Cuba to Close Medical Missions in Brazil and Venezuela / Juan Juan Almeida

Cuban doctors on medical missions in Brazil (Source: am revista)
Cuban doctors on medical missions in Brazil (Source: Ceara em Revista)

Juan Juan Almeida, 16 May 2016 — Quite unexpectedly, Cuban authorities say they are prepared to suspend or cancel medical missions to Brazil and Venezuela.

Ever since Cuban informants, who are spread across the continent, warned that Brazilian legislators were planning to remove President Dilma Rousseff from power and long before President Maduro began facing pressure from the opposition-controlled National Assembly, the Cuban government — calculating as ever and with a proven penchant for creating adversity — secretly devised a plan B, which has now begun to take effect.

The interim president of Brazil, Michel Temer, publicly stated that his government does not intend to get rid of the Cuban medical program “More Doctors,” which was established by Rousseff’s government. Such assertions only demonstrate that the acting president is unaware of the surprise Cuba’s shifty ideologues have in store for him.

Perhaps he will learn the hard way that, for the island’s government, the medical missions are more than just a charitable undertaking and a very profitable enterprise. The are above all instruments of pressure that are one aspect of an aggressive foreign policy.

A commission made up of members of the Communist party, the government, the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) and local officials are touring the island of San Antonio de Maisi to brief staff at every hospital on plans for removing all Cuban health care workers from Brazil and Venezuela at a designated time and returning them to Cuba.

This action has two objectives. One is to forestall more doctors from deserting. The other and more important one is to strike a timely political blow by withdrawing the services of Cuban doctors in remote and impoverished areas.

In conversations with staff, this itinerant commission reported that Cuba receives significant subsidies by leasing out its professionals’ services as part of various overseas health care programs. But it now plans to amortize its economic losses by backing out of its agreements with Venezuela and Brazil.

Cuba is fashionable and there will always be places in the world with a profound need for health care workers. Thus the idea is to redirect Cuban medical cooperation to other countries and gradually increase health care access on the island. But not to Cubans. On April 3 the minister of health, Lina O. Pedraza Rodriquez, signed Resolution 145/2016 which allows doctors to collect up to five percent of the fees billed to foreign tourists.

Concurrently, MINSAP has released more than 200,000 dollars from the hard currency reserve on orders from the Central Committee to launch a big ad campaign that includes an untold number of printed flyers for distribution through privately owned rental homes, hotels, travel agencies (both inside and outside the island), the official Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, Cuban diplomatic missions abroad and MINSAP affiliated facilities, including hospitals. It is intended to promote and sell a range of health care services that the country offers.