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Cuba patiently awaits US OK to send doctors

HAVANA (5 Sep 2005) Prensa Latina -- REITERATING CUBA'S readiness to help the victims of hurricane Katrina, President Fidel Castro met with a 1,586-strong medical brigade, assembled to provide humanitarian aid, saying they will patiently await for a US government go-ahead.

Initially, the Cuban leader announced Friday the island's willingness to send 1,100 doctors, but now the figure has been raised to 1,586.

The physicians are equipped with two 25-kilogram first aid kits (55 pounds each) with medications and essential instruments.

The medical team is ready to be flown to wherever they are needed in the hurricane-devastated region, and is made up of 1,097 physicians, 351 general doctors specialized in intensive care, 72 with more than one specialty and 66 specialized in cardiology, pediatrics, surgery and gastroentereology.

The Cuban medical mission is named the Henry Reeves Brigade after a US collaborator in Cuba's first war of Independence, and its members have an average of 10 years of professional experience and 32 years of age.

Henry Reeve, almost crippled by the wounds sustained in the course of 7 years of war, fell in combat on August 4, 1876, near Yaguaramas, today the province of Cienfuegos.

In all, they will be carrying 36 tons of medicine and equipment to do their humanitarian job in the most difficult of conditions.

In an unannounced meeting at Havana Convention Center with the medical brigade, broadcast on radio and TV Sunday night, President Fidel Castro said that 48 hours had passed and no response from the US government had been received since the offer was made public on Friday.

"We will patiently wait as long as necessary," the Cuban leader told his audience of doctors, neatly dressed in white uniforms with medical kits ready.

"If no response comes or our humanitarian cooperation is not needed, weŽll not become disheartened," Fidel Castro stressed. "On the contrary," he continued, "weŽll feel pleased from having fulfilled our timely duty." mh/mf

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