The Work of Cuban Doctors in Mexico City was ‘Voluntary’ Say Local Authorities

The bringing in of Cuba’s Henry Reeve brigades by Mexico has been characterized by controversy and opacity. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 5 July 2021 — An audit of the Secretariat of Health of Mexico City revealed that the payment to the first brigade of Cuban doctors that worked in the Mexican capital, between April and July of last year, went directly to the Cuban Government because the work of the health professionals was “voluntary”, that is the doctors were not paid for their work.

The report, presented to the local Congress, specifies that the government of Mexico City gave Havana 135,875,081 Mexican pesos (more than seven million dollars), “not counting accommodation and food expenses.” The health secretary of the capital, Oliva López Arellano, clarified “that the payment was only between governments, since the work of Cuban doctors was voluntary,” the Political Expansion platform published last Friday.

In the review of the Expenditure Budget, it was highlighted that the largest expenditure was in urgent care, “as well as in the acquisition of materials, supplies, general services, donations and transfers abroad due to the support received from Cuba.”

Previously, López Arellano had defended the presence of Cuban health personnel: “It is voluntary work, they have already come at other times such as the September 2017 earthquake. There is recognition of these brigades of health personnel in the world that will contribute to confronting epidemics and critical situations in the countries,” reported Political Animal.

The official was approached because international organizations, including the United Nations, indicated that the work carried out by Cuban doctors abroad could constitute forced labor. However, López Arellano stressed that the task they were carrying out in Mexico City was “voluntary” and “professional” work.

In mid-March it was learned that the total payment for the island’s medical service was 150,759,867 Mexican pesos (almost eight million dollars). The information was provided to the Mexican digital medium La Silla Rota through a request to the transparency portal InfoCDMX — to which public institutions are, in principle, obliged to respond by law — and after a half-year wait (they started the request on September 8, they say).

According to that media, the figures that the government of the Mexican capital initially gave did not include accommodation or food for the Cubans, which also came from Mexico: 14,884,785 pesos (about 744,000 dollars).

It is not the only data incongruity presented by the hiring of the Cuban medical missions to Mexico. The latest figures made public only refer to 585 health workers who served in the capital, not to the almost 200 more who were stationed in Veracruz on the same dates; nothing is known about the expenditure for those Cubans healthcare professionals.

Nor is it known how much the Government of Mexico has paid for the 500 doctors who arrived last December and returned to the island in various groups between March and May of this year. According to Dr. Julio Guerra Izquierdo, sent to the Mexican capital in that group, when the fatality in the institutions in which they worked — almost all of them military — arrived it was 27%. “With the hard work of our collaborators, it was possible to reduce fatality to 9.7% at the end of four months,” he said when returning to the island, without providing any documentation to support his claims.

The importation of Henry Reeve brigades by Mexico has been characterized by controversy and opacity. Last June, a dozen Mexican medical associations published a letter addressed to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in which they protested the hiring of Cubans, which they considered “a serious offense against health professionals.” In addition, an investigation carried out by the Latinus portal revealed that Cuban health workers worked undocumented.


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