The Cuban Government Receives up to $9,000 Per Month for Each of its Doctors in Qatar

The pediatric ward of the ’Cuban hospital’ in Qatar celebrates International Hospital Infection Control Week. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, November 8 2019 — If the Más Médicos program in Brazil was a gold mine for the Cuban government, its equivalent in Qatar is the crown jewel. For each contracted physician, the small oil emirate pays between 5,000 and 10,000 dollars to Havana, according to information published this Friday by The Guardian.

The British newspaper dedicates an extensive article about the “Cuban hospital” inaugurated in 2012 in the periphery of the capital, Doha, and belonging to Qatar’s government, but whose staff is exclusively Cuban personnel, a total of 475 doctors, nurses and technicians.

According to the newspaper, each doctor is receiving about $1,000 a month, about 10% of what other foreign medical professionals can earn in Qatari state hospitals. The rest, between $4,000 and $9,000, remains in the hands of the Cuban state. continue reading

The agreements signed with Brazil during Dilma Rousseff’s term of office amounted to around $3,000 for the Cuban government coffers and $1,000 for the medical doctors. According to The Guardian, in the last decade Cuba has begun to look for partners in the Persian Gulf countries that have large economies in order to secure one of the most important sources of income other than with remittances; the so-called international missions from which the government obtains close to 8 billion dollars annually.

“I think we should help everyone,” says a Cuban doctor in Doha interviewed by the newspaper. “Based on that, yes, it’s fair, because I know that the remaining amount is used to support our Health and Education system … but if you think only of yourself, of course it’s not fair,” he said.

In response, one of the doctors who could freely express himself for having left the mission said he felt “like a slave” when he discovered that other doctors in that country were paid more than he was. “We were doing the same thing and earning a lot less than they did,” he says.

“Life in our country is very difficult and salaries are very bad,” said another of the doctors at the hospital. “Here we earn money for [Cuba] and also for us … One part for the country and another for each person,” he explained.

Another of his colleagues added, following the official discourse: “Education in Cuba is free. The government educates us for many years and, therefore, it must take some of this.”

The salary conditions that they would have in Cuba make the salary and labor exploitation in international missions even attractive for some of them. “I earn around 1,100 dollars. It’s not the best, but it’s not bad either,” explains one of the doctors.

The doctors confirmed that they are allowed visits from their families, but that family members are not allowed to stay, in the usual government line to deter possible escapes. The “deserters” are punished with a ban on returning to Cuba for at least eight years, unless they consent to join the National Health System.

Annarella O’Mahony, a Cuban resident in Ireland and editor of the website Nosomosdesertores, somoscubanoslibres, (We are not deserters, we are free Cubans) told The Guardian that this use of family ties to prevent doctors from leaving the mission “is cruel, inhumane, unconstitutional and contrary to international law.”

The doctor who left the Qatari mission told the British newspaper that she took advantage of the Cuban Medical Professional Parole, a U.S. program through which she was able to travel to the United States, but which was later ended by the Obama Administration. “I tell my mother when I’m on the phone that, despite all the difficulties and the pain, I would do it again. I will never go back to Cuba. There is no future there.”

In addition to the Cuban doctors, Qatar welcomes North Korean workers who participate in similar agreements.

The Arab country, which has been questioned by international bodies on labor rights, recently announced reforms to its legislation and will for the first time allow workers to change occupations without permission from their employer, although it is almost certain that the measure will not affect Cuban doctors.

Translated by: Rafael Osorio

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The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. You can help crowdfund a current project to develop an in depth multimedia report on dengue fever in Cuba; the goal is modest, only $2,000. Even small donations by a lot of people will add up fast. Thank you!

Cuban Government Denies Being Behind Protests in Latin America

Bruno Rodriguez Parrila, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 November 2019 — On Friday, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodriguez, denied the allegations assured by the OAS and the Trump administration that his government is behind the social protests in Latin America as well as supporting the government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.

“Maliciously, Cuba is accused of being guilty of what is happening in Venezuela and of the recent popular demonstrations against the ruthless neoliberalism that is advancing in the region,” Rodriguez said during the so-called Anti-Imperialist Encounter in Havana.

Washington also assures that Cuba militarily supports the government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, an important ally and fuel supplier of the Island. continue reading

“The United States needs to blame Cuba for its resounding failure in Venezuela, and it needs to justify the tightening of the blockade” against the island, the minister added before an audience of international left-wing groups.

Last week, the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, denounced a “pattern” of destabilization coming from Venezuela and Cuba, oriented first to Colombia and Ecuador and then to Chile.

Almagro attributed a responsibility in the massive anti-government mobilizations in the region to these two countries.

For his part, U.S. President Donald Trump called his Chilean colleague Sebastián Piñera to express his support before the wave of social protests and denounced that there are “foreign efforts to undermine institutions” in that country.

A State Department official, who asked not to be identified, reported that Russia — an ally of Cuba’s — carried out activities “to give a negative impact to the debate in Chile.” Moscow also rejected the accusations.

Trump’s call to Piñera came at a time when Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel was concluding a visit to Russia.

“We have no participation or involvement in the protests in Latin America other than, as Che Guevara said, that of the example of the Cuban Revolution,” said Foreign Minister Rodríguez.

Translated by: Rafael Osorio

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The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. You can help crowdfund a current project to develop an in depth multimedia report on dengue fever in Cuba; the goal is modest, only $2,000. Even small donations by a lot of people will add up fast. Thank you!

Leonardo Padura: There Was More Fear In The Cuba Of The Nineties Than Now

The Princesa de Asturias de las Letras Prize in 2015, Leonardo Padura has just visited Tenerife. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Eloy Vera, Puerto de la Cruz (Tenerife) November 1st, 2019 — Three decades after he created detective Mario Conde, his most famous character, the author Leonardo Padura thinks that today’s Cuba “is different” from that of the 1990s, among other things, because the Cuba of the past “was much more afraid than today’s”.

Premio Princesa de Asturias de las Letras in 2015, this portraitist of Cuban society has just visited Tenerife to participate in Periplo, the International Festival of Literature for Travels and Adventures, organized by Puerto de la Cruz.

The novelist landed in Tenerife still with the good impression left by his latest novel La transparencia del tiempo (2018), in which he returns to the adventures of Mario Conde, an anti-hero with a critical and disenchanted look, whom Leonardo Padura describes as the grandson of Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe and son of Manuel Vázquez Montalbán’s Carvalho. continue reading

Since 1988, when he premiered as a novelist with Fiebre de caballos, Cuba is an essential part and another protagonist of the narrative universe of Padura’s novels.

You’d have to wait two more years to meet detective Mario Conde through Pasado perfecto (translated as Havana Blue), the book that opened the Four Seasons series, which was later completed by the novels Vientos de cuaresma (Havana Gold), Máscaras (Havana Red) and Paisaje de otoño (Havana Black).

In an interview with Efe, Leonardo Padura recalls that the first novels in Conde’s series are set in 1989, a moment before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disappearance of the Soviet Union, “and from there to here there has been a lot of water under the bridge in Cuba and the world.”

He says that, sometimes, “people get the impression that Cuban society is static because it has not had great changes and the political structure and the economic system remain the same”, but “Cuban society has undergone an intense 30 years in which a whole series of positive and negative processes have occurred.”

“It’s my belief that Cuban society is a society that has freed itself much more from fears, repressions, and silences, and at the same time has been further burdened with a lack of urban planning, solidarity and respect for the rights of others,” says the author, who has also been a journalist and screenwriter.

The writer does not believe that “today’s Cuba is better or worse than 1989’s,” but sees it as “different. “And that’s in terms of the personal economy, in their way of life and in the way they see the world”, he explains, although “if I had to choose between better and worse I would say that the Cuba in 1989 was much more afraid than the one today”.

Cuba has breathed new life because for the last seven or eight years Cubans have been able to travel freely without having to ask for permission from an authority – which meant “a very significant step towards liberation in that society” – together with the fact that people can have small private businesses or that Internet access today has improved, although not completely; “elements that are becoming liberating for certain people and the ways of seeing and understanding life”.

Leonardo Padura cannot comprehend his life without that of his literary companion Mario Conde: “It has been an essential piece in my work as a writer and, therefore, in my life as a person,” he confesses.

They’ve spent 30 years together chronicling contemporary Cuban life, and a literary journey has led Padura, in his own words, “from the apprentice writer of Pasado perfecto to a writer to whom things have happened in his literary life that he never would have imagined.”

His latest novel, La Transparencia del Tiempo, is from 2018, but has not yet been published in Cuba. It is supposed to come out next year and “there’s never a better time to say that, at the moment, there is, once again, a very difficult economic situation in Cuba, and one of the areas that is going to be most affected is cultural production and, specifically, publishing,” he explains.

Padura outlines a hopeless publishing scene in Cuba, where large publishing houses have only three or four books in their publishing plans next year because they lack money and paper for printing.

“There is a shortage of materials in Cuba and, sometimes, the political will for my books to be published is not there; they take a long time to come out or come out and do not circulate well; part of the print run is lost and then it appears on the other side… but, fundamentally, the problem would be attributed to economic issues,” he insists.

Padura concludes the interview by alluding to how new technologies in general, among which are cultural distribution platforms such as series, “affect reading a great deal, not so much literature, which is still being done, but consumer spaces, which have been reduced by the tremendous impact of the digital revolution”.

Translated by Rafael Osorio <-Welcome to our new translator!  Thanks so much for your fabulous work here.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. You can help crowdfund a current project to develop an in depth multimedia report on dengue fever in Cuba; the goal is modest, only $2,000. Even small donations by a lot of people will add up fast. Thank you!

In Chile, The Failure Is Not The Model But Its Defenders

Protestors in Chile (el Nuevo Herald)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mauricio Rojas, Santiago November 2, 2019 — What happened recently in Chile is not the result of the failure of its development model, but of its success. What has failed is a short-sighted center-right government incapable of managing the profound transformations that model’s success made essential. In short, it is not the model but its defenders who have failed.

Chile’s progress over the past thirty years has been extraordinary, turning Chile from a fairly mediocre country into the brightest star in the region. It has been, by far, the society with the greatest reduction of poverty, generalized increase in welfare, expansion of higher education, expansion of middle classes and social mobility. Even inequality, although still too high, has been reduced.

According to data provided by Michelle Bachelet’s former finance minister, Rodrigo Valdés, the Gini coefficient fell from 0.573 to 0.477 between 1990 and 2015. In that time the disposable income of the poorest increased much faster than that of the richest (the income of the richest ten percent increased by 208% between 1990 and 2015, while that of the bottom ten percent increased by 439%). continue reading

This extraordinary progress has generated a country totally different from the one that existed thirty years ago. Its social composition and standards of living have changed substantially, but also the ways of perceiving what is just and unjust, what is acceptable and unacceptable, what is dignified and unworthy. This has profoundly altered social demands and what until recently defined the aspirations and common sense of society has become obsolete.

President Sebastián Piñera recently used a well-known phrase spread by Mario Benedetti that synthesized what recently happened to the defenders of the model, and even to some of its detractors: “when we thought we had all the answers, suddenly, all the questions changed”.

However, in this case, these events did not occur right away. It became evident as early as 2011, when new qualitative questions about the justice of society were given old quantitative answers about growth rates or the level of GDP per capita. But this gap between new questions and old answers has become even more evident in recent days.

Basically there was, and still is, a deep misunderstanding about what I called already in 2007 the “malaise of success”, which has to do with what in the 1950s was called the “revolution of rising expectations”. Basically there was, and still is, a deep misunderstanding about what I called already in 2007 the “malaise of success”, which has to do with what in the 1950s was called the “revolution of rising expectations”.

This phenomenon is especially prominent in a country like Chile, which left extreme poverty behind in such a short amount of time, saw the emergence of broad middle classes and experienced an unprecedented educational expansion that multiplied the number of students by ten in the span of three decades.

Such a situation puts the country on its head in the face of the paradox of relative poverty, whereby the feeling of poverty can increase at the same time as poverty is drastically reduced. Absolute poverty is about fighting for the most basic things in life, while relative poverty is about everything one could want but not get, and the latter grows exponentially when we can lift our eyes above the most pressing and our horizons are broadened by greater access to education and the media. Frustration and discontent can grow despite our progress, not least when others enjoy what we lack.

At the same time, there is growing anguish at the possibility of losing the social gains recently won, thus giving rise to what the German sociologist Ulrich Beck called a “risk society” (Risikogesellschaft), dominated by the feeling of insecurity and precariousness in the face of an endless number of contingencies that may threaten the foundations of our lives.

Meanwhile, to the extent that the most basic needs are satisfied, there is, especially among young people, a shift in priorities. According to the concepts that Ronald Inglehart coined to understand the European youth revolt of 1968, as welfare increases societies move from “materialistic values”, characteristic of the hard struggle for subsistence, to “post-materialistic values”, where preferences tend to be directed towards “a good life” and personal self-realization. In this way the material conquests previously reached are devalued, or even despised, in order to orient themselves towards the search for a different society, defined as more human, collaborative, altruistic and egalitarian.

Therefore, it represents a confluence of situations and demands of a very varied nature, which in a given moment – the one we are living now, for example – combine to create what Ernesto Laclau has called, in his book on Populist Reason, an “equivalential chain” of discontents and negations, where the repudiation of a series of very dissimilar situations unites and makes a very broad and diverse spectrum of rejection and change wills equivalent. There is no common social project, but there is a common rejection, and it is precisely this that creates the conditions that, added to a “void of representation” on the part of the existing political elites, make a chaotic and open moment such as the one we are experiencing possible.

The emergence of this broad and multifaceted rejection of something diffuse that some call “the (neoliberal) model” or, to put it more concretely, a society of abuse, injustice and insecurity, is the paradoxical result of the progress gained when it coincides with the failure of its defenders to understand the new demands that arise from that progress and to propose, in a vigorous manner, the reforms necessary to structure a new social pact that is equal to the development achieved, especially in terms of inclusion, equity, the fight against abuses, equality of opportunities and solidarity.

As the current government testifies, it is not that some valuable efforts have not been made in that direction, but they have clearly been insufficient. The prolongation of a series of “social emergencies” – such as the generally miserable level of pensions, the high pharmaceutical costs or the brutal impact of “catastrophic diseases” — of blatant abuses — such as automatic TAG (automated toll) hikes or other motorway tolls — or violent price hikes for basic services — such as electricity or transport — have been fatal.

But then there are the more fundamental shortcomings, such as those affecting public health or education, and, more generally, the lack of a social safety net to ensure a minimum of dignity and a safeguard against unforeseen events, especially in view of the neglected demands of the new middle classes.

The dogmatic defense of the current tax rates, particularly for the wealthiest and most income earning sectors, has been a key impediment to progress in this direction. However, so has the anachronistic fixation on a social policy focused on the Chicago School, that is to say, that only points to the needs of the poorest.

Ignoring the need to build a modern welfare state, that is, without monopolies and that combines significant levels of redistribution and equality of opportunities with citizen empowerment and freedom of choice and enterprise in the areas of welfare guaranteed for all citizens (as in the case of countries such as Sweden), has been nefarious.

Today we are faced with such a crisis of legitimacy of the prevailing system that the doors are opened to raise, and even accept, all kinds of nonsense, such as chavista assemblyism, plebiscite democracy, public monopolies or fiscal indiscipline.

Today’s panic is spreading among many who did not know how to defend the model of development that has brought us so much progress, instead reforming it in due time and attending to social urgencies in a forceful way.

When the doors to evolution are closed, they can be opened to revolution and disorder. As Arturo Alessandri so often said, it is necessary to advance “without hesitation along the paths of evolution to avoid revolution and upheaval.” This should be the greatest lesson of these dark days.

Mauricio Rojas is a researcher at the Department of Economics and Business of the Universidad del Desarrollo, in Santiago de Chile, and a Senior Fellow of the Fundación para el Progreso.

Translated by: Rafael Osorio

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The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. You can help crowdfund a current project to develop an in depth multimedia report on dengue fever in Cuba; the goal is modest, only $2,000. Even small donations by a lot of people will add up fast. Thank you!