The forced extractions of political prisoners began in the 1960s. They were drained of their blood, to sell it, before going over the wall.

Cubans do not even own their own blood. The communist dictatorship has been trading in it since the beginning of the revolution. The business, which began with the sale of forced extractions from political prisoners before they were shot in the 1960s, continues to this day.

Nowadays, massive, supposedly voluntary, donation campaigns are carried out under the premise of saving lives. But the reality is that they only serve to fatten Castroism’s coffers. They are almost entirely destined to the export of plasma and derived products, which translates into large sums of money for the regime. The NGO Archivo Cuba calculates a total of 794 million dollars from 1995 to 2019.

The worst thing is that this does not translate into improvements in the health system or the living conditions of the Cuban people. The totalitarian system that has governed the country since 1959 sucks their blood, thinking only of the benefit of the ruling elite. It is well known in the street, but Archivo Cuba has taken it upon itself to put in black and white and document the vampiric practices of communism, which has been subjugating its people for 63 years? The deaths, the tortures, the disappearances and also the shady business dealings of Castroism.

Exports of blood and blood derivatives from Cuba since 1995

Exports of blood and blood derivatives from Cuba since 1995

The issue of the export of blood came to the attention of the executive director of Archivo Cuba almost by chance, in 2013. A Uruguayan journalist based in New York said to me: “Hey, Uruguay’s trade statistics came out and they say that Cuba’s main export to Uruguay is blood”. María Werlau‘s light bulb went on and she started to investigate. The task was not easy, as she admitted to LD, because “none of Cuba’s statistics are reliable”. “I am constantly checking and counter-checking them with Cuban government sources and they don’t coincide”, she says.

Werlau has based herself on “international trade statistics reported by the United Nations and a project by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Harvard”, called Observatory of Economic Complexity, which certifies that exports of blood and blood products have brought Cuba an average of 31.8 million dollars a year since 1995. But the sale of human material began in the early years of the Cuban revolution with a terrifying procedure.

Extractions before the executions

Corporal in Batista's army moments before his execution by firing squad (Pulitzer Prize, 1960).

Corporal in Batista’s army moments before his execution by firing squad (Pulitzer Prize, 1960).

As early as 1966, several US media outlets reported on complaints about the forced extraction of blood from political prisoners in Cuba, which had been registered with the Organisation of American States (OAS). In fact, a report by the OAS, dated August of that year, partially confirmed this, based mainly on the testimonies of several Cubans who had fled the island and diplomatic sources.

In April 1967, the OAS issued a new harrowing report detailing some of the practices carried out in the Fortaleza de La Cabaña prison in Havana, where – among other things – blood was taken from prisoners on their way to execution “for illicit, massive purposes, to feed the Blood Bank, with which the regime scandalously negotiates”.

The text states that from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on 27 May 1966, 166 political prisoners, military and civilian, were shot after having “an average of 7 pints” of blood (about 3.5 litres, of the average 5 litres of a human body) taken from each of them, causing them cerebral anaemia, a state of unconsciousness and paralysis while they were still alive.

The Vietnam operations

According to the OAS, Cuba sold blood to Vietnam for $50 a pint in the 1960s. A decade in which it is estimated that there were tens of thousands of political prisoners on the island. Fidel Castro reportedly admitted this practice on 6 February 1961: “The counterrevolutionaries must not believe that by dying infamously in front of the wall they will no longer be useful to the Cuban Revolution. The blood of these traitors is extracted before the execution to save the lives of many militiamen ready to die for the fatherland”. This quote appears on page 36 of the book Diario de una traición: Cuba, 1961 by Leovigildo Ruiz.

The book also mentions the sale of blood to Vietnam on several occasions. On 2 January 1966, during the celebration of the seventh anniversary of the triumph of the revolution, the Comandante publicly boasted of his contribution and twinning with the Vietnamese, to whom he was “ready to give them not our sugar, but our blood, which is worth much more than sugar!” These words were picked up by the official press of the time and recently by the newspaper Granma, which includes the quote in an article on the Vietnamese Marxist-Leninist Ho Chi Minh published on 18 May 2021. We can listen to part of them at the beginning of the following video:

The blackmail of blood

The communist dictatorship has not only forced political prisoners to give their blood to the revolution since Fidel Castro’s rise to power. It has also blackmailed the relatives of those imprisoned, who had to give their plasma if they wanted visiting rights. A perverse system of coerced donations that brought huge profits to the regime.

The bad arts have been a constant throughout these six decades of dictatorship. María Werlau recounts that “when the revolution came to power, Cuba already had a blood bank” but collection was minimal. “By October 1962, there were only 8,000 donors on the island”. So “Fidel took advantage of the missile crisis to order the population to donate blood on a massive scale”.

Blood donation campaign promoted by Revolución Radio.

Blood donation campaign promoted by Revolución Radio.

“That’s when the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR) began to control the extensive campaigns in Cuba”, he explains. Over time, there has been a kind of institutionalisation of donations. People have assumed that they have to give their blood if they want access to certain services.

As Werlau explains, “no one, no patient, can enter a clinic or access a bed for any minimal surgical procedure without giving at least one blood donation. “For the most serious operations, two and three blood donations”, she adds.

On the other hand, given the miserable conditions in which the Cuban people live, what they are offered in exchange for donating (a sandwich and a snack) is sometimes more than enough of a lure for many to queue up in front of the mobile blood bank buses.

Not for Cubans

On 14 June, on the occasion of World Blood Donor Day, Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel sent congratulations to blood donors, via his Twitter account, “for their human commitment, altruism and contribution”. The regime’s newspaper, Granma, ran a corresponding article to highlight the importance of donating blood in order to save lives.

However, the reality is that blood, when Cubans need it, is usually in short supply. The communist regime carries out blood donation campaigns all the time, in schools, universities, workplaces, etc. But there is no blood in the hospitals, says Werlau, “if there is a need for a transfusion, it is a problem to get it”.

Blood donations on a morning of commitments. #CubaSalva #VamosPorMás.

— Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Cuba. (@CubaMinjus) May 27, 2020


“This is the first abuse, the population is being lied to.” The fate of the plasma is different: “To feed an industry”. She claims to have documented at least 11 pharmaceutical products derived from blood that have been exported since 2000, but which “doctors cannot prescribe because they are scarce”.

The communist regime has set up a network to nurture Cuba’s biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries in order to strengthen its image as a “medical power, which is based on a fallacy” and at the same time “attract new financial resources”. In fact, this would have allowed him to develop a “transplant tourism”, which was initiated by Fidel Castro in the 1980s and deserves a separate chapter.

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