14ymedio, Olea Gallardo, Havana, 30 March2021 –The details of the mission of the Cuban doctors in Mexico continues to be learned drop by drop. This Monday, when 123 medical personnel from the Henry Reeve Brigade returned to the island, of the nearly 500 deployed in that country since December, the official Cuban press confirmed that they had been working in military institutions.
“The aid workers treated a total of 408 suspected or confirmed patients with SARS-CoV-2 in the operational units of temporary hospitalization Chivatito, Campo 1ª and Sixth Mortar Battalion,” reports Prensa Latina, who says that “the performance of these 84 doctors, 38 nursing graduates and a specialist in electromedicine won them the recognition of the Ministry of Health of Mexico, the Ministry of National Defense and the Government of the capital of the country.”
Until now, neither Mexico nor Cuba had specified the hospitals where the health workers who arrived in December were assigned, and the Cuban State newspaper Granma limited itself to saying that they were “in the temporary hospitalization operating units,” without giving further details.
The first center mentioned on Monday by the official news agency (Chivatito) is the Covid-19 Installation Military Hospital created by the Ministry of Defense on one side of Los Pinos, the former presidential residence, where source who preferred to reserve his identity told 14ymedio at the time that at least 260 doctors were working in Mexico.
According to that source, these were housed “in units without being able to leave them, they sleep in bunks, and were divided into three brigades,” and two of them deserted.
The group that returned this Monday is the third group of those deployed in December to have returned to Cuba: a first contingent (of 160) did so on March 1 and another (of 95), two weeks later.
The sending of Henry Reeve brigades to Mexico has been characterized by controversy and opacity. On March 15, it was learned that the Mexican Government had paid one and a half million dollars more than what it had originally said (about six million) for 585 health workers on the island who had been working between April and July 2020.
The information was provided to the Mexican digital medium La Silla Rota only through a request to the transparency portal InfoCDMX — to which public institutions are, in principle, obliged to respond by law — and after a wait of half a year.
That they have been housed in military institutions has made it more difficult to learn about the ’mission’ that began in December. In theory, the Ministry of Defense is subject to the same rules when it comes to requesting information via transparency, but in practice, the authorities often refuse to provide it, alleging national security reasons.
Another thing happened in June of last year, when complaints about the work carried out by Cubans in hospitals in the Mexican capital came to light both on social networks and in the main Mexican newspapers.
For the rest, it remains unknown how much Mexico paid for the almost 200 healthcare workers that were stationed in Veracruz on the same dates or for the 500 that it imported in December, of which 378 have already returned to Cuba.
It is also unknown which government agency made the disbursement. The response to La Silla Rota, via transparency, named the Ministry of Health of the Mexican capital, but at the time, both the owner, Oliva López Arellano, and the head of Government of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, emphasized that Cubans were hired “through an agreement with Insabi,” the Health and Welfare Institute created by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which has been the target of numerous criticisms in the country.
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