U.N. agency may sponsor “modern-day slavery”
The United Nations Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is doing great things in Latin America, but I wonder whether its latest role as a middleman to help place 4,000 Cuban doctors in remote areas of Brazil does not amount to sponsoring slavery.
Under a deal between Brazil and Cuba that was brokered by the Washington-based PAHO, the Latin American branch of the U.N. World Health Organization, the Brazilian government will pay Cuba the equivalent of $4,080 a month — or nearly $49,000 a year — for each of the Cuban doctors.
The Brazilian government says the Cuban doctors are needed in remote areas of northern and northwestern Brazil, because no Brazilian physicians want to take those jobs. The first 400 Cuban doctors started arriving in the South American country on Aug. 24 amid public criticism from Brazil’s biggest physicians’ associations.
Brazil’s National Federation of Brazilian Physicians, Fenam, has said that “the Cuban doctors contracts have the characteristics of slave labor.”
Under the PAHO-brokered Brazilian program, called Mais Medicos (More doctors), Brazil pays Cuba the entire amount of the Cuban doctors’ wages, and Cuba later pays a fraction of it to the doctors.
Here’s the problem: Neither Brazil, nor Cuba, nor PAHO are saying how much of the $4,080 a month per doctor will go to the doctors working in Brazil.
Solidarity without Borders, a Miami-based organization that helps Cuban doctors around the world, says the Cuban government pays its doctors working in Brazil and other countries between $250 and $300 a month, or about 7 percent of the full amount it gets from the Brazilian government. The remaining 93 percent are pocketed by the Cuban government, the group says.
“It’s a modern-day slavery system,” Solidarity Without Borders President Julio Cesar Alfonso told me in an interview. “The only difference is that it uses highly skilled slave work.”
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