New Information Comes to Light About Cuban Medical Missions in Mexico

Five hundred doctors arrived in Mexico in December and 160 of them returned to Cuba at the beginning of March. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, March 16, 2021 — Mexico has paid over six million dollars for 585 Cuban doctors who were working in the country from April 24th to July 24th last year.

In total, it wasn’t only the 135 million pesos, as stated by The Secretary of State for Health, Oliva Lopez Arrellano, nor the 135,875,000 which was indicated afterwards by the head of government in the capital, Claudia Sheinbaum, but actually nearly 15 millions more. Altogether, they paid 150,759,867 pesos (over seven million, five hundred thousand dollars).

The information was provided by the Mexican digital media La Silla Rota (The Broken Chair) following a request through the transparency website InfoCDMX – in which public institutions are, in theory, legally obliged to respond – after a delay of half a year (the application was made September 8th, apparently).

According to this media, the figures provided by the city did not include the Cubans  accommodation and food, which were also charged to Mexico: a total of 14,844,785 pesos (some 744,000 dollars).

The InfoCDMX response also set out that the Henry Reeve Brigade contingent was accommodated in 292 rooms in two hotels: the Benidorm, in Colonia Roma district, and the Fiesta Inn, in the Central Historic area.

The Silla Rota was surprised to note that “Although the Cuban doctors left on July 24th, according to official information, the billing dates are different… In the Benidorm, the bill was produced on July 10, 2020, and in the Fiesta Inn, on July 29”.

That’s not the only inconsistency in the contractual data relating to the Cuban missions in Mexico. For a start, the latest data publicised only refers to 585 nurses who worked in the capital, not to the nearly 200 more who went to Veracruz on the same dates, about whose costs nothing is known.

Nor is it known how much the Mexican government paid for the five hundred doctors who came from the island in December. 160 of them went back to Cuba this March, but nothing is known about the rest of them.

Neither is it known which government department paid the money. The transparency response named the Secretary of State of the Mexican capital city, but we know that both the postholder, Lopez Arellano, and the head of the City government Sheinbaum emphasised that the Cubans were hired “through an agreement with Insabi”, the Institute of Health and Wellbeing set up by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and which has been widely criticised in the country over the distribution of drugs for children suffering from cancer.

Given the opaque way in which both governments have dealt with this matter, the only recourse for the Mexican media has been to go to the government transparency websites. Last September, Latinus (a digital platform in Mexico) managed to find out there that all of the nearly 700 doctors who arrived in Mexico in April to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic, 585 of them in the capital, and the rest in Veracruz, were working without immigration permission.

This digital medium, based in the United States, indicated that there is no evidence of these doctors having a “proper documented” stay in Mexico, such as “temporary residence documents, or temporary or permanent study permits”, nor any document indicating a legal status for the health workers in the National Migration Institute (INM) database, nor could they find “details of Cuban nationals, in May this year, having obtained any of the documents cited, and in which they had entered information that they were in the health and support services sector”, as communicated by the INM Director.

Getting into the transparency websites is not infallible, but nevertheless, La Silla Rota explains that it made various requests for information which were not replied to by InfoCDMX.

Last November, they say, the site removed the inspection process, and so, it did not provide the itemised information requested by the digital medium “by date of arrival, speciality, medical institution or investigation centre to which they were sent (federal entity), as well as what were their duties,  pay and benefits, and, as applicable, their  date of exit and exit location from the country. Also, if their stay is extended, for how long and the documentation for that.”

Translated by GH


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.