Cuba’s latest prescription for its sick economy
Posted: Wednesday, June 15, 2016 12:15 am
By JANET O’NEILL
For those always looking for something good in the bad guy, let me offer
a present-day example of the sometimes foolhardiness of that endeavor.
My illustration is Cuba, a communist totalitarian dictatorship and
President Obama’s recent new amigo.
There have been opinions expressed in this newspaper lauding Cuban
doctors who have traveled to Africa to administer help in the Ebola
crisis. These physicians have been referred to as having “valor and
compassion” and, indeed, some may possess those very attributes but not
necessarily related to the Ebola cause.
In the totalitarian and socialist government of Cuba, it is not
unreasonable to assume these doctors didn’t volunteer but were “told”
they must go. The Cuban government’s highest money-making export is its
doctors. It is that nation’s most successful, most prestigious and most
lucrative enterprise. The proceeds that Cuba is paid for these “service
contracts” far exceeds any other export income such as rum or Cuban
cigars. A record number of doctors are sent from Cuba to aid other
countries, surpassing any other country’s contribution of health-care
workers. Exported medical expertise from Cuba netted that government an
estimated 8.2 billion in 2014.
It’s naïve to accept that the large volume of doctors, leaving their
families to live in an Ebola-ridden, distressed destination like Sierra
Leone, are all in accord with it. Given this communist government’s huge
financial gain, it is a rational argument that these doctors are told to
“volunteer” and subjected to working in servitude-like conditions.
Humanitarian efforts aren’t at the core of this issue nor does Cuba
deserve a high flying banner under that depiction but their government
has been promoting that image in the attempt to prevent international
isolation. Making money by exporting and exploiting these doctors is
Cuba’s main objective. Those with a burning need to see only good in
Cuba’s participation in Sierra Leone miss the hidden agenda and the
There is no doubt that the expertise these doctors bring is needed but
their efforts are rewarded with minimal financial gain and significant
risk to themselves. It is interesting to note that Cuba and Sierra Leone
have a sustained relationship and a shared history around the
trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Cuban doctors are also sent to Venezuela in crisis situations and
training capacities as a partial payment for oil. The Los Angeles Times
had reported that a significant number of these health-care workers fled
the country to escape “crushing” work loads. Critics have complained
that Cuba has begun to sacrifice the health of its citizens at home to
make money by sending medical workers abroad.
If there is any incentive for Cuban medical-care professionals to aid
other countries, it may be the fact that Cubans lack the financial means
to travel abroad independently. Even higher ranking doctors earn
approximately $70 a month.
Critics of my views are likely supporters of President Obama’s “new day”
of openness between the United States and Cuba, regardless of Cuba’s
violations of human rights. That I consider myself an advocate for human
rights has been sarcastically criticized by readers whose definition and
understanding of rights clash with my own. Those people fall prey to
believing Cuba’s government propaganda of magnanimous gestures toward
other countries and, in doing so, fail miserably to recognize the plight
of Cuban citizens or to understand the harsh and inhumane treatment of a
people who are subjugated by a communist, totalitarian regime.
Janet O’Neill, Northampton, is a writer and advocate of human rights.
Source: Cuba’s latest prescription for its sick economy – Bucks County
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