News / Noticias / Ebola

by FRANCES MARTEL 12 Nov 2014

Corrected Billion instead of million

The Ebola crisis may have brought nothing but terror and devastation to
the countries it affected, but for the communist hermit island of Cuba,
it was an opportunity to gain political leverage with impoverished
nations like Sierra Leone. With Cuba forcing doctors to leave home
forever to interact with Ebola patients for barely any money, their
traffic in human labor has become an international sensation.
The Washington Post applauded Cuba’s doctor diplomacy with all the
requisite ethnic stereotypes: “[The effort] serves as further proof that
health-care professionals are up there with rum and cigars in terms of
Cuban exports.” Never mind that Cuba’s largest exporter of rum, Bacardí,
had to reconstruct its entire operation in the United States after
Castro expropriated and ultimately sunk all its assets. “Aid groups like
the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders have been calling for more
physical boots on the ground, and so far Cuba has been the only country
well poised to answer that call,” praised Time magazine. The New York
Times editorial board–a more consistent ally to the communist nation
than even the Soviet Union–cooed that the nation’s Ebola efforts should
be “lauded and emulated.”
Only one mainstream, big-name outlet has called Cuba’s doctor diplomacy
by its name: slavery. In a column sharply titled “Cuba’s Slave Trade in
Doctors,” veteran observer of Cuban politics Mary Anastasia O’Grady
notes that the forced migration of Cuban doctors out of the island to
places like Sierra Leone and Guinea fits the textbook definition of
human trafficking, where “human beings are treated as possessions to be
controlled and exploited.”
Doctors in Cuba make meager salaries, most recently receiving a huge
raise that leaves them making $64 a month. Cuban doctors abroad make
even less; how much less is impossible to say, given that their salaries
are a state secret. As O’Grady notes, however, the government of Cuba
does not send doctors abroad for altruistic reasons, and in fact, makes
a reported $7.6 million a year off healthcare services. Both nations
like Venezuela and organizations like the World Health Organization pay
Cuba the money, ostensibly to be transferred as salaries to the doctors
serving them. But clients are not allowed to pay the doctors directly,
and there is no indication that they are being paid at all, other than
an undefined “living stipend.”
To get a sense of how appealing that stipend may be to doctors, O’Grady
turns to two examples of how Cuban state employees have reacted to their
work abroad. She notes, first, that in the past two years, 3,100 Cubans
have used a special travel visa to escape to the United States, in a
program designed for doctors. She notes also that it is not only doctors
who are forced to travel abroad through extortive measures such as
denying university admission to a doctor’s children or firing family
members from state jobs (the only kind).
In 2008, three Cuban workers forced to travel to Curaçao sued the
government of Cuba for using them as slave labor. The three were sent
off to work for a shipping company, the Christian Science Monitor notes,
in exchange for a debt Cuba held with the island. Their salaries went to
paying that debt, so they themselves never saw any of it. A judge in
Miami ruled this slave labor and ordered $80 million in damages.
It’s tough to argue that the Cuban government treats doctors any better
than they do shipping workers, part of the “proletariat” the Revolution
was intended to empower. Cuban doctors traveling now to Guinea and
Sierra Leone will not even enjoy the support of their country once they
leave. Unlike Spain and the United States, whose governments went out of
their way to repatriate Ebola volunteer workers who succumbed to the
virus, Cuban doctors have been told they are never to return to Cuba if
they contract Ebola. This also applies to any other deadly disease that
may threaten them. A doctor who died of Malaria in Guinea after being
sent to fight Ebola was buried in Guinea this month, never to return to
the island. Given Cuba’s travel restrictions, this means his family will
likely never be able to visit his final resting place.
Even if under the threat of force, the work that Cuban doctors
themselves may undertake on these internationalist missions is
noteworthy, particularly when so few in the affected nations are willing
to do it. We honor the suffering of survivors of any other slave
trade–whether in Qatar or Iraq–without praising the slave masters, and
we would be making a significant moral transgression to praise Cuba for
enslaving its own people just to barely sustain a rotting sociopolitical

Source: WSJ: Cuba Making Almost $8 Million a Year on Medical ‘Slavery’ –

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *