December 3, 2020

Re: Resolution 1092—Calling upon the president to lift the Cuban embargo and end the travel ban

I am both a long-time resident of New York City and a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) that has partnered with Cuba’s internationally acclaimed Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in a full scholarship program. For the past 20 years our committee has and continues to select and facilitate up to 15 young U.S. citizens from underserved and marginalized communities with the incredible opportunity to study medicine in Cuba. We now have over 195 graduated doctors; most are serving in underrepresented communities throughout the U.S., including 45 right here in New York City.

On October 30, 2019 Council Members Inez Barron, Ydanis Rodriguez and James Van Bramer held hearings on Res. 1092. Throughout the year you have received hundreds of letters from NYC residents requesting that you place Res.1092, calling upon the president to lift the Cuban embargo and end the travel ban, on the Council’s agenda for a vote. NYC residents have also contacted their individual councilmembers, and written to the Black, LatinX and Asian Caucuses urging support for the Resolution.

I understand that during the COVID pandemic, this resolution may have been a low priority for the Council. However, over the past 10 months, Cleveland, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Cambridge, Massachusetts have all passed similar or stronger resolutions. At this writing the City of Chicago has re-drafted its resolution and it’s currently before their Council. In addition, Illinois Congressman Bobby L. Rush’s bill H.R. 2404, normalizing relations between the U.S. and Cuba, is garnering increasing support.

The Trump administration’s stepped-up economic war against Cuba is having a devastating impact on the daily lives of Cuban families.

Cuba has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic like the rest of the world. Yet, unlike many countries, especially the U.S., Cuba was in a better position to confront the pandemic because of its free universal health care system, its high number of medical workers per capita, its excellent public health system and its 60-year history, despite the unconscionable U.S. embargo, of successfully tackling difficult health situations and natural disasters with limited resources.

Indeed, because of Cuba’s excellent and coordinated public health response, the number of COVID infections is under 9,000, and their recovery rate is 90% with less than 150 deaths. Many countries are drawing on Cuba’s expertise. Meanwhile, despite being the most developed country in the world, shamefully and regrettably our caseload and death rate from COVID are the highest in the world. Ending the embargo would allow our hospitals, health care personnel and scientists to collaborate to the benefit of not only our COVID patients but our entire population.

I thank you, in advance, for your serious consideration of this request to bring Res.1092 for a vote before the December 2020 council meeting.

Respectfully,

Mary Louise Patterson, M.D.

Harlem, N.Y. 10032