Report: Brazil Blocks Cuban Doctors Who Successfully Sued for Salaries from Practicing

Cuba is sending thousands of badly needed doctors to Brazil, but Brazil's medical establishment has sought to block the program. Here, Cuban Dr. Yocelin Macias treats a patient in the capital Brasilia on Aug. 30.
Eraldo Peres / AP

The government of Brazil has blocked the few Cuban doctors who have successfully sued for full salaries from Brasilia from practicing medicine without going through medical certifications in Brazil, a luxury these doctors say they cannot afford.

Brazil inked a deal to pay the communist Castro regime millions of dollars for hundreds of doctors to come and serve some of the nation’s most impoverished regions as part of a program known as Mais Médicos (“More Doctors”). Cuba pockets most of these payments while offering the doctors performing the labor salaries the doctors claim are so small they are tantamount to slavery.

According to the Cuban government, Havana made $11.5 million on its doctor slave trade in 2016, more than its annual tourism income and a marked increase from the reported $8 million it made in 2013.

Cuba sends doctors to a variety of nations around the world to perform their labor in exchange for a barely liveable work stipend. In exchange, the host countries pay Cuba millions and the Castro regime uses their efforts in communist propaganda operations to distract from its woeful human rights record.

In a rare revolt, nearly 200 of the Mais Médicos doctors have sued the government of Cuba and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which aided in the execution of the program, to be paid their full salaries. Currently, Brazil pays Cuba 11,520 reais ($3612.64) through the PAHO, and Cuba then pays the doctors 3,000 reais ($940.79) and pockets the difference. The doctors are suing to receive their full salaries, just as all foreign doctors who are not Cuban citizens do from the Brazilian government.

Aliosky Ramírez Reyes, one of the Cuban doctors suing, told Martí Noticias in an interview published Thursday that Brasilia is preventing doctors who win their lawsuits from practicing law in the country. Under the Mais Médicos program, they were freely allowed to practice despite their foreign credentials. Now, Ramírez says, they are being told that they must undergo a full Brazilian medical education to return to practice.

“Until the Brazilian government accepts recognition of the rights we have as foreigners in Brazil, the only way to exercise medicine is through being revalidated [as doctors] outside of the Mais Médicos program,” Ramírez explained. “Some doctors … are facing a very difficult time here without work.”

He noted that he has personally “prepared for a moment like this and managed to start a personal business and sustain myself until I get the definitive step to practice here, which would be the revalidation [of medical credentials] to work.”

Ramírez says ten doctors have succeeded in their legal claims, which should allow them to practice medicine and receive their full salaries, but their lack of a Brazilian medical degree has blocked them from doing so. “Some 200 of us are organizing so that together we can defend our rights, which are being assaulted with pressure from the Cuban government here in Brazil,” he said.

He added that Cuban state security officials had engaged in threatening visits to the families of the doctors, still in Cuba, telling the relatives that they “have betrayed the nation and all that political, ideological work that they know how to do.”

“There are many forms of repressing, not just physical but psychological,” he added.

The Brazilian Ministry of Health recently stated in remarks to the newspaper O Globo that paying the doctors a fair salary was impossible because “The Cuban doctors, through our cooperation, are on a mission in the country,” so they “maintain the working relationship with their country of origin.” In contrast, when doctors from Argentina or other South American nations come to work in Brazil, they are not purchased from the governments of their countries of origin.

This week, the Brazilian Health Ministry allowed cities and other municipalities that supported the lawsuits against Cuba to opt out of the Mais Médicos program.

Brazil rents out Cuban doctors for the program on a three-year basis. A report by the Brazilian newspaper Jornal Opçao estimates that Brazil has paid Cuba nearly four billion reais ($1.2 billion) for the doctors since the program started under impeached leftist president Dilma Rousseff in 2013. The newspaper adds that, by Brazilian standards, Cuban doctors are “closer to mid-level nurses than doctors” due to lax training in Cuba. This has been a problem in other nations that have rented out Cuban doctors like Tuvalu, which sent the doctors back after several basic performance failures.

Jornal Opçao also notes that Cuban government spies accompany the doctors at all times and prevent them from socializing too closely with Brazilians or otherwise deviating from the will of Havana.

Mais Médicos has long rankled the Brazilian right, with columns from the early days of the program calling it a “horror show” and objecting to Rousseff’s arguments that the program was necessary to serve isolated communities that Brazilian doctors would not venture into, a claim she did not support with evidence.

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