Last March, I wrote about the lawsuit by four Cuban doctors against the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) for violation of laws, and international conventions against human trafficking and forced labor. PAHO acts as an intermediary agent of payments, and the administrator of a cooperation program between the Brazilian government, and the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba.
This is about “Mais Médicos” or “more doctors,” a program which functioned between 2013 and 2018. The Brazilian authorities allegedly made payments for said services to PAHO, which in turn channeled them to the Cuban government. PAHO would have charged a 5% commission (75 million dollars), paying the salary to the doctors, one part in hand and another part deposited in their accounts in Cuba.
They are the Cuban medical missions. The accusation describes a real exploitation system, from remuneration to working conditions. Of the total money transferred, only 10% was dedicated to the salaries of professionals, well below the salary of a doctor in Brazil. The government of Cuba has access to the remaining 85%.
The lawsuit brings to light a repressive regime. Participants in the medical missions are recruited through threats. They don’t have adequate information about the destination, the duration of the trip, or the payment. They are not allowed to travel with all their families or possess their passport. During these missions in a foreign country, doctors are required to participate in Cuban propaganda and perform political indoctrination functions. Further, intelligence officials and agents of state security who pretend to be doctors accompany them in these missions.
Before my other complaint about the same issue, I have referred to the International Criminal Court by the NGOs “Prisoners Defenders” and “Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).” They have accused six high officials of the Cuban government, including Raúl Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel, for slavery, persecution, and other inhuman acts invoking article 7 of the Rome Statute that defines and classify crimes against humanity.
The complaint is based on 110 testimonies from doctors who left the program. I read the 400-page document, and it is as if I had already read it. The charges are almost identical to those of “Mais Medicos.” There exists an evident pattern: coercion, forced labor, and exploitation. Based on a greater number of cases, this complaint reveals the wide geographical dimension of the missions. The professionals declared that they went to dozens of countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and even Europe, exposing the true foreign policy of the Cuban government.
The accusation also exposes the Cuban government’s practice of presenting false health statistics, both abroad and on the island. In the medical missions, Cuban officials exaggerate the success of the missions, thereby directly influencing the monetary and diplomatic terms since these statistics are sent to PAHO, and the United Nations accepts them as valid information.
On the other hand, within Cuba, the fabricated statistics about public health information services to reiterate the myth of medical excellence of the socialist system: the propaganda poster of missions abroad. For example, the country exhibits extraordinarily low infant mortality rates through an official directive which mandates that all infant deaths within the first six weeks are reported as miscarriages or abortions. The doctors interviewed stated that similar deceptive methods are used to report data about communicable diseases such as dengue and cholera, epidemics of which have been prevalent in Cuba for the last seven years.
The title of this column, The world begins to know, is a slogan by Javier Larrondo, the president of Prisoners Defenders, one of the plaintiff organizations, in relation to the wide media coverage of his complaint. Finally, it is necessary to publicize the crimes of the Castro regime. However, one must acknowledge that misinformation about public health in Cuba has been due to the ingenuity of some as well as the complicity of many in the myths and legends of the Cuban revolution.
One needs to have basic honesty to recognize the lies. The ‘progressives,’ whatever the term denotes, have consumed those myths uncritically and, along the way, have become accomplices. Countries in Latin America and the Europen left have accepted and honored the narrative that a six-decade-long tyranny uses to design its foreign policy.
Think of the historical resistance in the Cold War that liberated the rest of the hemisphere except Cuba which was protected by the 1962 agreement between Washington and the Soviet Union. It is paradoxical that former Chilean president Salvador Allende committed suicide by shooting himself with the AK47 that Fidel Castro gifted him, a weapon that the communist president never needed to use in Cuba once he gained power.
Consider the history of the blockade, instead of the embargo, of the impending invasion that never occurred, the rights of the Latin American people at the same time that the rights of the Cuban people are violated. We cannot ignore the myth of the struggle against Yankee imperialism and its accomplices, the fascist dictatorship of Pinochet, while doing business with other fascist dictators, including the Argentinian Videla, who obey orders from the imperialists of Moscow.
The denunciations of the Cuban missions is valuable as it exposes the hypocrisy of a regime that proclaims the emancipation of the proletariat but enslaves doctors. The can no longer pretend to be ignorant. At a time when imperialism is critically discussed and opposed, if the narrative in favor of rights is genuine, it is crucial to unmask Cuban imperialism. The world begins to know the truth of the regime, and the Castro dictatorship must be accountable.