14ymedio, Havana 3 November 2018 – The President-elect of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, questioned on Friday continued diplomatic relations with Cuba once he assumes the presidency and criticized again the situation of Cuban health professionals who are part of the Mais Medicos program in his country.
“What business can we do with Cuba? Are we talking about human rights?” Bolsonaro asked in an exclusive interview presented at Correio Braziliense.
Bolsonaro gave as an example a Cuban doctor who is part of Mais Medicos and called her “a woman dressed in white” because she has not passed the revalidation exam to make her degree is valid in Brazil.
“She has two or three children. They are in Cuba. They can not come here. Is that not torture for a mother, having to stay a whole year far away from her young children?” he asked.
The president-elect compared how doctors from other countries that are part of the Mais Medicos program receive all their salary yet Cubans receive just 25% of theirs. The rest of the money goes to Cuba to finance “the dictatorship,” he asserted.
Bolsonaro put forth as as an example how during the government of Dilma Rousseff doctors who sought asylum in Brazil were deported to Cuba immediately.
“Can we maintain diplomatic relations with a country that treats its own in that manner?” Bolsonaro asked, adding that if Cuban doctors are going to continue working in the Mais Medicos program, it should be with their full salary, with the possibility of bringing their relatives with them and revalidating their medical degree so that it is valid in Brazil.
Jair Bolsonaro has been very critical of the agreement sealed in 2013, which allowed the arrival of more than 18,000 Cuban doctors to Brazil under the government of Dilma Rousseff. At that time the Workers Party, an ally of Havana, through the intermediation of the Pan American Health Organization, allowed Cuba to keep about 75% of the $3,300.00 (monthly) salary that Cuban doctors receive in Brazil.
The relatives of Cuban doctors are prohibited by the Cuban government from spending more than three months in Brazil, in contrast with the rest of the families of the doctors who participate in the program, who can stay together as long as they wish.
“As of now they have not told us anything. There is a very suspicious silence since Bolsonaro won,” says a Cuban doctor who works in the state of Bahia. In Brazil there are just over 8,000 Cuban doctors in the program.
Since 2013, a large number of Cuban doctors have opted to leave the Cuban mission and settle in Brazil or emigrate to the United States. While the Cuban Medical Professional Parole was in place, a special program of the United States to grant refuge to Cuban doctors fleeing government missions, more than 1,400 doctors escaped with a US visa. Several thousand more have married Brazilians to obtain permanent residency and have opted to take the exams to validate their degrees.
After the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the Cuban government pressured the Brazilian authorities to renegotiate the contract of their doctors and obtained a payment increase of 9%. The Plaza de la Revolución also achieved an increase of 10% in the meal allowance for doctors in indigenous areas. None of that money came into the hands of the doctors, according to several testimonies obtained by this newspaper.
“If they catch you trying to revalidate your title they send you immediately to Cuba. You lose all your benefits in the mission,” said a doctor who works in Sao Paulo and who intends to leave the mission before returning to the island.
“In Cuba they also have an absurd law that forbids us to return for eight years. It is a way to punish the ’wayward’ doctors who do not want to continue being slaves,” he added.
Bolsonaro will also have to confront the problem of the Cuban debt with Brazil. Under the governments of Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, Brazil financed through the National Development Bank (Bandes) the works in the port of Mariel that have fallen short of expectations. It also allowed Cuba to buy food on credit through the Export Financing Program.
Cuba has tried to renegotiate the maturity of its debt with the South American giant. At this time the overdue debt is $110 million dollars, so some in the media have speculated that it could be paid with the money Havana receives from Mais Medicos.
The Cuban State has declared that income from professional services abroad has risen to more than $11.5 billion dollars annually, the country’s main source of foreign currency.
Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria
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