Not that anyone expects anything to come of this, but it’s refreshing to see someone at the UN call out the Castro dictatorship for its modern-day slavery and the nations that buy Cuban slaves. There is no doubt Cuba’s communist regime is selling doctors and other professionals as slave labor to nations willing to participate in modern-day slavery. The only question is if anyone will do anything about it.
UN questions Cuban regime and the countries who purchase their doctors
The United Nations has once again brought attention to the Cuban regime for its violations of human and labor rights, particularly concerning its medical professionals deployed on “international missions.” The accusation also implicates recipient countries such as Italy, Qatar, and Spain.
A letter dated November 2, 2023, addressed to the Cuban representation at the Human Rights Council, was written by Tomoya Obokata, the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. Obokata warns about persistent patterns resembling “forced labor,” as defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) standards.
The report mentions ongoing accusations based on testimonies from exported Cubans and analyses of agreements and contracts, highlighting “numerous violations of basic human rights.” The Special Rapporteur emphasizes the importance and value of Cuban medical cooperation at an international level but raises concerns about violations of fundamental rights such as privacy, freedom of expression, association, and movement.
The Cuban “missions,” which involve professionals from various fields such as doctors, teachers, engineers, and artists, among others, are described as situations of labor exploitation in destination countries. The report points out inadequate salaries, passport confiscation, movement restrictions, surveillance by Cuban government agents, as well as cases of harassment or sexual violence, threats, and physical violence.
Additionally, the Special Rapporteur exposes the lack of uniformity in labor contracts, with some individuals not receiving contracts and others subjected to unfavorable conditions. These conditions include low wages, subrogation to Cuban legislation abroad, contract falsification, and severe personal restrictions.
Obokata explains that, according to the new Cuban Penal Code, leaving these “missions” or not returning to the island upon their completion can lead to penalties of up to eight years in prison. This, he emphasizes, negatively impacts the well-being of children and families, exacerbated by travel restrictions imposed on the relatives of workers abroad.
The Special Rapporteur also points out specific agreements with countries like Italy, Qatar, and Spain, where questionable practices are evident. For instance, in Italy, under an agreement with the province of Calabria, the majority of the agreed-upon salary for Cuban doctors is directly transferred to the Cuban government, leaving the professionals with insufficient income. Similar situations are described in Qatar and Spain, where workers are subjected to precarious and exploitative conditions.
In response to these allegations, the Permanent Mission of Cuba to the Human Rights Council has denied applying pressure or reprisals against those who choose not to participate in these missions. However, Obokata maintains that many professionals are compelled to participate due to coercion from the Cuban regime and factors such as poverty and limited employment availability on the island.