Thanks to the media and academia constantly lauding Cuba’s socialist healthcare system, the Castro dictatorship makes millions of dollars selling the slave labor of doctors abroad while Cubans on the island are neglected.
‘Neglect at home, profits abroad’: Cuba’s medical system
Cuba’s million-dollar health business is based on two pillars: a high-quality service on the island for foreigners, and the massive exportation of health professionals through medical missions. This lucrative model has allowed the government to spread propaganda and sell an altruistic façade, while Cubans have to endure hospital collapse and the doctors who are taking part in these missions are subjected to all kinds of violations of their rights.
The pandemic caused by the coronavirus gave way to an ideal situation to relaunch the promotion of Cuban medical services, which had suffered a decline between 2018 and 2019 after the end of Cuba-allied governments in Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador. In addition to reviving overseas contracting, the pandemic served as a framework for Havana to revive the propaganda surrounding the medical missions, which included a campaign for the Nobel Peace Prize for the group of professionals sent to work to contain Covid-19.
In October 2021, Cuba’s deputy health minister, Dr. Regla Angulo Pardo, announced that 57 teams made up of 4,982 health professionals had collaborated in the fight against Covid-19 in 41 territories in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe.
The dream of the Nobel Prize did not prosper. Instead, Cubans became weary, and their demonstrations made the front pages of the world’s major media. The collapse of the healthcare system and medicine shortages were some of the triggers of the historic protest on July 11, 2021. The protest was also fuelled by the uptick of Covid-19 infections and deaths since mid-April of this year.
The renewed Cuban propaganda was not enough to silence the irregularities surrounding the country’s medical missions model for years, nor to distract from the crumbling health system. Diario de Cuba and Connectas investigated and compiled numerous testimonies of professionals who have participated in such missions in Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, and even Saudi Arabia, and who denounce human rights violations.
The testimonies also reveal the current landscape of the health system in Cuba: the contrast between the health service for Cubans — whose deterioration has been going on for years but has accelerated with the pandemic — and the “health tourism” for foreigners, which continues to be internationally renowned.
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