14ymedio, Madrid, 1 June 2022 — Health workers from Cuba arrived in Mexico on May 31, a few hours before a judge in Puebla was to decide if Mexico could hire 500 Cuban doctors under the conditions agreed upon by the governments of both countries.
“They have already arrived and are in Mexico in three hotels; whether they are doctors or not, we don’t know, but they are here,” confirmed Éctor Jaime Ramírez Barba, deputy of the National Action Party (PAN) for Guanajuato. The politician argued that, taking into account the number of health workers that the federal government plans to hire, Cubans do not represent a disproportionate amount, although at one time he opposed the agreement.
“If they are doctors, there is no formal decree that prevents the President from incorporating them today. If he doesn’t comply with what the court orders, we will be making the corresponding complaints,” Ramírez Barba told the local press. If the data available to the opposition, provided by the Government, are true, the number of Cuban health workers in Mexico would equal for every 10,000 national health workers.
However, the complaints are focused on issues such as whether the group is made up entirely of health professionals, whether they are properly trained and whether working conditions are respectful of the law, which is very doubtful considering the number of complaints charging that agreements of this type are a semi-slavery relationship.
The anonymous whistleblower who is trying to paralyze the incorporation of the 500 doctors stated in the application that the Mexican Government has not demonstrated that the doctors have the adequate capacity or training to practice medicine in Mexico and that the remuneration that the Mexican government will pay for these health workers could go, as in all agreements of this type, to the Cuban Government rather than to the contracted professionals themselves.
The judge denied the provisional suspension because “so far it’s not determined that the agreement signed by the federal government contravenes provisions of public order,” but he gave a deadline of May 31 for the authorities to present their arguments and is scheduled to announce his decision on June 1.
On May 31, the PAN deputy explained that the model in which Cubans will work is the one planned for “dispersed areas,” which are organized by health communities. The politician commented that Mexican doctors who go to those areas do so temporarily, with a one-year contract that provides them with points for their next destination, so they are not classified as “places.” However, national health workers refuse to occupy these areas.
By virtue of the agreement announced by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, during his visit to Havana on May 8, Cubans will be sent to these places, some of them in very dangerous areas, such as the Montaña de Guerrero, one of the most conflictive points in the country, due to the presence of several cartels that dispute drug trafficking.
The profession of doctor in Cuba, which was once the jewel in the crown, is losing its appeal and not only within the island, since the foreign missions, often used by the doctors to earn more money but also as a springboard to emigrate, are becoming more complicated. On Tuesday, news broke on social networks that at least 17 Cuban doctors sent to Venezuela were arrested while trying to leave for Colombia.
Doctor Miguel Ángel Ruano said on Facebook that some have been sent back to the island as prisoners and threatened with the application of article 176 of the new Criminal Code, which punishes with between three and eight years in prison anyone who “on the occasion of the fulfillment of a mission abroad and against the express order of the Government, moves to another country.”
Emilio Arteaga Pérez, a member of the Free Cuban Medical Association like Ruano, confirmed the facts and said that the rest of the 20,000 Cuban collaborators in Venezuela have also had their passports taken away as retaliation and as a preventive measure.
Under these conditions, it’s not surprising that the majority of Cubans who still have a vocation for public health choose the only way that opens the door for them to leave the island, which is to practice “Integral General Medicine.” Medical specialists have been regulated since 2015 and are prohibited from leaving the island for five years, after which they can request their “liberation” by the authorities.
The advice not to specialize so as not to close the door to emigration circulates in several medical forums, one of them based in Spain, where many Cubans fight to validate their degrees in a country where more and more doctors are imported while nationals emigrate.
In the last five years, 20,608 foreign doctors have had their degrees validated in Spain. Cubans were in the top tier of the most professionals admitted in 2018, 2020 and 2021, with 342, 598 and 564 respectively. Most know that in order to work in a European country they need the permission of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from which they must ask for the required documentation to be able to validate their degrees. To do this, they must have performed their required social service and, of course, not be “regulated” [banned from leaving the country] or marked by “desertion”; otherwise they will never get the papers.
In addition, they often need to complement their studies to equate their level with that required and pass the MIR (Internal Resident Doctor) exam in case they want a specialty other than family medicine.
Trade unions in Spain warn of the shortage of doctors in the country, where wages are low and the workload very high, especially compared to some of the neighboring European countries, where there is more stability and better conditions. In the last five years 11,506 Spanish health workers applied for the certificate of eligibility to leave, while, in the same period, almost twice as many foreign graduates validated their degree: 20,608.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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