As the COVID-19 virus continues to wreak havoc across the world, Cuba is effectively using medical diplomacy while assisting some countries in waging war against the pandemic despite the economic hardships it has had to endure as a result of crippling sanctions imposed by the United States against that communist island nation for more than a half-century.
In recent weeks, Cuba has sent medical teams to Italy, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Grenada, Suriname, Jamaica, Belize and Saint Lucia. However, although The Bahamas is Cuba’s closest Caribbean neighbor, the government of The Bahamas has not yet reached out to Cuba for medical assistance. This could very well be because of the historically close ties and geographic proximity of The Bahamas to the United States. The Bahamas is an archipelago of 700 islands and cays extending from just off the coast of Florida to the eastern tip of Cuba, with Great Inagua — the second-largest of the 27 inhabited islands — about 55 miles from the eastern tip of Cuba.
Instead, Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis’ government imposed a stringent emergency order that includes a 24-hour curfew. Nassau’s Lynden Pindling International Airport was closed to all flights, as of Friday, March 27 and the public was further advised that, effective March 27, all airports throughout the entire Bahamas would be closed to all air traffic. The emergency order was set to remain in effect until 9 a.m. on Tuesday, March 31, but it was widely expected that it would be extended if COVID-19 continues to be a frightening pandemic.
The United States has maintained a comprehensive economic embargo on Cuba, dating back to February 1962 when President John F. Kennedy proclaimed an embargo on trade between the United States and Cuba in response to certain actions taken by the Cuban government, almost two years after Fidel Castro led a successful Cuban Revolution and subsequently embraced communism as a political ideology.