A Call for Governments that Host Cuban Workers to ‘Say No to Forced Labor’

In addition to the situation of doctors and health workers, they also denounced that of teachers, cruise ship staff, architects, engineers, and even artists. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, January 26, 2022 — Not only are doctors and health workers affected by the harsh work regimen of the so-called international ’missions’, but so are thousands of other professionals such as teachers, cruise ship workers, architects, engineers, and even artists.

During a videoconference, organizations presented the third addendum to the claim of abuses committed by the Cuban regime during the international sale of services, initially submitted in 2019 to the International Criminal Court and the United Nations.

As the liberal Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and event co-organizer, Dita Charanzová, said, the report includes “the testimony of Cuban professionals outside of Cuba who have been subjected to grave injustices, persecution, slavery, threats, violence, harassment, family separation.”

With that, they aim to show how a total of 1,111 professionals from different sectors were “used by the regime as propaganda to show solidarity with other countries,” when, noted the Czech MEP, “this does not reflect the real intentions of the Cuban Government.” The original 2019 claim, with 110 witness statements, was expanded one year later to include 622 statements.

For Charanzová, “governments that receive these services from Cuba should be firm and demand changes,” and “say no to slavery and forced labor.”

The MEP also mentioned that the European Union will soon submit legislation on sustainable corporate governance and, in that context, will request “consideration for the situation of Cuban workers on international missions.”

Furthermore, she insisted that the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement EU-Cuba, signed in 2016, “is not working,” for which reason she insists it be suspended and sanctions applied, within the EU’s legal framework, against the Cubans responsible for violations of human rights. The MEP also criticized the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, who in her judgment, “has not put any pressure on the (Cuban) regime to comply with the Agreement.”

The Cuban Government’s international missions are designed for professionals to work in other countries. Although the initiative is usually associated with contingents of doctors, for decades it has placed more than 400,000 professionals in 164 countries; musicians, cruise ship workers, engineers, athletes, and professors also participate, very notoriously, for example in the case of Venezuela.

In a survey of 894 anonymous informants, completed by three NGOs, 75% confirmed that they did not participate in the missions voluntarily and 13% alleged coercion. Eighty-seven percent reported that economic factors influenced their decision and 66% confessed wanting to escape the situation they faced with the lack of alternatives on the Island.

The report also provides documentary evidence of the so-called eight-year law, which prohibits entry into Cuba during this period of time for professionals who abandon their mission early or do not return to complete it.

These organizations have obtained, among other documents, a consular certificate that declares one a “deserter” and another which ratifies the denial of entry of a Cuban citizen into his own country.

There are two payment models for missions, the report explains. In the first, the worker is paid by Cuba, and receives between 9% and 25% of what Cuba charges the host country. According to these NGOs, the Cuban government pays professionals an average of $525 a month, while charging, on average, more than $3,500 per person, pocketing 85% of their salary.

In the second model, a state-owned staffing agency, which functions as an intermediary, takes a commission on the salary, normally between 75% and 90% of the base salary. The NGOs present documents with regard to this, for example, a worker for the Italian-Swiss cruise ship company, MSC, receives a salary of 408 euros a month, of which 326.40 euros are garnished, leaving the worker with 81.60 euros for a month’s labor.

This specific company is also named in the report as one of the beneficiaries of the system. In this manner, it has employed thousands of Cuban workers with an average monthly salary of $727 per month (640 euros), which includes the portion controlled by Cuba and an undeclared portion. This sum is much lower than the minimum wage established in Europe, especially for jobs with a 77-hour workweek without days off.

The document also points to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which retained 5% of the salaries of 8,400 Cuban doctors who, every year for six years, worked in the Mais Médicos [More Doctors] program in Brazil. In 2018 alone PAHO obtained $128 million through this mechanism.

The report also shows how the sale of professional services, which are referred to as Cuba’s international missions, is the largest source of hard currency for the country, greater than remittances and tourism, since at least 2005.

Shortly after the report was published, without referencing it, the Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez, criticized the United States on Wednesday for associating the international missions with human trafficking. “The false accusations of the U.S. Secretary of State which links Cuba with human trafficking seeks to tarnish the solidarity efforts of Cuban medical cooperation, which saves lives and the merits of which are unquestionably recognized by the international community,” tweeted the Minister of Foreign Affairs, one day after Blinken accused the governments of Cuban, China, North Korea and Russia of participating in human trafficking.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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