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Cuba Threatens to Strip Licenses from Its Doctors in Brazil

By: Belén Marty - @belenmarty - Mar 27, 2015, 3:30 pm
Eighty percent of personnel in Brazil's More Doctors program are Cubans, many of whom have brought their families with them.
Eighty percent of personnel in Brazil’s More Doctors program are Cubans, many of whom have brought their families with them. (Ceará em Revista)

EspañolThe Más Médicos (More Doctors) program of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has become steeped in further controversy after the Cuban government threatened to suspend the licenses of those Cuban doctors working in Brazil who return to the island for obligatory vacations without bringing their families.

The measure seeks to avoid a mass defection of Cuban medical staff, with Havana fearful of the example set by Venezuela where many loaned doctors failed to return to Cuba.

According to the Brazilian Health Ministry, the More Doctors program is designed to invest in hospital infrastructure and bring doctors to low-population areas facing a shortage of health professionals. The initiative has mobilized over 14,000 doctors, 80 percent of whom are from Cuba.

According to an investigation published by Brazilian daily Folha de Sao Paulo, the government of Raúl Castro has told doctors that unless they return with their families they will be replaced on the program. The government claims that medics’ families are only permitting to visit Brazil on a short-term basis, but medics report that their contract allowed them to relocate with their immediate family.

The Brazilian government currently offers visas to doctors’ families for up to 36 months, the maximum period that Cuban medical staff are contracted to be present in Brazil.

“We’re more shocked every day. I don’t want my family to go back, but if I lose my license, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” one Cuban medic told press in San Paulo.

The Cuban medical personnel participating in the Brazilian government policy were contracted via an agreement between the Brazilian government, the Cuban authorities, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Cuban officials are concerned that many doctors’ families are living as temporary residents in Brazil for longer than a month, the period it considers sufficient for a visit.

The Brazilian health ministry has said that it’s unable to interfere in labor relations between the Cuban government and its citizens. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is the body which supervises the link between Cuba and Brazil.

The More Doctors initiative was born out of a wave of social programs created during Rousseff’s first term in office, after the widespread protests against her administration in July 2013. According to official figures, the program supports over 50 million Brazilians.

“They’re telling us that our family has to abandon Brazilian territory within a month, and they’re openly threatening us by saying that if they don’t, we’ll simply be taken off the program,” another doctor told Nuevo Herald.

Brazil has allowed doctors to travel from Cuba with their families on compassionate grounds. Florentino Cardoso, president of the Brazilian Medical Association, previously argued that to separate children from their parents “wounds the dignity of the doctor.”

Salary Suspicions

Brazil’s Public Federal Ministry (MPF) has asked the judiciary to intervene to ensure that the government pays the Cuban medical personnel directly and not via the Cuban authorities or PAHO.

“Our relationship is exclusively with PAHO, and not with the Cuban government. These Cuban doctors continue to maintain links with the Cuban government,” Health Minister Arthur Chioro told press.

A report given by the MPF to judicial authorities nevertheless mentions that while other doctors enrolled on the program from Brazil and other Mercosur countries receive a salary of R$10,000 (US$3,200), the Cubans only earn R$2,976 (US$1,000).

However, MPF insists that Havana in fact receives $3,200 directly, but only pays its doctors $1,000. Moreover, US$600 of their salary is frozen in a Cuban bank account which they can only access upon their return.

Scandal erupted in Brazil after the leak of a video in which PAHO coordinator Mary Alice Fortunato Barbosa is heard discussing with Brazilian officials how the program is designed to cement bilateral relations between Cuba and Brazil, leaving other nations to one side.

PAHO has defended itself, saying that More Doctors is carried out “in compliance with legal requirements and international norms in transparent manner, and with rigorous administrative and financial procedures.”

“Unacceptable” Interference

The Brazilian Social Democracy Party, through Congressman Daniel Coelho, has criticized the Cuban government for neglecting the human rights of its doctors.

“The justification that things are like this in Cuba is not acceptable,” Coelho stated.

“We need to understand the extent of Cuban interference to which Brazil is submitting,” he added.

Translated by Laurie Blair. Edited by Guillermo Jimenez.

Belén Marty Belén Marty

Belén Marty is the Libertarian Latina, a journalist based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has lived in Guatemala, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States and is a former candidate for local office with Argentina's Libertarian Party. Follow @BelenMarty.

Protecting Maduro, Santos Turns His Back on Colombians

By: Javier Garay - @Crittiko - Mar 27, 2015, 2:57 pm
ft-maduro-santos

EspañolColombia's foreign policy has long maintained a firm stance against non-intervention, and it should continue to do so. This policy should be directed towards facilitating Colombia's aims beyond national borders, and not towards imposing governmental models on other countries. However, this principle should not be confused with a policy of supporting regimes that violate individual rights and impede their citizens' ability to escape poverty and oppression. Yet this is exactly what the government of President Juan Manuel Santos is doing with the Venezuelan regime, a policy which has gradually come to define relations with our Venezuelan neighbors. First, it was silence on the excesses of the late Hugo Chávez; then it was hidden support through regional organizations like CELAC and UNASUR, whose only noticeable achievements have been supporting oppressive regimes and perpetuating poverty in the region; now things are out in the open. It seems as though Santos and Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín believe that policy makers' decisions are gospel, and that election by a majority allows them to make decisions by decree. Presumably, they think that the crimes committed by the worst totalitarian regimes in history are excused by their democratic guise. FARC won't leave the negotiating table if the Venezuelans withdraw from the process. From the very beginning, this policy has lacked any sense of cohesion or ethical standards, only offering unconditional support to the Venezuelan regime, despite its excesses. A number of analysts and government officials have weighed in on the discussion in an attempt to provide an explanation. First they talked about the peace talks with the FARC guerrilla, and Venezuela's role in this process, given that FARC has a substantial cross-border presence. The theory goes that the Colombian government has to keep quiet over the events occurring in Venezuela in order to prevent the government from withdrawing their support for the peace process. This rationale was illogical to begin with and now it is wholly lacking in support. The talks have progressed to the point that the FARC won't leave the negotiating table if the Venezuelans withdraw from the process. Moreover, what role has the country played recently in the talks anyway, especially considering its unstable domestic situation? Others have claimed that it is necessary to maintain good relations in order to protect commercial zones on the border. But taking a strong stance does not mean closing the the border, something Venezuela already does on a regular basis. Nor does it involve branding Venezuela's leaders as drug traffickers, murderers, and international criminals — even if they are, and even if that's what the Venezuelan government has labeled former Colombian Presidents Álvaro Uribe Vélez and Andrés Pastrana. Nor will it lead to the mistreatment of the increasing number of Venezuelans living in Colombia — even while the Venezuelan dictatorship has been persecuting Colombian nationals for a while now. Nor is it, nor should it be, a justification of the decision by President Barack Obama to sanction several Venezuelan officials. The announcement of sanctions is a serious case of poor timing, along with previous decisions made by the White House. While a totalitarian regime can include the process of democratic decision making, that doesn't stop it from being totalitarian. Instead of weakening the regime, Obama's sanctions allowed Maduro to cling to power for a while longer by railing against an imagined conspiracy by the "imperialist" United States, at precisely the point when US prestige worldwide is at an all-time low. It is time to call things what they are. Friedrich Hayek noted that while a totalitarian regime can include the process of democratic decision making, that doesn't stop it from being totalitarian. In the case of Venezuela, even these vestiges of democracy are being eroded. The attitude of the Colombian government is not to kneel before the Venezuelan regime, nor is it a way to safeguard the peace talks, nor is it a diplomatic strategy. Nor, as feared by supporters of former president Uribe, is it the initial stages of the implementation of a Chavista regime in Colombia. What this attitude reflects is something much more serious. Colombian leaders believe that the state doesn't have limits, and neither do those who are in power. They believe that if something is approved by the majority, it gives them carte blanche to implement any policy they wish. Colombian leaders neither believe in, nor have any interest in, strengthening or preserving freedom. They despise it, just like their little dictator neighbor. Colombian leaders, like the majority of Latin Americans — lacking in any higher principle — are capable of justifying anything in the pursuit of preserving their power. Translated by Michael Pelzer. Edited by Laurie Blair.

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