The following report outlines the importation of Cuban Communist Medical Brigades into Brazil in the year 2013 as part of a Brazilian health initiative known as the “Programa Mais Médicos”. This program sought to import Cuban medical personnel through a cooperative agreement, signed between former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and the Cuban Government. This agreement was brokered by the Pan American Health of Organization (PAHO) which serves as part of the World Health Organization (WHO). The contract and its terms were proposed by the Cuban government and lead to the deployment of more than 8,000 Cuban medical professionals and secret police to rural areas in Brazil that were experiencing a deficit of health professionals. As part of the agreement, both PAHO and the Cuban government profited in the amounts of $75 million and $249.5 million respectively. PAHO’s share of the profits came from withholding 5% of the doctors’ salaries, while Cuba’s share came from withholding nearly 75% of doctors’ salaries.
In order to keep the doctors compliant with the regime’s wishes, the doctors were subjected to a series of violations of their rights both under Brazilian and International Law. Of the salary that they were allowed to keep, 60% was confiscated for the duration of their contract, only to be paid out with their return to Cuba. Furthermore, their personal identification was confiscated upon arrival in Brazil in order to limit their movement and the doctors were threatened with severe punishment should they “desert” their posts by choosing to remain in Brazil. This punishment included, but was not limited to, banishment from Cuba for a minimum of 8 years, loss of salary, prohibition of communication with family, suspension of their diploma and medical license.
The current Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro demanded that the tripartite agreement be renegotiated to allow Cuban Doctors to keep a majority of their salary, undergo medical license revalidation in Brazil, and be allowed to bring their families to Brazil, if they so desire. As a result of these demands, the Cuban government announced the termination of the agreement and ordered the withdrawal of Cuban Doctors from Brazil before the end of the year 2018. The Brazilian government allowed for doctors that wished to remain in Brazil to do so and qualify for asylum based on the testimony of some of these doctors.
This report goes on to detail the current state of Cuban Doctors in Brazil, outlining the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had in South America, and how some politicians in Brazil and other countries are arguing for the return of Cuban Doctors to ameliorate the deficit of medical professionals.