HAVANA, Cuba.- This Tuesday, the directors of the Cuban medical mission in Venezuela collected the passports of the more than 20,000 health collaborators who work in that country. The measure was taken immediately after arresting 17 Cuban doctors who tried to flee the South American nation to neighboring Colombia, who were transferred to the island as detainees and under threat of being sentenced to up to eight years in prison for neglect of duties, according to article 176.1 of the new Penal Code.
“We live in misery, this is hell and, on top of that, they have us kidnapped here, they took our passports and it is said that there are many Cuban and Venezuelan soldiers guarding the border crossings to prevent Cubans from leaving the mission. We are their slaves, we are the ones who are generating income for Cuba, that is why they detain us,” a health specialist told CubaNet on condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals.
“Right now the mission is running out of people. I have not left because I do not have the money, but last night, when it became known that they would collect all the passports, more than a hundred doctors, only from my State ─avoid mentioning the name of the State so as not to give away the source─ they collected their things to try to cross the border into Colombia. And not only are they leaving us undocumented, now those of us who lived with those people who left are going to go through a disciplinary commission.”
Since the agreement between Chávez and Fidel Castro was inaugurated almost 22 years ago, more than 255,000 health professionals have worked in Venezuela. On the occasion of commemorating the twenty-first anniversary of the agreement, in October 2021, Julio César García Rodríguez, member of the Central Committee of the Party and head of the Office of Attention to the Social Missions of Cuba in Venezuela, said that “more than 21,000 compatriots are present here, grouped in a total of 12 social missions that represent 26 Cuban organizations and companies.”
But why do Cuban professionals abandon the missions? The same source told CubaNet the terrible conditions and inhumane treatment to which they are subjected.
“When I came here, at the end of 2020, they sent me directly to the jungle, practically to survive with the Indians, without water, without electricity, cooking with firewood, without communication with the family. I spent three months eating white rice with lemon, I had to learn to eat mañoco, a kind of feed that pigs eat that is made from cassava and their currency, I didn’t like it, but I had to eat it so as not to look hungry ”.
Of the approximately 20 dollars they are paid monthly, eight USD is deducted from a bag of food that includes corn flour, two bags of rice, half a kilo of spaghetti, a bag of coffee and a bag of peas, for example, “but that It’s not enough for anything.” Since “we don’t eat flour, we have to change it for bananas, to at least have something else to accompany the meal. Everything else, like the toilet, I have to buy.”
Of those 20 USD they also deduct a percentage destined to pay a kind of union, which they pay double because in Cuba they also deduct about 400 pesos for the same reason. They also force them to support the “revolution” through social networks because “the evaluation depends on that.”
“And here we are in tremendous danger, I am in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods not only in the country but in the world. There are many kidnappings, clashes between gangs and the FAES, an organization made up of criminals to whom the Maduro government gives sophisticated weapons so they can go out and kill the thugs, who are also criminals, but with codes of ethics between gangs. The shots are heard at all hours, we have to be locked up all the time. Here the thugs arrive at the CDI (Comprehensive Diagnostic Center) and put you on a motorcycle with a gun to your head so that you go with them to treat their wounded, and you can’t refuse because they kill you. Once they gave a CDI a fire, two Cuban doctors died.”
Are not few complaints of Cuban professionals who, in more than two decades of agreement, have been assaultedkidnapped or killed as a result of violence in Venezuela, as well as in the around 60 countries to which they are sent each year.
The export of medical services constitutes one of the main sources of income for Cuba. Only in 2020, exports of health services generated 58.1% of the country’s service exports, according to the president of the Medical Services Marketer, Yamila de Armas Águila.
The same source consulted by CubaNet stated that, while Venezuela pays Cuba USD 8,000 for each health professional, only 6% reaches the hands of these professionals.
“When I came here, the CUC still existed. I signed a contract for 450 CUC a month, but Venezuela pays Cuba in dollars, despite the fact that the CUC no longer exists, they do not pay us in that currency, but they convert that money into national currency or CUP at 24, that is, 10,800 pesos. But, of that money, they only give us here what is equivalent to 20 dollars a month, but they pay us in bolívares (Venezuelan national currency). The rest of the money is kept in Cuba. Of that money, they give my family 2,400, half of the rest ─because the other half is withheld from us in Cuba and they only pay us when we return─ we have to juggle to get it out of the cards in Cuba, buy USD in the street, at 110 CUP for each USD, and transfer them here in USD through ZELLE, with which they discount up to 10%, only then can we subsist and buy even a pair of shoes for our children.
That is to say, we charge more or less the same as in Cuba, about 4,300 pesos (less than 40 USD per month) which, with the devaluation of the currency, is almost nothing, imagine that a box of chicken in Cuba can cost 2,000 or 2,500 pesos. As you can see, we are living in misery, they exploit us to the fullest and they refuse to listen to our complaints. This is why so many are leaving missions.
“In case of illness or death of a collaborator, no family member in Cuba, not even children, has the right to collect that money, the government keeps it. It also happens that many times, when we go on vacation to Cuba, after 18 months, we can’t get money out of the cards, the money they withhold from us, because they haven’t put the money in yet, they put it in when they feel like it.”
Mexico joins the complicity with the Cuban dictatorship
Prisoners Defenders (PD) has been documenting these complaints for about two years. In January 2022, he presented to the United Nations a report with 1,111 testimonials of Cuban professionals ─artists, engineers, teachers and health personnel─, victims of slavery and forced labor in internationalist missions. Precisely, the confiscations of passports, the theft of wages and the terrible working conditions are part of the complaints of human trafficking, slavery and forced family separation from Cuban medical missions.
At the beginning of May, after his visit to Cuba, the president of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), stated that he would hire the island the services of 500 Cuban doctors.
But this would not be the first time that the Aztec country hires these services. As of mid-2020, about 585 health professionals Cubans were sent to Mexico to help fight COVID-19. Then another 200 would be added “who were kicked out of Argentina, they were not wanted there,” one of those professionals who requested anonymity assured CubaNet.
“In Mexico they didn’t pay us a single penny. They gave us 1,080 CUC (less than 1,000 USD) when we arrived in Cuba, after three months of work.”
In February 2022, the Latinus portal warned on the murky links between the National Council of Science and Technology of Mexico (Conacyt) and the Cuban regime to the detriment of the development of knowledge and research in the Aztec country. The portal revealed that in 2021 the AMLO government ─through Conacyt─ paid 34 million pesos (1.66 million dollars) to Comercializadora de Servicios Médicos Cubanos SA, a public limited company created in 2011 and internationally accused of human trafficking. people and forced labour.
Despite the constant complaints from both the PD and Cuban and Mexican doctors, last week AMLO, during a press conference, said that “it is vile that for political, ideological reasons, conservatism, a retrograde way of thinking, the hiring of Cuban doctors is disqualified.”
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