byFRANCES MARTELAn extensive report published at the Cuba Archive Truth and Memory Project and flagged by the Cuban-American interest site Babalú Blog exposes the Cuban communist government’s decades-long scheme of profiting from blood and plasma-based products taken from unknowing or unwilling “donors.”
As Carlos Eire, Yale’s T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History & Religious Studies, notes at Babalú, the Fidel Castro regime had, for decades, extracted as much blood as possible from political prisoners before their executions against their will, using the blood to manufacture medical products or simply sell it to foreign countries who needed emergency supplies. The Cuba Archive group reports that, beyond this practice, the Cuban regime has been exploiting Cuban civilians with no ties to political dissident movements, taking their blood against their will.
“As early as the mid-1960s Cuba was reportedly selling blood to at least Vietnam and Canada. By 1995, blood exports of US$30.1 million were Cuba’s 5th export product after sugar, nickel, crustaceans, and cigars,” the Cuba Archive report notes. Between 1995 and 2014, the study estimates that Cuba exported $622.5 million worth of human blood products. The study cites Cuba’s National Office of Statistics, while noting that “Cuba’s unreliable statistics are standard fare and, in fact, Cuban officials have reported to the media that pharmaceutical and biotechnology exports are more than $2 billion.”
Through interviews on the ground and first-hand accounts, the report notes that many citizens are tricked into donating blood by being told that they need to for their health or by being offered food. “Given the country’s chronic food shortages,” the report notes, “just the cheese sandwich and watered-down glass of juice given to donors is incentive enough for many to give of their blood.”
The report cites “Iran, Russia, Vietnam, Algeria until 2003 … then Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, and Ecuador” as some of the prime customers buying Cuban blood, or blood products such as interferon, human albumin, inmunoglobulines, coagulation factors, toxins, vaccines, and other products. All the nations mentioned were run by left-wing governments at the times in which they were purchasing these products, and some have participated in Cuba’s “medical diplomacy” program, accepting Cuban doctors to work within their borders and paying for them with local goods. In the case of Venezuela, Caracas pays Havana for its medical care in oil.
Venezuela has run out of most basic medicines, according to its Pharmaceutical Federation. It is in particular need of albumin, a plasma-based product used to treat Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), which has been linked to the Zika virus outbreak. It is the only nation to date recording Zika-related GBS deaths due to the lack of albumin.
A quick search through the archives of Cuban propaganda newspaper Granma proves the Cuba Archive claim that the government often promotes blood donation. In January, Granma published an article titled “The Altruistic and Voluntary Act of Donating Blood,” in which it notes that members of the Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR), a sort of neighborhood spy organization, have been successful in coercing 416,000 donations of blood in 2015.
A year before this article, a similar one touted the rates of blood donation in 2014. Titled “Successful Efforts by the People in Blood Donations,” the article notes 340,000 Cubans were forced to donate and even notes, “a great percentage of the blood donated … goes into industry, where red blood cells and platelets are prepared in concentrates … in high-demand products.”
The untold millions the Cuban government makes in blood sales parallels the estimated $7.6 million annually the Cuban government makes through its medical slavery program. The Castro regime forces doctors to work abroad in nations that pay the government for their services while paying them only a “living stipend” small enough to ensure they cannot escape. Those promised more for more dangerous missions, like those deployed to Sierra Leone during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, later reported not being paid for their work at all.
“They impose a lot of political pressure on us,” one doctor, who managed to escape from Brazil to the United States, said of his work for the Castro regime. “They are using us as slaves, that’s the reality. We are slaves. Slaves in lab coats.” Another who defected from Cuba to Chile recalls not being able to afford “an egg a day” on a doctor’s salary.