Luis Caya Salazar, the regional counselor in the southern Peruvian city of Moquegua, publicly declared that 16 Cuban health professionals who are in that Peruvian territory to assist with Covid-19 cannot enter the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) because they do not hold the credentials to treat these critically ill patients, Peru media reported.
Several weeks after starting the Cuban "medical mission" in Peru to support the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, the Moquegua authorities reported that none of those health professionals who arrived in that region "have the specialty to care for patients in serious condition”, reported the newspaper Peru 21.
The first week of June, a Peruvian Air Force flight arrived from the Caribbean island with 85 doctors and nurses sent by the Cuban regime as part of a lucrative business that had little benefit to health workers from both nations.
Martín Vizcarra's government announced that the doctors were sent to four regions of the country. Some 16 Cuban medical ‘brigadistas’ were assigned to Moquegua. Another 16 workers to Ayacucho. Twenty-seven doctors, nurses and technicians traveled to Áncash. And the last 26 members of the Cuban medical brigade traveled to Arequipa.
On the website El Puerto Noticias, the Moquegua regional councilor Luis Caya Salazar denounced that in the medical delegation, only six are doctors, one of which is an internist and the rest are general practitioners. The remainder are nursing technicians and nurses.
"None of the aforementioned has the knowledge to enter the ICU", precisely the critical point of the strategy to fight the coronavirus.
According to the agreement signed by the Peruvian Ministry of Health (Minsa) with Havana, revealed by means of the South American country, the doctors who arrived in the country are "specialists in intensive care, internal medicine, pulmonology, epidemiology and other specialties."
Responding to assertions made by the human rights organization Prisoners Defenders, The Special Rapporteushi of the United Nations (UN) on contemporary forms of slavery and human trafficking warn in a report last November that the medical missions of Cuba would amount to "forced labor".
"We would like to express our concern about the working and living conditions that would be affecting Cuban doctors sent abroad to provide their services. Many would be exposed to exploitative working and living conditions, [as well as] inadequate wage payments, "the UN has said. In addition, many of these professionals are under pressure and follow-up by the Cuban regime, he adds.
Also in 2019, Ambassador Carlos Trujillo, Permanent Representative of the United States to the Organization of American States said that the reports and stories shared by Cuban doctors “share common elements of coercion into participating in these programs and engaging in activities not consistent with their job description such as falsifying statistics and political propagandizing.”
It is not the first time that the Castro regime has failed to comply with what they promised with the doctors whose services it sells to other governments. Cuba has a reputation for sending medical personnel abroad to do work for which they are not trained.
An opinion article published in an Italian newspaper, La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana in late March, reported that Cuban doctors are expensive and ill-prepared.
The author considers in that note that “Cuban doctors are not experts in the fight against the coronavirus, nor do they act in solidarity. Nor did Italy have to spend thousands of Euros to bring 52 people from Havana, when in Italy there are hundreds of specialists ready to act to save lives.”
According to this site, since January a database was offered with hundreds of Italian-Venezuelan doctors who could help in the crisis, but "political and ideological interests prevailed, given the real need of the Lombards."
Recently, in a column in Mexico’s El Universal, Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola reported his interviews with Mexican doctors working with the Cuban medics. The Mexicans, he wrote, complained that the Cubans “arrive without adequate preparation” and are “unaware of basic nursing procedures and even refusing to cooperate” with established record-keeping procedures.
In 2018, the World Trade Organization reported that Cuba generated $10.7 billion from “exports of commercial services.” The bulk of this income reportedly came from its foreign servitude scheme, which is a higher source of income for the regime than even the island's tourism industry.
A PATTERN OF FORCED LABOR
The International Labor Organization (ILO) considers forced labor work which is carried out involuntarily and under threat of any penalty. It refers to situations in which people are forced to work through the use of violence or intimidation or by more subtle means such as manipulated debt, the withholding of identity documents or threats to report to immigration authorities.
According to the complaints revised by the United Nations, Cuba’s legislation punishes doctors with 8 years in prison if they change jobs or do not return to Cuba after a mission. Often times, they are prevented from seeing family members, contracts are withheld, and the regime confiscates more than 75% of the doctor’s income, which the report says “does not allow them to live with dignity“.
In many cases, Cuba makes these medical professionals work more than “64 hours per week“ (160% of the maximum authorized by the ILO), they restrict and monitor their freedom of movement and impede upon their right to privacy or communications with nationals or foreigners. Cuba professionals also report receiving regular threats from Cuban state officials in destination countries and medical women have suffered sexual harassment among many other violations that the UN reports as “first-hand information”.
How did Cuba, an isolated totalitarian regime suffering from a regular shortage of basic goods, become a world leader in exporting medical expertise?
In the Cold War years, Cuba began using its doctors as a diplomatic tool to overcome political isolation. In 1963, a year after being expelled from the OAS, Cuba sent its first medical mission abroad to Algeria with 56 Cubans who replaced French doctors who had already left the African country, which became independent from France in 1962.
The diplomatic benefits of sending doctors to developing countries helps Cuba in its international relations. For smaller African or Caribbean countries, which may not necessarily pay for doctors, it helps recruit them to the side of Cuba. This means that they will be more lenient towards Cuba when under international pressure from Europe and the United States.
Sending doctors abroad under the auspices of humanitarian purposes is an excellent public relations strategy for Cuba. Cuban doctors gained international media accolades after the 2010 Haiti earthquake and during the 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa.
That helps put a nice face on an authoritarian regime that fiercely represses dissent, restricts the rights of its citizens to travel and conducts numerous and arbitrary arrests each year.