A Trump October surprise

As the days count down to October  11 Donald Trump is probably hoping for an October surprise – the term used by US commentators to describe last minute events which might shape or be used to shape the Presidential election. Sadly for him the surprise might be both delayed and not the one he is hoping for.

Usually the surprise is a military thing – some excuse for the US to bomb somewhere and that’s always a possibility and one which the Iranians ought to worry about. This year it could be an announcement of a vaccine whether it is actually available or works being irrelevant.

A third is one that Trump is probably secretly hoping for – a Nobel Prize. The fact that Obama got one has rankled as much as whatever childhood resentments he still suffers from.

Although he is a self-confessed stable genius a prize in the sciences is unlikely and his ghost-written books are unlikely to win the Literature prize.

However, he might fancy himself as a chance in the Peace Prize to be announced in October. When Obama won, admittedly for doing not very much other than being an exceptional US President who didn’t invade anywhere, it was about hope but hope is not a word the world associates with Trump.

There is a tenuous possibility, of course, in the fact that some Arab states have done officially what they have been doing unofficially for years – linking up with Israel – for which Trump might claim some credit. On the other hand the Nobel board is still getting over the Literature Board scandal and might not want to add derision to scandal.

But what could be more concerning for Trump is that there is another candidate who might just win the Prize, if not in October, but next year and totally infuriate him. Hopefully he won’t be in the Oval Office when that happens but that won’t stop him fuming away, in between trying to dodge various prosecutors, and proclaiming the injustice of it all.

Trump has been nominated by a far right Norwegian MP, which might be better than being nominated by Brazil’s President or MBS , but we also know that there has been a group nominated for the 2021 Prize by more than a hundred organisations and thousands of individuals from 20 countries around the world which might just be in with a chance.

The nomination, which started in France, is for the Cuban Henry Reeve Cuban medical brigades that fight COVID-19 around the world and which have been deployed in many countries over the years.

The nominators’ case is that: “The Henry Reeve Brigade is just one part of the Cuban medical system, coordinated by Cuban’s Ministry of Public Health, that has sent more health personnel to work overseas than the entire World Health Organization (WHO). It is named after a US-born soldier who fought for seven years in Cuba’s army of liberation against the Spanish in the war of independence. It was formed by the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 2005 after the US rejected an offer to send 1,500 Cuban doctors to provide assistance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.”

It was a pity the US rejected the offer because they certainly needed it and  did again, as the latest hurricane has hit New Orleans again, damaging the unrecovered areas which were hardest hit last time.

“The Brigade’s 7,400 voluntary health care workers have treated more than 3.5 million people in 21 countries ravaged by the world’s worst natural disasters and epidemics. An estimated 80,000 lives have been saved as a direct result of the Brigade’s front-line emergency medical treatments to patients in these countries. One of their most heroic acts was in 2014-2015, when the Brigade sent over 400 doctors, nurses and other health workers to West Africa to confront the dangerous Ebola pandemic, working in regions where healthcare facilities and even basic infrastructure such as roads and communications systems were minimal. This team constituted the single largest medical operation on the ground in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia,” the nominators said.

Among other deployments have been the massive Pakistani and Haitian earthquakes in 2005 and Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

More than 2000 Cuban medical personnel are currently fighting COVID-19 in 28 countries including: Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Cape Verde, Dominica, Granada, Haiti, Honduras, Italy (Lombardy, and Piemonte), Jamaica, Nicaragua, Principality of Andorra, Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Vicente and the Grenadines, Santa Lucia, South Africa, Suriname, Togo, and Venezuela. There are also Cuban teams in another 70 medical assignments around the world.

All this has been achieved while Cuba has suffered from the US blockade and embargoes which Trump has intensified. A Cuban win would be stroke-inducing for Trump while a source of  schadenfreude for Cubans and many others.

What has motivated Trump’s Cuba policy is unclear. He may think it wins votes in Florida although probably less than in the past and younger generations of Cuban families who left Cuba after the revolution have become frequent visitors and renewed ties. He probably resents the closing of the casinos and imagines that if the government falls he might get Deutsche Bank to finance one for him in Havana although given their past dealings (see the book Dark Towers) with him that’s unlikely.

It could also be all of the above but, more importantly, it is probably just another attempt to unwind the Obama legacy. Who could have imagined that the furious anger and humiliation we saw on Trump’s face as Obama ridiculed him at the Washington Correspondent dinner would be a key driver of a Trump foreign policy – destroy whatever he could of Obama and his policies?

And speaking of vaccines it is not surprising given the Cuban health care and health research record that the Cuban vaccine candidate, FINLAY-FR-1, produced by the Finlay Vaccine Institute and based on Cuban Centre for Molecular Immunology technology, is the 30th to receive approval to go on clinical trials. 30th might not seem like much but at the time there were 200 various candidates waiting to receive approval.

Declaration of interest: The author is an Australia-Cuba Friendship Society member.