14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 14 April 2017 – Cuba just suspended the sending of a group of 710 health professionals who would have worked on the “More Doctors” mission in Brazil, our of fear of desertions, according to a report from the Brazilian press informed by that country’s Ministry of Health.
The decision not to send the doctors is an act of pressure from Havana in the face of the role played by the Brazilian government of Michel Temer, which has allows more than 80 Cuban health professionals to stay in the country after the end of their mission.
For the Health Ministry of the island, such action “is not in conformity” with the agreement signed between the two nations under the government of Dilma Rousseff. As a part of that agreement, more than 11,000 Cuban doctors remain in Brazil.
“The Cuban government fears that what is happening in Brazil could infect other Cuban doctors working in third countries,” says Julio César Alfonso, president of Solidarity Without Borders (SSF), a non-profit organization that helps doctors who deserted from the missions and to move to the United States and join the workforce in the healthcare system there.
“The Cuban government fears that what is happening in Brazil could infect other Cuban doctors working in third countries”
In the hospitals, polyclinics and doctors’ offices on the island there are 495,609 workers, according to the most recent official data. Of these, 58,000 are specialized doctors. The cooperation programs in which they participate, funded through international organizations, extend to more than 90 countries in the world, from Africa to Oceania.
Cuba has tens of thousands of doctors abroad. In 2014 the Government acknowledged that it received $ 8.2 billion for “export of medical services.” According to independent economists, profits have fallen by slightly more than one billion dollars, due to the crisis in Venezuela, but this “leasing out” of medical services continues to be the country’s main source of income.
“When Cuban professionals leave the country, they are able to see that they are part of a trafficking scheme that only benefits the Havana Government. The only way to rebel is to escape and Cuba is not going to allow that,” says Julio César Alfonso, president of SSF.
Last January, in the last days of the Democratic administration of Barack Obama, the United States eliminated the Parole Program for Cuban doctors working abroad, a program that allowed deserters to travel legally to US territory and to benefit from the Cuban Adjustment Act.
“When Cuban professionals leave the country, they are able to see that they are part of a trafficking scheme that only benefits the Havana Government. The only way to rebel is to escape and Cuba is not going to allow that”
Alfonso and his team are confident that the administration of Donald Trump is going to reverse the Obama measure.
“It will take a few months, but we are working with great faith in that project to help the victims of the greatest human trafficking in the modern era,” he said.
Since 2006 the Cuban Medical Professional Parole has allowed 8,000 Cuban health professionals to escape and travel to the United States. In 2016, some 1,400 professionals from Brazil’s More Doctors program took advantage of these facilities. It is also estimated that more than 1,000 doctors from the island married Brazilians, a way to obtain permanent residency in Brazil and avoid the compulsory return to the island. Some 1,600 have taken the examinations to revalidate their titles and insert themselves in the labor market of Brazil.
Cuba has strictly forbidden its “health workers” to have relationships with “natives” and in its precise code of ethics requires that they “should be informed immediately,” to remain consistent with “revolutionary thinking” and “in no way be excessive” (sic).
Brazil’s health minister Ricardo Barros said that he had called on the Cuban government and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to relax conditions that forced doctors to return to the island.
After the dismissal of President Dilma Rousseff, the Cuban government pressured the Brazilian authorities to renegotiate the contracts for the doctors and obtained a 9% increase in payment
Brazil pays about $3,300 per doctor per month to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which acts as an intermediary – and charges for this service – with the Dealer in Cuban Medical Services. From the $3,300, the doctors themselves receive the equivalent of 800 dollars.
After the dismissal of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, the Cuban government pressured the Brazilian authorities to renegotiate the contract for the doctors and obtained a 9% increase in payment.
It also achieved a 10% increase in for the cost of feeding doctors in indigenous areas.
“We were waiting for something like this to happen,” says one of the doctors working in the Sao Paulo region.
“The deputy minister, Marcia Cobas, has the eye on us, they do not want the hen that lays the golden egg to die,” he says.
“They treat us like slaves. We have to work harder than other doctors and they do not even let our families stay with us in Brazil beyond three months, the least they cold do is let them stay; they all have to leave,” says the physician, a specialist in Comprehensive General Medicine.