is offering 460 doctors and nurses specially trained in precautions necessary to treat Ebola patients. Already 165 have arrived in Sierra Leone. The long ailing Cuban former president Fidel Castro said the US and Cuba should set aside their differences and cooperate to contain the Ebola outbreak.
The US has responded after some initial hesitation. A mid-level official from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attended a summit in Havana. The conference was held under the auspices of ALBA or the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our American, a grouping of mostly left-leaning Latin American countries including Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia. Nelson Arboleda, the CDC chief for Central America put the issue quite succinctly:
“This a world emergency and we should all work together and cooperate in this effort.”The US has pledged to coordinate their efforts with those of the Cuban medical personnel but so far have not offered to treat or help evacuate infected Cuban personnel. In an unusual move John Kerry invited the top Cuban diplomat in Washington to attend a speech he gave on ebola.
Not everyone was happy with the cooperation between Cuba and the US. Republican representative Mario Diaz-Balart criticized the CDC for sending Arboleda to the ALBA meeting:
“It’s a disgrace that the United States sent a representative to an ALBA meeting in Havana and praised the Cuban dictatorship for sending forced medical labor to West Africa,”
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen also from South Florida with its large Cuban emigre constituency claimed that the Cuban doctors posed a threat to her community:
“Our community must be ready for any eventuality and that includes the possible spread of the Ebola virus from a Latin American country. The Castro regime’s decision to send Cuban doctors in a thinly disguised propaganda attempt may put the region and South Florida at risk."