The United States has issued a call to stop the abuses that exist in Cuba’s medical mission programs.
At a press event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, several Cuban doctors testified to their treatment -- coercion, threats, separation from family members, government surveillance, and barely subsistence pay when they were sent to foreign countries by the Cuban regime.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Carrie Filipetti said the doctors’ testimony and that of hundreds of others paint a grim picture:
“Of a program that is not intended to provide support for countries in need. But rather as a manipulative corruption scheme intended to boost revenue for the Cuban regime, all under the guise of humanitarian assistance.”
Deputy Assistant Secretary Filipetti said the Cuban government reportedly collected as much as 7.2 billion dollars in a single year for the export of professional services through programs like the foreign medical missions. “And while those services were ongoing refused to pay even a living wage to those who were participating in it,” she added.
John Barsa, Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, said that the forced labor the doctors experienced “is the functional equivalent of slavery.” He noted that while skilled doctors are sent out from Cuba to work in other countries for woefully inadequate pay, Cubans on the island struggle:
“The people of Cuba are deprived of essential health care while the regime exports the island’s human resources, medications and medical supplies in the name of profit.”
U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States Carlos Trujillo deplored the fact that multiple countries, some of them democracies, still accept the services of trafficked Cuban doctors. “To our friends and to the countries who celebrate democracy, to the countries who honor human rights, and civil society groups who defend them: you have a duty to stop this awful behavior.”