14ymedio, Havana, 13 December 2022 — On Tuesday, the Madrid-based organization, Prisoners Defenders (PD) launched a harsh critique toward the governments of Mexico, Italy and Qatar for contracting Cuban professionals in “conditions of slavery.”
The temporary migration program for health professionals to “friendly nations” is nothing more than the main source of hard currency for the Cuban regime, which for each professional receives compensation while subjecting the health workers to contract conditions that violate international decent labor norms and challenging “the human condition to its limits.”
One of these norms, explains Prisoners Defenders, is the Cuban Criminal Code that went into effect on December 1, 2022, which sanctions with up to eight years in prison any professional who leaves their job or does not return immediately to the Island at the end of their contract. Health workers are not able to participate in public events without authorization, nor to issue statements on social media without receiving instructions.
The countries where they work also subject professionals to precarious conditions, the organization reproached. This is the case in Mexico, where they have a 6:00 pm “curfew” after which they cannot leave their assigned residence. The contracting of more than 600 doctors to cover the medical specialist shortage in the second largest economy in Latin America has revived a controversy about President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the main architect of the rapprochement with the Havana regime. Furthermore, several organizations have denounced that the brigades are composed of not only doctors who are not specialists, but also include military personnel and spies.
Another one of the countries with a presence of Cuban medical personnel is Qatar, site of the World Cup and criticized for violating the rights of women, LGBTI community or migrant workers, all of which are, theoretically, causes that the Island’s regime defends. Cuba has a long history of collaboration with the emirate, sending brigades since 1999 and there is even a hospital in the Dukhan region, inaugurated in 2012 as a “jewel of the Cuban international medical missions.”
Prisoners Defenders reiterates that, according to information published by The Guardian, Qatar pays Havana between 5,000 and 10,000 dollars per person but the Cuban government only hands over 10% of the total to the doctors. This income is below the poverty level in the oil-producing nation.
“None of the workers we investigated went to Qatar voluntarily, but rather were coerced. The Cuban doctors did not receive a work contract and did not know their final destination until they reached it. To go on the mission, they were required to attend a Communist Party political ideology course for health sector workers,” states the organization.
Furthermore, and against European Union Laws, the President of the Calabria region of Italy, Roberto Occhiuto, signed a contract for 28 million euro per year for 497 Cuban doctors beginning in September 2022.
The Government of Calabria pays each Cuban medical professional 1,200 euros per month to defray their costs, while paying the regime 3,500 euros.
The NGO states that the European Parliament condemned the Cuban brigades in September 2021, in a resolution which declared, “The Cuban state continues to systematically violate the labor and human rights of its health personnel sent to work abroad on medical missions, which is comparable to modern slavery, according to the United Nations.”
Translated by: Silvia Suárez