While the Ebola outbreak in west Africa has been nothing short of devastating for affected nations, at least one country has been able to exploit the crisis to garner goodwill: Cuba, whose communist government has vowed to send hundreds of doctors to the region. What those covering the deployment from the tiny island have not reported is the vow doctors must take never to return to Cuba should they contract Ebola on the job.
Al Jazeera reports that Cuba has promised to send 300 doctors to west Africa; as of now, 165 have been deployed in Sierra Leone. The doctors will be working alongside African personnel to diagnose, quarantine, and treat Ebola patients.
Leftist publications have marveled at what they argue is the nation’s trademark charity on display. The Guardian praised Cuba’s “leadership” on this front, quoting romanticized mass murderer Ernesto “Che” Guevara for evidence of the communist nation’s conscience. The Nation, whose propaganda efforts to promote the state sponsor of terrorism is rivaled only by El Granma itself, somehow managed to twist the news that Cuban doctors were working abroad into an indictment on the United States (of course). CNN has dutifully repeated the statistic that 15,000 Cuban health workers have volunteered to die on the front lines fighting Ebola, a statistic provided by the Cuban government with nothing but the Cuban government’s word to rely on for evidence.
What reports have not covered are the conditions in which Cuban medical personnel are being forced to go. For one, in what is internationally an unprecedented move for a state, Argentine news outlet Infobae is reporting that Cuban doctors are being forced to sign a release wherein they promise never to return to Cuba should they contract Ebola. The state will not airlift them back to the island for care, as most other nations providing humanitarian support– most prominently Spain and the United States– have done with their workers. The news comes from a doctor who was pre-selected to travel to west Africa but eventually decided against it, who reported that doctors must “sign a document in which they renounce their right to return if they contract the disease in Africa.” Should the doctors die, they must agree to being incinerated in Africa.
Cuban doctor Jeovany Jiménez confirmed to Infobae that “such an exit has not been given by any nation implicated,” much less nations involved in providing aid. The doctor added that whether Cuban doctors were sufficiently well-trained to actually provide valuable help in Africa would require a “wait and see” approach.
The opposition publication El Diario de Cuba reports that doctors have been told there is a “90%” chance they will never return to Cuba, and that part of the screening process required doctors to be “without family” and between the ages of 45 and 55. The doctors were promised an $8,000 a month salary, and potentially cars and homes, though it is unclear where the money for such a project will come from. For comparison, Cuba made headlines last May when it announced it would increase medical salaries to a whopping $67 a month.
Nonetheless, west Africa’s medical infrastructure, already barely functional before the outbreak, is so devastated that Sierra Leone welcomed the Cuban doctors with open arms. “It is when we have fearless people on the frontline to confront Ebola that is so dangerous that you will be able to win the war,” President Ernest Koroma said, thanking the doctors who volunteered upon their arrival in Freetown.