14ymedio, Miami, 31 October 2016 – She worked for three years at health centers in Dourados, a region of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, as part of the government program Mais Medicos (More Doctors). Karem Guadalupe Saboit Valdes is fighting to stay beyond the three years allowed under the contract between the Cuban government and the Pan American Health Organization PAHO), according to reports in the Brazilian newspaper O Progresso.
Saboit Valdes was the first doctor to reach the city, but her contract expires on November 9 and she must return to Cuba. The doctor, in love with the local people, is looking for ways to stay in Brazil without the mediation of the Cuban government.
The Mais Medicos program was announced three years ago as a “bonus mission” for Cuban doctors. Many were sent to third world countries where they completed their service to fill the quotas offered by Dilma Rousseff’s government to Havana.
A week has passed since a court in Brasilia, in Saboit Valdes’ case, made the unprecedented decision that the Ministry of Health could renew a contract directly with a Cuban doctor, without the mediation of PAHO or the Cuban government. This decision means that, from now on, the doctor will receive the total value of the agreement that the Ministry of Health offers to foreign doctors who work in remote areas of Brazil, some 11,500 reales (3,587 dollars). Until now, their salary has been 2,976 reales (928 dollars), with the difference pocketed by the Cuban government.
In Dourados, the decision was seen as a victory for the doctors against the authorities of the Cuban Medical Mission. Saboit Valdes, one of the 12 Cuban doctors serving in the city, believes that ruling will become a source of inspiration for other doctors who want to stay in Brazil.
According to figures obtained by 14ymedio, so far this year 1,439 health professionals have escaped from Brazil to the United States through the Cuban Medical Professional Parole program, established by the US specifically for Cuban doctors. Others have chosen to stay in Brazil and revalidate their credentials. During the first ten months of this year more than 1,600 Cuban doctors took the Brazilian medical licensing exams.
According to the Saboit Valdes, a native of Camagüey, the Cuban professionals who establish families in Brazil should have the option of staying in the country. “I’m married to a Brazilian and I have strong emotional ties here. I am in love with this country. Despite not having anything against Cuba, I would like to stay in Brazil. It is a matter of choice,” she says.
But marriages with foreigners are a taboo subject for the Cuban government. The disciplinary regulations that all Cuban civilian workers abroad must accept state that “if there is any loving relationship with natives, [the Cuban government] must be informed immediately and it must be in accord with the revolutionary thought of our stay and no action can be excessive” (sic).
Saboit Valdes told the Brazilian newspaper that adapting herself to the Brazilian reality is very easy, because there are few differences between Cuba and the South American country. She has overcome the language barrier and her intention is to continue growing professionally.
“There is a completely free and very organized structure, both in health and education,” she says.
The doctor, who as part of the Cuban contingent completed the preparation course to work in the Brazilian Health System, plans to revalidate her credentials to work for herself and even, in the future, to open her own practice.