Doctors enslaved abroad while Cuba deprived of them
Two of the most important revenue sources for Castroism’s economic survival are family remittances and the export of medical personnel. Cuban doctors abroad work and live on a basis that is tantamount to slavery, only having access to a fraction of their wages, their freedom of movement restricted, and forced to get involved in political campaigns with local populations, with which they are not even allowed to interact in a private way. They are hostages of the Government, enlisting in these programs towards the sole goal of saving some minimal amounts allowing them to subsist after their return to Cuba.
The export of the country’s doctors also helps the regime to garner international recognition. But this is acknowledgment that entails a smokescreen covering up their violations of the health workers’ labor and human rights. Until now, many of them had found a way out of their dilemma by emigrating to the U.S.A. through other countries, allowing them to reinvent their lives and obtain the kind of compensation to which every professional aspires.
But by ending the parole program for Cuban doctors Obama has eliminated this possibility for them. The president’s statement argues that favoring the emigration of doctors to the US could affect the Cuban people: “By providing preferential treatment to Cuban medical personnel, the medical parole program […] risks harming the Cuban people.” But this reasoning is based on a failure to acknowledge how Raúl Castro’s regime operates; the fact that Cuban doctors cannot emigrate to the USA does not mean that they will decide to serve patients on the Island.
The economic outlook leaves the Cuban authorities so few options that they will have to resort, increasingly, to exporting medical staff. In the wake of the lifting of the “dry feet/wet feet” policy, as the total amounts received from familiar remittances diminish, the numbers from the export of doctors could become even greater.
Due to the Government’s programs for the export of specialists, the number of doctors per inhabitant in Cuba has already noticeably diminished. Medical facilities lack professionals in some specialized areas, and this situation is only going to get worse, regardless of what Barack Obama has ordered. In spite of his good intentions, Obama is not going to be able to improve the situation of Cuban patients, but he will worsen that of many doctors.
In light of all this, Cuban American Senator Marco Rubio and House Representative Carlos Curbelo are right to ask Donald Trump to restore the program that favored Cuban health professionals.
I came across this article in Q Costa Rica this morning and expected to read about how wonderful apartheid Cuba is for tourists. Like many articles on the topic of vacationing in Cuba, I assumed this piece would gush about how unspoiled and quaint Havana is with its crumbling buildings, 1950s era American cars, and how well behaved the enslaved natives are and how they all love to play music and dance for the tourists.
For the first part of the article, my suspicions were confirmed:
Things You Should or Want Know About Cuba
TODAY CUBA / Cuba is the Caribbean island nation under communist rule. It has sugar-white beaches and is dotted with tobacco fields, which play a part in the production of the country’s legendary cigars. The capital, Havana (La Habana), is lined with pastel houses, 1950s era cars and Spanish-colonial architecture in the 16th-century core, Old Havana (Habana Vieja).
Culturally, Cuba is considered part of Latin America. It is a multiethnic country whose people, culture and customs derive from diverse origins, including the aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney peoples, the long period of Spanish colonialism, the introduction of African slaves, and a close relationship with the Soviet Union in the Cold War.
Salsa music plays in the dance clubs and cabaret shows are performed at the famed Tropicana.
But then, they share a list of bullet points on Cuba that put the island in a realistic perspective:
- Cuba is the largest island in the area with 11 million inhabitants.
- Cuba has been living under a communist dictatorship for 58 years
- Cuba went from the third developed country of the Americas (beating countries like Spain, France, Belgium in indicators) to a third world country with a destroyed economy and agriculture.
- Cuba is a “food deficient country” that has to import 80% of the food it consumes and that lives with rationing for over 50 years.
- Cuba has an “apartheid” medical and tourist system (tourist part now relaxed) with separate facilities for tourist (and the elite) and the Cuban people.
- Cuba has a “two currency” system with one the CUP for the Cuban people’s daily transactions which is “non convertible” (can’t be exchanged for other currencies) and the CUC (convertible). 1 CUC is worth 25 CUP at current exchange rates.
- Average monthly pensions is Cuba are (in US dollar) $10 – $12 and average salary is about $25.
- Rationed goods are cheap but last only 10 days to feed people and lots of other goods have to be bought at high prices (relative compared to income) with CUP or at exorbitant prices in CUC. This results in widespread food problems.
- 62% of Cubans depend on remittances (money sent from abroad) to make ends meet.
- Education and health in Cuba, once praised, have declined now facing crumbling infrastructure, teacher shortages and a lack of medical personnel and equipment in the Cuban system.
It is hard to tell if Q Costa Rica was attempting to give their readers a realistic assessment of vacationing in apartheid Cuba or they were just being lazy and copied and pasted a list of bullet points they found on the internet.
Either way, a true assessment of apartheid Cuba is out there on the internet and once it’s on the internet, it’s there forever.
It is no surprise that dissident artist Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado was arrested and imprisoned for nearly two months simply for celebrating the death of Cuba’s apartheid dictator, Fidel Castro. These are the types of human rights violations Cuba’s brutally repressive dictatorship has been committing for more than half a century. Unfortunately, it is also no surprise that despite the fact that Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship continues to be an oppressive regime, Barack Obama had no issues making additional major unilateral concessions to them while “El Sexto” rotted in a Castro gulag.
Artist ‘El Sexto’ walks out of prison in Cuba
Artist spends 2 months in prison after celebrating Fidel Castro’s death
HAVANA – Cuban authorities freed artist Danilo Maldonado on Saturday. The Cuban government had been holding the artist known as “El Sexto” since Nov. 26.
International human rights U.S. human rights lawyer Kimberley Motley took up his case and was later detained for hours in Havana.
Maldonado’s family said they were grateful to Motley and international civil rights attorney Centa B. Rek Chajtur from the Human Rights Foundation.
“It was the growing awareness about his case that has led the Cuban government to liberate him,” a statement on the artist’s Facebook page said. They added that Maldonado plans to “continue doing meaningful art towards a free and democratic Cuba.”The artist was released after the Geneva-based United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention started to review a legal petition filed in his behalf.
The graffiti writer had been in prison before. Cubans held him for about 10 months after he attempted to release two pigs he had spray painted with the names of Raul and Fidel Castro.
Maldonado’s latest arrest happened before an exhibit he was supposed to host in Miami during Art Basel. Cuban authorities showed up to his apartment after he celebrated the death of Fidel Castro with graffiti.
See more HERE.
Si dejo de publicar en Twitter hoy, es que fui arrestada arbitrariamente por los agentes de esta tiranía cubana que ningún cubano eligió.
— Rosa María Payá A. (@RosaMariaPaya) January 21, 2017
Cuba’s ForoDyL (Forum for Rights and Liberty) is reporting on their Facebook page that imprisoned dissident artist, Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado has finally been released from prison.
When she got home, she kissed her mother and took a long, intense shower, like the one she dreamed during the six days she was detained. Karina Galvez let the water run to take away her weariness and the hopelessness that the imprisonment had caused her. Outside her home, neighbors welcomed her with hugs on Tuesday, after she was released on a 2,000 Cuban peso bond, still facing charges of alleged tax evasion, linked to the purchase of a home.
During his first hours out of the cell, Galvez knew that the Cuba he had left a week before had changed. She learned, only then, of the end of the United States’ Wet Foot/Dry Foot policy and she knew that the international solidarity around him had been much greater than she could have imagined. Surrounded by her friends and trying to recover every missing minute, the economist answered some questions for 14ymedio via telephone.
Yoani Sanchez: What is your current legal situation? Is there a date for a hearing?
Karina Gálvez: They haven’t told me a date for the trial. The only thing I have is the document known as the “auto” that describes the case, so I can name a lawyer.
Yoani Sanchez: What were the main emotional supports you had in your days of confinement?
Karina Gálvez: I confess I had moments when I felt emotionally broken. I had never slept in a cell before. The anguish of being unaware of what was happening outside, of being cut off, was quite strong.
At one point I asked God to give me a sign that he was there with me and a few minutes later Major Odalys came in and brought me a bible that my sister had brought me. I was very shocked by that moment.
It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever experienced, although I felt sure of solidarity. I knew a lot of people were watching over me and that my family was not alone.
Yoani Sanchez: And on leaving did you confirm that impression?
Karina Gálvez: I fell a little short in my calculations… last night when I left I found out that the solidarity had been immense. Support has gone beyond friends. I have to thank all those who supported me and tell them that all the energy of knowing that people were with me helped me a lot in there.
Here’s Why Rosa María Payá Is Risking Her Life
If your father was murdered by a totalitarian regime, would you go back to the place of the crime? That’s what Rosa María Payá is doing. Payá is a young Cuban democracy and human rights activist. Her father, Oswaldo Payá, the head of the Christian Liberation Movement and founder of the Varela Project, which sought to gather support for democratic transition in Cuba, died in 2012 under mysterious circumstances. Rosa María took up his work. In 2013 she denounced the Cuban government before the United Nations, contradicting the official account of her father’s “accidental” death and calling for an independent investigation into what she believed was a deliberate murder. She returned to Cuba briefly and spoke at the UN again later that year.
In 2015, Payá launched a citizens’ initiative called Cuba Decide (Cuba Decides), calling for a binding plebiscite to start the process of democratization in Cuba. Over the last two years, she was also elected the president of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy and addressed the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy and the Oslo Freedom Forum, and visited the island twice in order to visit her father’s grave and attend a mass in his memory, despite the fact that her family and fellow activists continually receive threats and suffer harassment at the hands of state security forces.
Now she is going back. Why? “I’m returning to my country,” she wrote on Facebook on Thursday, January 18. “Over the last days an escalation of violence against the entire Cuban opposition has become evident, among them various promoters of the citizens’ initiative Cuba Decide. Many friends have been jailed, beaten, or threatened, have feared for their lives. This is what happened two weeks ago to the trade union leader Iván Hernández Carrillo and to Mrs. Caridad Burunate in Matanzas and two days ago to the artist Danilo Maldonado [El Sexto], detained in the El Combinado prison and living among rumors of a possible execution. They also fear for the safety of their children and relatives, mentioned again and again during the interrogations, as state security agents Osvaldo and Maikel clarified to the musician and composer Luis Alberto Mariño. They’re intercepted and detained when they try to aid other Cubans, which is what happened to the artist-activist Tania Bruguera so that she couldn’t help those affected by Hurricane Matthew on its path towards Baracoa. Various opposition organizations and members of independent civil society throughout the nation suffer constant persecution and arrests without charges. This is what has happened to the Ladies in White, UNPACU, Dr. Eduardo Cardet, and the economist Karina Gálvez, among others. The year is beginning amid a wave of repression that reminds me intensely of the prelude to the Spring of 2003, before the jailing of the leaders of the Varela Project during the trial of the 75. I’m going home, I will be with my friends.”
At 3:02 p.m. the same day she tweeted, “In the Havana airport they have just retained my (valid) Cuban passport and they’re ordering me to wait without giving any explanation.” Six minutes later, “They’ve informed me that on this occasion I can enter Cuba, our country.”
We’ll be following Rosa María’s trip and providing any updates we receive here. Rosa María, we wish you safety and success on your mission to bring democracy and human rights to your homeland!
Even though he is no longer president, Barack Obama’s policy of endless unilateral concessions to the apartheid Castro dictatorship continues to claim victims.
Stranded: A Cuban doctor ponders life stuck between policies and politics
When Elisabet Casero, a 26-year-old Cuban dentist, decided to abandon her assignment in Venezuela earlier this month, she knew the stakes. She would have to cross a crime-infested border to get to Colombia, forfeit her life savings in Cuba and be considered a pariah on the island.
But the risks seemed worth it. She planned to apply for a U.S. visa under the Cuban Medical Professional Parole program, tailor-made for the island’s health professionals.
But just hours after she was smuggled into Colombia on Jan. 12, on the back of a motorcycle, she heard the news: the Obama administration had canceled the parole program.
“I got so depressed,” Casero said. “But I have no choice but to move forward. I can’t go back to Cuba and much less Venezuela.”
Now Casero finds herself in a precarious situation: unable to continue to the United States, unable to work in Colombia and unwilling to return home.
Hundreds of Cubans are stranded in the Americas after the Obama administration ended the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy as well as the parole program for medical professionals earlier this month.
The administration has said it will continue processing parole applications submitted before the program was canceled, but it hasn’t said what might happen to people like Casero. And while it’s not clear how many people might be in her situation, Cuban doctors in Bogotá said they knew of at least two more cases of people who had already abandoned their jobs but hadn’t been able to apply for the program.
In Cuba, being chosen to work in an international medical mission is considered prestigious. But the reality can be stark. Casero said she was paid 27,000 bolivares a month — less than $10 — while she worked in the northern Venezuelan state of Valencia. To pay for her escape, she had to save as much as possible.
“I couldn’t even pay for the transportation to the office. Our Cuban bosses also did not give us money for water and cooking gas,” she said. “They told us we had to rely on the ‘solidarity’ of friends.”
She said her supervisors also encouraged the doctors to get their Venezuelan patients to pay for a portion of the care, even though it’s supposed to be free.
Her decision to join the Cuban government’s “medical mission” to Venezuela was not free of pressure either, Casero said.
“We were told that we should go on the mission. If you refuse, you can even lose your career because they brand you as a counterrevolutionary,” the dentist said.
In Venezuela she says she was required to work long hours and was closely monitored to make sure she met her quota of patients. (Venezuela pays Cuba for the service with oil.)
Continue reading HERE.
Mexico has just deported 91 Cuban refugees back to Cuba and to a life of repression, apartheid, and slavery. I suspect the irony here will be completely lost among our Lah-teen-oh brothers and sisters who were gleefully celebrating Obama’s Cuban immigration policy change last week.
Mexico deports 91 Cubans after U.S. ends ‘wet foot, dry foot’
Mexico’s government has deported 91 Cubans about a week after the United States ended a so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy that granted residency to almost every Cuban who reached U.S. soil, Mexican officials said on Friday.
The repeal of the longstanding policy last Thursday by former U.S. President Barack Obama left hundreds of Cubans who were seeking a new life stranded in Mexico and Central America countries.
The 71 men and 20 women were flown to the Caribbean island by Mexican federal police jet from the southern city of Tapachula, Mexico’s National Migration Institute said.
The Cubans were in Mexico “irregularly,” the institute said in a statement, though they had applied for a permit to remain temporarily in the country.
Cuban officials had long sought an end to the policy, arguing that the promise of U.S. residency was fuelling people-trafficking and encouraging dangerous journeys.
The policy let Cubans who fled to the United States pursue residency if they reached the mainland, but not if they were picked up at sea before reaching the shore.
Obama entered into detente in 2014 with Cuban President Raul Castro, and the two governments continued to sign cooperation agreements this week to wrap up a range of issues before Donald Trump was sworn in as U.S. president on Friday.
Trump has vowed to scrap Obama’s policy toward Havana unless Castro’s government makes further concessions, although he has not specified what those should be.
(Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Daniel Wallis)
Perhaps one of the more creative ways of celebrating the death of a murderous tyrant.
Death of Castro Fest Celebrates Fidel’s Demise Through Heavy Metal
Nowhere outside of Cuba did the November 25 death of Fidel Castro have a bigger impact than in South Florida. Many Miamians will always remember where they were when they heard of Castro’s death, just as they recall their whereabouts during the 9/11 terror attacks, the JFK assassination, or the OJ Simpson car chase.
“I was in Orlando when I heard Castro died,” Ruben de la Rosa, guitarist of Hialeah metal band Nekromaniak, tells New Times. “When I drove back to Miami and saw all of SW Eighth Street closed, that was what really confirmed it.”
De la Rosa, like many South Floridians, was a generation or two removed from being personally affected by Castro. “My grandfather had his plantation taken away. I always heard stories about people disappearing, the execution squads.”
Though his band consists of three Cuban-Americans, it was the one member with the most tenuous connection to Cuba who came up with the idea to commemorate Castro’s death with a show. “Our singer Paul [Balthaser], we call him the last American in Hialeah. He said, ‘You guys are always talking about Castro being bad news.’ He said we should do a death-of-Castro festival in the middle of Hialeah. We talked about it, but it didn’t seem logical to do it in Hialeah with all the bands who wanted to be a part of it.”
With the help of Alex Marquez, who drums with the band Thrash or Die, they decided to throw the Death of Castro Fest this Friday at the more central location of Churchill’s Pub. The lineup is packed with metal bands, but don’t expect the show to be heavy and morbid.
“We don’t wish death on anyone,” de la Rosa insists, “but Fidel Castro brought a lot of death and poverty. This gig is a thank-you to all the people who struggled because of Castro, to let them know their struggle wasn’t in vain coming over here from Cuba. It’s a celebration for all the stories we grew up hearing from our parents and grandparents about executions and coming here on rafts for freedom.”
Though the main attraction will be the heavy metal, the organizers wanted to make sure this was also a fiesta involving Cuban culture, de la Rosa says. “We’re going to have pastelitos, domino tables, and a piñata shaped like Castro’s head. A lot of people have called dibs on beating the hell out of the Castro piñata,” he points out.
Continue reading HERE.
Habaguanex S. A., the conglomerate founded by Eusebio Leal and administrated by the City of Havana Historian’s Office (OHCH), which in 2012 was at the epicenter of an anti-corruption campaign that shook the very foundations of the historic quarter, will disappear after being absorbed by corporations CIMEX and TRD Caribe, both belonging to the military consortium GAESA.
The transfer of administration was carried out stealthily, commencing last September, but earlier this year at the doors of retail establishments in the municipalities of Old Havana and Central Havana there appeared signs warning people: “Closed for inventory,” a sign that, according to sources, indicated an imminent “change of ownership.”
Although the closure will be just for a few days, the measure has upset residents, who must make long walks to buy food at other chain stores, where the shortages on shelves and refrigerators are notable.
Along with the real estate company Fénix and the construction firm Puerto Carena, Habaguanex formed part of an internal management model designed to capture funds for the reconstruction of the city’s Historic Center, an initiative that survived the very trying Special Period, but began to run aground due to a series of corruption scandals.
The torpedo that sank Habaguanex was the brewery known as La Factoría, located in the Plaza Vieja, whose manager was accused of illicit profits and the sale of drugs on site, in addition to heading up a clandestine chain supplying food to restaurants, a violation that also brought down the head of the central warehouses of the Historian’s Office, based at the headquarters of what was once San Ambrosio.
The investigations led authorities to Meyci Wess, then general manager of the corporation, who headed up a corrupt clan, a sort of mafia that made life miserable for workers who refused to collaborate in their shenanigans. Wess’s most trusted managers were nicknamed “the untouchables,” and their embezzlement rose into the millions. Thanks to their influence peddling, these individuals were also able to obtain visas and travel abroad. Wess was tried and punished, placed under house arrest, and sources consulted indicate that Eusebio Leal tried to help her.
The scandal also metastasized to the justice system, as some defendants bribed lawyers belonging to the association of collective firms and the municipality of Old Havana, who were then prosecuted for the crime of bribery in case 214/2013. However, the scapegoat for the whole scandal coming out of Habaguanex was the former manager of La Factoría, who, according to sources, has not been pardoned in the deals that, in response to orders from the Holy See, benefited to a greater extent those sanctioned for economic crimes.
The building firm Puerto Carenas and real estate company Fénix were also embroiled in corruption cases involving the theft of construction materials and the sale of stands in the areas of the San José Warehouse Cultural Complex, irregularities not detected by Comprehensive Oversight Directorate (DIS) or General Comptroller of the Republic.
Many claim that the money embezzled in the rescue of the Historical Center comes two twice the investment made so far. Meanwhile, Dr. Eusebio Leal, supposedly “not involved in any of the transgressions,” is in charge of leading a crusade against the misuse of national symbols.
During the last two years of his presidency, Obama made his stance on Cuba crystal clear. While Cubans have been fighting for human rights, freedom, and the end of apartheid in Cuba for more than a half-century, paying for that struggle with their lives, those causes are of no concern whatsoever to the president. Instead, his focus is on sustaining and defending the murderously repressive apartheid regime. In fact, Obama is so deeply devoted to this goal that with just eight days left in his presidency, he took one last shot at killing the remaining hopes for freedom the Cuban people may have had.
Obama ends asylum programs, in final shot to freedom in Cuba
Just last week, the Cuban government arrested Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and Cuban opposition leader Dr. Oscar Biscet. He was threatened with imprisonment for his anti-government activities.
That would be nothing new for Biscet. He has already spent 12 years behind bars as a political prisoner. And he would have plenty of company. The regime arrested more than 10,000 dissidents last year alone.
Despite the oppression, the continuing violations of human rights, the Obama administration has spent the past two years attempting to convince the American public that the Cuban government has changed its ways.
The military dictatorship that has not held free and fair elections for over 50 years, we are told, merits moral equivalency with the democracies in Latin America. As for supporting freedom 90 miles from our shores? Well, that’s passé.
That is the essence of President Obama’s normalization gambit: To treat the regime as an equal despite all evidence to the contrary. As a result, the U.S. has legalized business dealings and financing mechanisms for the regime, even though Congress maintains the trade embargo.
Now Obama has turned his flawed perspective to U.S. immigration policy for Cuban nationals. Eight days before leaving office, he has terminated the 1995 Clinton-era “wet foot, dry foot” policy as well as the Cuban Medical Professional Parole program.
According to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson:
“The aim here is to treat Cuban migrants in a manner consistent to migrants who come here from other countries .?.?. equalizing our immigration policies .?.?. as part of the overall normalization process with Cuba.”
From a law enforcement perspective, this last minute respect for immigration law is puzzling. Obama’s contempt for our immigration system has allowed waves of unlawful migrants to move in through our porous southern border and protected “sanctuary cities” where criminal aliens roam free.
For decades, Cuban refugees have come to the United States, fleeing persecution and availing themselves to the protection of the U.S. government. In recent years, flawed policies like “wet foot, dry foot” have created perverse incentives for dangerous forms of migration. As a result, human smuggling networks have spread throughout Latin America.
While a revision of this policy was past due, repealing it in order to further normalization efforts hands the Cuban government another unnecessary political victory. It has long used refugees as pawns to influence the American government. Refugee crises like the Mariel boatlift of 1980 prove as much.
Ending the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program was nonsensical at best, and a tacit endorsement of the Cuban government’s human trafficking efforts at worst.
Ever distrustful of non-revolutionary “professional class,” Havana has long treated physicians as commodities rather than caregivers. Many are forcibly sent abroad to developing countries; in exchange, the Cuban government collects their salary. It’s a lucrative business, estimated to pad the wallets of the junta by $8 billion a year.
Continue reading HERE.