We recently had the pleasure of sitting down virtually with Mansoor Adayfi, author of Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantánamo. Mansoor is an activist and former Guantánamo detainee now residing in Serbia. At the age of only eighteen, he was kidnapped in Afghanistan and sold to the U.S. government. Held in Guantánamo for fourteen years, he was tortured and deprived of his basic human rights.
We talked with Mansoor about what he would go back and tell his younger self, his life in Serbia, and his recent college graduation. Now the Guantánamo Project Manager at the NGO CAGE, Mansoor and fellow former detainees, or “brothers,” have published an eight-point plan to instruct President Biden on how to properly close Guantánamo. Wearing a bright orange cloth around his neck out of solidarity for his brothers, Mansoor explained his plans to advocate for the closure of Guantánamo until they were free. As he spoke with conviction and humor, calling silence “a tool of the oppressors,” it became increasingly clear: Mansoor’s voice will be a powerful instrument of justice for years to come.
El texto autobiográfico de Mansoor Adayfi publicado en 2021 Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantánamo [No se olviden de nosotros: De cómo me perdí y me encontré en Guantánamo] transporta a los lectores a la bahía de Guantánamo en Cuba, a un mundo en el que niños y adultos son torturados de forma rutinaria por los Estados Unidos. La bahía de Guantánamo es una base naval en posesión de Estados Unidos desde 1903. Adayfi pasó su niñez en las montañas idílicas de Yemen1 con sueños de estudiar en los Emiratos Árabes Unidos.2 Cuando Adayfi tenía 18 años, viajó a Afganistán en un viaje de investigación para un importante jeque que le prometió una carta de recomendación para la universidad a cambio de su trabajo.3 En ese entonces, los Estados Unidos ofrecían recompensas por atrapar a combatientes talibanes y de Al-Qaeda; Adayfi fue capturado y vendido por caudillos que lo obligaron a decir que era un miembro de Al-Qaeda o que, sino, los estadounidenses lo matarían.4 A su vez, los estadounidenses capturaron a un muchacho yemení de 19 años y reinventaron la narrativa de quién era. Se convencieron de que era un general egipcio mayor (“incluso creían que [el general] se había hecho una cirugía plástica para verse jóven y diferente, supongo, para que se pareciera a mí”) y lo torturaron por años para obtener información que él de ningún modo podía poseer.5
For the U.S., the Latin American agenda is not a priority. Still, Biden’s arrival at the White House signifies a respite for foreign ministries, who are exhausted by the region’s tension created by Trump. What changes can we expect now?
While Donald Trump is disappointed with the results of November 8th, the world remains incredulous about the difficulties of the great American democracy in recognizing as president-elect the one who won the popular vote with 50.9% and more that 5.5 million more votes than his opponent, who obtained 47.3%.
Although Trump has raised an amendment to the entire election result, alleging massive fraud, he has been unable so far to present any evidence. Biden will be the 46th president of the United States after four years of Trumpism, which has generated turbulence worldwide. Latin America and the Caribbean wonder what the arrival of a Democrat like Joe Biden might mean for them.
Despite the progress the UIC-Cuban Ministry of Health collaboration has made for patients and diplomacy, the path ahead for US-Cuban healthcare partnerships is far from sure. Political and policy changes have already begun, and they have the potential to completely reshape US-Cuban relations.
Firstly, political power has changed hands in the United States. The Chicago programs’ main political supporters at the federal level were Democrats, who do not currently hold the majority in Congress. The Chicago program was built off the foreign policy of the previous Democratic president, and has already been walked back by the current Republican one, who seems inclined to further distance the United States from its island neighbor. In fact, the Cubans’ first Chicago visit was expedited, according to Dr. Jose Armando Arronte Villamarin, so it could be completed prior to January 20th, 2017 – Donald Trump’s inauguration day.
In 2016 and 2017, University of Illinois Cancer Center doctors and a team of Cuban Ministry of Health representatives observed healthcare practices in each other’s countries with the hope of addressing maternal and child healthcare in underserved Chicago communities.
Dr. Robert Winn of Chicago had been looking for a solution to solve community health problems with few resources. In Cuba he saw the scarcity, but he also saw low infant mortality and high community trust, which was accomplished through the Cuban home visit system.
In Cuba, primary care physicians “try to solve the problems of the community because they live in the community,” says Dr. Jose Armando Arronte Villamarin, a Cuban primary health professional. Cuba’s healthcare system has a pyramid focus, from the individual to the family to the community, that starts with a visit to patients’ homes. According to Dr. Armando, during the visit individuals are put into one of four groups – healthy, at risk, sick, or living with a disability – and are seen in the local office for care. A community-level health assessment is made every year.
Cuban doctors have been deployed all over the world to heal and to strengthen bilateral relations. In 2017, they came to Chicago to address extreme disparity and an urgent community need.
The University of Illinois Chicago-Cuban Ministry of Health collaboration is a first: American doctors invited Cuban medical professionals into American communities to help improve maternal and child health outcomes in underserved Chicago neighborhoods. This collaboration is a milestone in cooperative US-Cuban relations, and in Cuba’s medical diplomacy.
Dr. Jose Armando Arronte Villamarin and two other Cuban health professionals came to Chicago in January of 2017 to visit University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System (UI Health) clinics and discuss the potential of applying a Cuban-style home visit system, where doctors have the chance to observe patients, and their conditions, in their own home. During their next visit to Chicago, the doctors began the at-home interviews to assess the patients and determine their health needs at the individual and, cumulatively, community levels.
The relationship between the United States and Argentina has remained strong under President Trump. It is likely that Trump views the country favorably due to the close relationship that he shared with Argentine President Mauricio Macri when the two were businessmen. Trump and Macri met at the White House in late April to discuss bilateral cybersecurity and to show joint support for the restoration of democracy and respect for human rights in Venezuela.
The United States and Argentina have strengthened economic ties since Trump entered office, as both countries have lifted bans on the other for certain goods. For the first time since 1992, U.S. farmers will be able to export pork to Argentina, with a potential market of up to USD $10 million. Additionally, President Trump followed through on the Obama administration’s proposal to relinquish a ban on lemons from Argentina, which is the fourth-largest producer of the fruit in the world.