By Ranjana Narayan
New Delhi: Cuba, which has made rapid advances in medical care and sent thousands of doctors to work in Africa and other countries, is looking to match synergies with India in medical services and biotechnology engineering, Foreign Minister Bruno Eduardo Rodriguez Parrilla says.
Parrilla, whose country has been the target of tough economic sanctions by the US for the past 50 years, said India and Cuba share “comparative advantages in the field of medical services”.
“We are important exporters of medical services. Maybe we can identify specific sectors which could be used for creating specialist or technological packages,” Parrilla told IANS on the sidelines of an event. The Cuban minister was here on a four-day visit, during which he met his Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid.
“India and Cuba could join their advantages in the matter of medicine research.. we have the abilities, we have the important research,” he added.
The socialist country, which provides health and education free to its over 11 million population, has better health parameters than the US and spends much less on healthcare, according to WHO figures.
Parrilla, who was in India to push cooperation between India and his country in healthcare, said both the countries could have “joint ventures and economic association in the field of bio technological engineering”.
“We need capital, we need market, we have plenty of very well trained personnel,” he added.
“Cuba could be a door for India for opening up in the pharmaceutical, biotechnological and medicine sectors in Latin America, including the possibility of having triangular cooperation,” the minister, who has previously been his country’s permanent representative to the UN, said.
Cuban doctors and researchers have developed new effective medicines for cancer treatment, said Parrilla, adding the medicines are “very advanced, highly efficient” in treatment of cancer of the head, neck, lungs and bones, as well as for curing diabetes.
According to Shyama Prasad Ganguly, former professor and scholar of Spanish and Latin American studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Cuba is a “world leader in the medical sector”.
“Their medical sector is the most developed. For skin diseases and stomach ulcers, they have developed their own indigenous medicines,” Ganguly told IANS, adding that former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez went to Cuba for his treatment of his cancer. Even former Cuban president Fidel Castro is taking medicines for his undisclosed illness.
“Cuba’s medical services are being exported.. In Latin America and Africa there are thousands of Cuban doctors all over,” said the noted expert.
According to Ganguly, Cuban researchers have developed a medicine that assures “100 percent cure” of leucoderma, or vitiligo. He said a friend of his had asked for the medicine 20 years ago and he got this for him.
“Almost 90 percent of his problem was cured,” he said.
“Their R and D in health sector is very good as well as in some agricultural products and the management of sugar. They came up with exporting molasses and manufacturing fine quality rum to overcome the trade embargo,” Ganguly said.
In spite of faceing a lot of difficulty due to the US trade embargo, “that Cuba is able to survive tells a great story”, said Ganguly.
Parrilla, addressing an Indian Council for World Affairs (ICWA) talk on May 27, said his country is also opening up the non-state sectors of the economy, changing the pattern of agriculture and developing a new tax system among other things, which would help create a more productive and modern economy.