Memo to President Trump: Support the Cuban doctors in Brazil

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Over the last few days, the Trump administration pulled US diplomats out of Cuba and issued a travel warning.

We call on President Trump to issue a statement of support for Cuban doctors fighting the corrupt system of sending medical personnel to other countries.

A few days ago, some Cuban doctors decided to sue the Castro regime in Brazil.

They want out of this arrangement, as we see in this report from the New York Times:

In a rare act of collective defiance, scores of Cuban doctors working overseas to make money for their families and their country are suing to break ranks with the Cuban government, demanding to be released from what one judge called a “form of slave labor.”

Thousands of Cuban doctors work abroad under contracts with the Cuban authorities.

Countries like Brazil pay the island’s Communist government millions of dollars every month to provide the medical services, effectively making the doctors Cuba’s most valuable export.

But the doctors get a small cut of that money, and a growing number of them in Brazil have begun to rebel. In the last year, at least 150 Cuban doctors have filed lawsuits in Brazilian courts to challenge the arrangement, demanding to be treated as independent contractors who earn full salaries, not agents of the Cuban state.

“When you leave Cuba for the first time, you discover many things that you had been blind to,” said Yaili Jiménez Gutierrez, one of the doctors who filed suit.

“There comes a time when you get tired of being a slave.”

Cuban artists and athletes have defected during overseas trips for decades, most of them winding up in the United States. But the lawsuits in Brazil represent an unusual rebellion that takes aim at one of Cuba’s signature efforts.

Sending doctors overseas is not only a way for Cuba to earn much-needed income, but it also helps promote the nation’s image as a medical powerhouse that routinely comes to the world’s aid.

Rare act of defiance indeed!

We hope that they get a fair hearing in Brazil. I don’t know if most Brazilians even know that the Cuban doctor that takes care of them works under this arrangement. Many Brazilians may think that this is just a Cuban doctor who left the island like other Cubans did.

A few years ago, I was listening to an interview on Radio Marti and a Cuban doctor who had defected explained that this export of doctors and nurses was draining the island of medical personnel. He said that Cuba’s hospitals had shortages of doctors because they were all being exported to bring hard currency to the regime.

We will keep an eye on this case in Brazil. Again, let’s hope that they get a fair hearing and gain asylum if they choose to ask for it.

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