Over one hundred Cuban slave doctors working in Venezuela were robbed of $152,000 in a Sunday raid by one of the country’s many criminal gangs, local media reported.
Police revealed the assault, which took place early Sunday morning, involved an intrusion by eight hooded men into a temporary camp on the Caracas-La Guaira highway. Of the victims, 88 had just arrived from Cuba to provide medical assistance, and all had $4,000 in their possession stolen.
Cuba uses “medical diplomacy” to maintain ties with many allies, including its closest ally Venezuela. The doctors are forced to travel abroad and do not get to keep most of their salaries, netting the communist Castro regime millions in revenue later invested into the repressive military state.
The robbery represents a major success for the perpetrators, given that $152,000 is more than most Venezuelans’ entire savings. According to latest exchange rates, the money is worth over 50 trillion in Venezuelan bolivares.
Investigators of the country’s Anti-Theft Division will now review the files related to robberies perpetrated on the Caracas-La Guaira highway, in order to establish if there is any similarity with the crime committed against the Cubans.
According to the independent Havana Times, “The crime was committed with the complicity of some informant because the temporary shelter used by the Cuban medical personnel frequently changes.” Cuban state media has refused to report on the crime.
Crimes such as robbery remain rampant across Venezuela amid the country’s dire economic and humanitarian crisis, leading growing numbers of people to turn to violence merely to ensure survival. Kidnappings, armed robberies, and violent attacks are now commonplace. Venezuela is widely considered one of the most dangerous destinations in the world.
As noted by El Nacional, “There are many travelers who have been stripped of money, luggage, and vehicles on the Caracas-La Guaira highway, especially at night and early morning when the road is little traveled and lacks surveillance.”
The doctors were present in Venezuela as part of an agreement between the two countries. Venezuela typically pays for the doctors in vast quantities of oil, an initiative that started under Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro. Medical internationalism has also been a key aspect of the Cuba foreign policy, with the regime sending around 52,000 medical workers in humanitarian missions to over 90 countries.
Many doctors have complained that their work is a form of slavery by forcing them to earn negligible salaries while the Cuban regime takes a large amount of the profits. According to a lawsuit filed by dozens of Cuban doctor in Brazil last year, benefitting countries pay Havana directly for the medical services while the doctors are provided with a stipend that barely covers living expenses.
“There comes a time when you get tired of being a slave,” Cuban doctor Yaili Jiménez Gutierrez told the New York Times last September.
Critics have also suggested that rather than being driven by genuine humanitarian concern, the principal aim of Cuban medical internationalism is to promote the regime’s image abroad and break the economic isolation imposed by the United States and other prominent western allies. It was previously estimated that Cuba makes $8 million a year from its medical trade.