Witness Project: Cuban Communist Medical Brigades

Witness Project: Cuban Communist Medical Brigades

The U.S. Department of State declared in September 2019 that Cuba’s overseas medical missions’ program, known as the ‘‘Cuban doctor’s program,’’ employs up to 50,000 healthcare professionals in more than 60 countries, and are a major source of income for the Cuban regime. However, former participants describe coercion, non-payment of wages, withholding of their passports, and restrictions on their movement. The Department of State has documented indicators of human trafficking in Cuba’s overseas medical missions each year since the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report), including in the 2019 TIP Report and remain deeply concerned about these abuses. The U.S. Department of State urges host country governments and civil society to examine the practices in Cuba’s medical missions in their countries and ensure the rights of healthcare professionals are protected.

According to the Department of State, the Government of Cuba collected $7,200,000,000 in a single year from the export of professional services through programs like the foreign medical missions and, while those services were ongoing, refused to provide even a living wage to those who were participating in it. The Department of State estimates that globally there are 24,900,000 victims of human trafficking, also commonly referred to as modern slavery.

In the United States, Congress has led efforts to eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons domestically and internationally, particularly with its enactment of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (Public Law 106–12 386). Division A of that Act, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), established United States antitrafficking policy to:

(A) prevent trafficking;
(B) protect trafficking victims; and
(C) prosecute and punish traffickers (known as the three Ps).

A key element of the TVPA’s foreign policy objectives involved a new requirement for the Secretary of State to produce an annual report on human trafficking and to rank foreign governments based on their antitrafficking efforts. In the ensuing reports, which the Department of State titled as Trafficking in Persons (TIP) reports, the Department developed a ranking system in which the best ranked countries were identified as Tier 1 and the worst-ranked as Tier 3. Moreover, the TVPA stipulated that the worst performers (Tier 3 countries) in the TIP Report could be subject to potential restrictions on certain types of United States foreign aid and other United States and multilateral funds—a policy that is intended to motivate countries to avoid Tier 3 by prioritizing antitrafficking efforts. Because its medical brigade’ modern slavery schemes, the Cuban regime has been ranked as a Tier 3 country.

Learn more: bit.ly/3lO8wC4

En español: https://victimsofcommunism.org/publication/panorama-general-de-las-brigadas-medicas-comunistas-de-cuba-en-america-latina/

My name is Yohana Arronte Cuéllar, I am a doctor graduated from the University of Medical Sciences of Pinar del Rio And I was a victim of modern slavery That the Cuban dictatorship uses with doctors abroad. The medical missions arose almost as a spontaneous idea of ​​Fidel Castro as he had those impulsive ideas After an earthquake that occurred in Chile in 1960 And he sent a mission of Cuban doctors to assist That in fact, the one who was later the president of Chile, Who was a doctor Salvador Allende. Then in 1963, Cuba sent a medical brigade also from 50-something health workers help
Algeria a political ally in a war internal That there was an internal conflict and there it
Fidel Castro realizes that this was an idea Very interesting and very important and supply a
series of needs that the revolution had. One, to project itself as a humanitarian power with
great professionals. Two, income, because starting of the brigade in Algeria He realized that it was a
a good way to export Cuban personnel and bring Hard currency income for Cuba, and then
it was a propaganda stick that also achieved Cuba much political influence and projected
the island beyond its borders that was one of The things that Fidel Castro most important to him
eventually, he realized that This was a very good formula to generate income
influence others and sell the idea to Hugo Chávez And from the year 2003 the number began to grow
of professionals who go to Venezuela in addition to Meet political and geo-strategic goals of
the revolution or as a weapon of the Sao Paulo Forum And the entire ALBA integration project Since leaving Cuba, there is already a preconceived project From the beginning of these missions, to use
to doctors as gateways into Different countries of Africa and Latin America,
leading a guerrilla was much cruder, It was something unacceptable however, take the doctors
yes, because he needs medicine in any place in the world What was behind this, no It was known, that it was labor exploitation and labor slavery Hence the government
the Cuban regime has taken the largest by Percent of the profits of these doctors that are
they play life in these missions because they are going to Extremely dangerous intrinsic locations
so of course it’s a form of slavery. I studied an elementary school where nobody is a
secret that Cubans say since we were little ”Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che”

Without knowing that actually Che
way further with an example to follow, he was a murderer. The relationship with my family at that time was super strong basically Because she was a doctor, who was going to represent Cuba Because that’s how the Cuban family sees it, at
abroad. I will serve as an internationalist and will support the union of all Latin America at that time my family was super united As I told you my parents are divorced every
one since I was very little but my dad Was super proud that his life was
doctor and went to provide services in another country, just like my mother Since the mission in Venezuela grows, they create the neighborhood inside that was so important to Cuba And they are tens of thousands of workers
Cubans who are going to earn income and earn Influence for Cuba in those countries because Cuba
use it as a model and then especially The mission in Brazil was very important because
It was very numerous, it arrived in Brazil at the time 11,400 Cuban doctors there was a time when
Brazil, when the brigade begins In Brazil with the ”Mais Médicos” program, which
created the political ally of Fidel Castro- Dilma Rousseff That meant more than 400 million Cuba
dollars of annual income but also a great Political influence for them to project their
Castro-Chavista model and its expansion in the continent. I started studying medicine at the
University of Medical Sciences of Pinar del Rio, Called Ernesto Che Guevara, Was for me, the university was a
period practically of competition, where it Much more important if you were going to a parade of 1º de
May, or got so you got good grades, On a scale of how good a student was you with
activities and many times most of the Sometimes won that so many activities you did and
how much volunteer work you did, much more Above the same notes. When I arrive at the sixth year of the medical degree, they opened Certain graduates to go to Venezuela or to
participate in supposedly helping health Venezuelans, Graduates in intensive therapy, in
ophthalmology, in rehabilitation, and I have a diploma What I liked the most because he was more akin to me was
intensive therapy. Sixth-grade classes the year they gave them to me in four months and in January
in the sixth year of my medical career, I start The intensive therapy diploma. Export of
services represent 75 percent of the product Gross domestic of Cuba in general, generally
the export of services is not an activity Economic that has a lot of dispersion and effect
multiplier in the economy. Already that It is not an activity that encourages development.
In 2020, revenue from tourism services

Were approximately 2.5 billion
dollars, while export services No tourism was 4 billion. And that has to
has fallen the previous year in 2019 were 5 thousand million In 2018 it was almost 6 billion and
came to be at the time when there was the boom of The mission in Venezuela in the mission in Brazil 10 billion. When I made the decision to go to Venezuela With the excuse of this internationalist,
to us basically to me, in my particular case, They gave us courses a week before we left
it could extend from about two weeks. Politicians these Courses were about how Venezuela worked
the types of parties that had and about the Disciplinary regulations, but those courses
the Cuban military gave the CUJAE in Havana. They have to follow a regulation
that they deliver to all workers in The exterior that prohibits them from driving a car,
prohibits spending the night outside the house, prohibits Going to another city, socializing with people from
the country that is anti-revolutionary, Marry people in the country, authorization is required to
all this, they cannot return to Cuba If they have a family emergency. The contract that I could read
basically fast it was, it was very open that you You had to go on a mission for the place
where I told you to do the things that they They said but I didn’t even talk about a permanent salary,
nor how much were you going to earn basically, nor which ones Were the alleged faults or incidents of
indiscipline, that according to her contemplated, Nor how much was I going to earn, or how much money going to Your family in Cuba, because you were there. Nor how much was the mission going to win
for me. The issue of salary and how much Cuba receives And how much health workers receive is
very complex because Cuba has sent workers Health services to dozens of countries, currently 70 and Everything varies depending on the contract, the payment you receive Cuba Varies a lot as the payment also varies
that then Cuba. But those workers at their sometimes they receive, depending on the country, between 5%
and about 20%. I do not forget that during a meeting unofficially Was a Venezuelan leader to the CDI
of us, and he told me that unofficially We earned 70 thousand bolivars. They pay us 7,000, the huge difference there You start to do accounts and it says I’m working
24 hours, 24 hours rest, and the difference Is a lot, they take away 90% almost of what they actually have to charge. At that time 7 thousand bolivars we are talking about that gave for
buy the food basically and that’s it.

In the contract that I signed before leaving for Venezuela, I did see no part the clause, If you decided to leave the mission could not return to Cuba for eight years. Before leaving in the meetings that they made you is where they tell you to be A punishment that the Cuban government gave each One of the so-called deserters. Article three, sections A and B of the Palermo Protocol You put it in the documentary. Because the one that the Cuban doctor, the Cuban worker who He reads them I think it is clear that it is one is one
exploitation situation, because it is a personal Who is vulnerable and then part B of
Palermo Protocol specifically says that Even if the exploited person gives their consent
if you are in a situation of vulnerability to A power etc. which is what the subsection says
A still applies the Palermo Protocol because In many cases there are states or perhaps academic and
others who try to insist that this is not about People because the person has consented to go,
but the problem is that they don’t realize that The person is already captive in a workforce
captives the one owned by the Cuban government because All personnel of the Cuban Ministry of Health
you only work for an employer that is the state A totalitarian dictatorial state that pays the
lowest average wages in the world and I just checked it again or be a doctor
Cuban today earns less than $ 200, before Reordering as of January 1st
in 2021 they made like $ 70 a month this Already captive staff is already in a situation of
vulnerability and when they start to tell you how They recruit them, let’s say if they also send you
to Venezuela and you do not want to go your career there Got paralyzed, then they send you to a clinic in
the Sierra Maestra where there is no one and so on. I was punished for several years because there is a law
there that punishes the doctors who want to leave Of the country and they send you to an extremely
difficult to the field to work for years until You can come out with a letter of deliverance that is
calls to slavery not only of doctors The hat they go on missions slavery is inside
from Cuba because a letter of liberation is a Slave, you can’t leave until I say so
the minister of health for example. There is a series of a huge series of rights violations Of Cuban doctors, that no doctor of any Even the most uncivilized and underdeveloped country would accept. Similar to what we had as a passport, Because it wasn’t a passport it was a red document
unofficial because the normal Cuban passport is A blue passport, this was the cover was red and brown and they gave it to us in Pinar del Rio In my case it was in my province they gave it to me
and it is with this that I was able to travel to

Venezuela and that was my identification document
Venezuela too, I know it was not something like what Had the rest of the people because I had a
a sheet that said valid to travel only between Cuba and Venezuela then it was not a passport, because it did not help you to enter the rest of the countries Many of these doctors give them a contract
getting on the plane without any legal advice without Have any idea of your rights or
whether in Cuba labor rights are violated Of all the workers, but on top, they will
other countries where their rights are going to be violated And they have no idea that you are protected by the
international law at least technically. So, from the moment, they are recruited
gets on a plane and arrives in a country and not They have no idea where they are going to, places
remote places where they endanger their lives, They live in crowded conditions
without privacy. They told us that we could not leave after 6 o’clock But the place where
I lived at least in a super open place Any national could enter, the only thing they had
It was a fence of that perle mesh or something like that, yes and it could Come and go anyone, they closed that close by and they told you couldn’t go out and a Local person kept the key. Each mission has its head of state who basically I think it must be a doctor and have that ”legal staff”
that is the figure of the Communist Party of Cuba in the medical missions in Venezuela. After two years I get in touch with a A doctor friend of mine who was in Venezuela that I knew he was from Matanza and I got in touch With him and asked how could it be because
the situation was practically unsustainable After two years of work I considered that
those two years had basically been thrown into Garbage working 24 hours, resting 24 hours,
and without any benefit without the right to complain, without Any welfare and I write to him to
ask him how he had done to leave me Cuban medical missions and at that time
I met the Cuban Medical Professional Parole. That it was an opportunity that the US offered to everyone
the Cuban health personnel who was passing With situations similar to mine giving a
visa to the USA Solidarity without Borders was created out of necessity Very large that was a large group
of Cuban doctors escaping from missions and They were completely helpless, they had no
help from no one could die in that same country Persecuted from Cuba and by the police forces of that country. That is why was created in 2008, we had Many cases of desperate doctors who did not know
what to do and then the group had two objectives. First, help him get the Parole, the Parole
that was approved during the presidency of the

President Bush that it was so that when he arrived
the American embassy will give priority not It was a privilege it really wasn’t a privilege,
it was necessary because they were politically persecuted Then that law from here well we promote it
so that they could have that refuge. In the second place, by the time they reached the US that
an average of 8,000 doctors arrived, they had An orientation of how to insert here in
the country with a different health system with a Different life habit, a way to help you
to get their license and be able to work Until they revalidate their title. Go to Caracas that where was the US embassy It was very risky because they could catch me on the way,
or if you left your state. I don’t forget with a Venezuelan friend of mine she decided
accompany me to cross the border from Colombia to Cúcuta I had to ride the bus for almost 24 hours from where
was, Bolívar to Cúcuta and through Cúcuta A man was waiting for me who crossed me
the border, basically along the way I know For example, we are waiting for another
girl and she never came because they grabbed her The Venezuelan military crossing the border And she was deported to Cuba, throughout
that process if they caught you at the moment They detained you and deported you to Cuba and disappeared. I hid my passport, I can’t forget it in my shoe Because the passport was the only paper
official that could not be lost because in that The moment they were still falsifying documents
of Cubans I hid it in my shoe I crossed the River, a river from Cúcuta to Colombia cross the river
and then I took a bus to Bogotá. Even the US embassy where I applied to the Cuban Medical Professional Parole. We have had many cases since we founded this group To help medics escaping missions I remember one of the first doctors was
persecuted, he went into the jungle they were going to Kill him, had a double chase this doctor
I was in Venezuela, I had the National Police Bolivarian Of Venezuela and had the security
of the state, two repressive forces behind him And he survived by a miracle and because we helped him. And the other case is a doctor that I know from many years That crossed all of Central America and arrived
shattered with shattered legs was a victim Of blackmail, they tried to kill him good horrible,
Those are two cases that marked me. There is not a case that I know of in the world as
that of Cuba, that there is a dependence on force Slave worker. oh let’s tell him to
don’t call the slaves, in the workforce Temporary abroad for such a large % of
its economy, at least official, because I am

Giving official statistics, which at least
I also have to say no block, no They reconcile with each other, that is, there are not many
gaps and contradictions in the statistics of Cuba but we can only use statistics
from Cuba. The first call to Cuba was to my mother, I do not forget, I did not call her until I was in Bogotá
at the house of my friend, a Cuban doctor too. The feeling was like my mom I left
the medical mission and she was silent I cried for almost an hour But there were no major drawbacks that are, I didn’t feel so
guilty of the decision he had made. Cuban woman doctor nurse and patient in Cuba se
affects in many ways, in the first place the Most of the missions are women who
go, more than 50% are women, women too Are more susceptible to abuse by supervisors
Cubans and administrators who take advantage of of these people
that they are in a vulnerable situation. The issue of women is doubly painful in this matter of women.
missions, because the Cuban woman who has graduated With a great effort to be a doctor, goes to this
mission and have a family separation Tremendous, you have to leave your children behind
she has to leave her husband and her family behind I didn’t call my dad because I knew what his position was. I knew what his position was, so who
called him was my brother, Who is in this country I call my brother and my
brother tells me ok I tell him I’m going to give The news of dad, hope he
call or you’re going to call him? And I said no, no, I’m going to wait until a few days have passed And that mom give him the news, that mom talked to him and After, I talking about it with him. The first
week and after a week I decided to call him Basically, we couldn’t even speak and I remember
that he sent me an email about 10 days later Telling me everything, within that was that thanks to the
revolution of the doctor, and pulling me in the face Every single decision I had made The indoctrination is so great that it is capable of Breaking the family union. In Venezuela it was a tremendous case I believe
that one of the most serious and important of Complaints from Cuban doctors who were looking for
which is called the Cuban Medical Parol, The parol, the visa the permission so they could enter the
USA because the doctors who went to the embassy Had a strong political content of persecution
for example in Venezuela in waiting rooms Of the clinics were giving speeches
of Fidel and Chávez political speeches to the

Patients then doctors had to in exchange for
votes give you oxygen tanks Or medications to patients which is a
completely unacceptable thing. That participation was tougher, Because you had the weekends to participate
in operations in those places where the opposition Was much more marked and for example the room
of rehabilitation was next to the CDI The rehab room was full of
Maduro’s pictures of Fidel’s pictures of Chavez paintings, I remember that when
I decided to abandon the mission I was on Colombia my mother calls me on a number that I
he had there and he tells me that they had not passed 24 hours and in the security of the Cuban state
and she went to my house and told her that Could return, that the medical missions were
forgiving the person who made the decision But that he eventually regretted it, that
think very well, they coerced My mom to tell my mom, please
convinced me to return that they gave me another Opportunity, that gave me the opportunity to
do it well that please come back There were dozens of legal cases that brought doctors
Cubans in Brazil there were only doctors there were no Nurses and technicians, as far as I know, that
they loved each other when they realized that Cuban doctors were receiving a paltry
portion of salary that was being received by others Foreign doctors who were in ”Mais Médicos”
well, the Cuban doctors began to go to the Courts because Brazil is a federal system
where the different states have, Courts that can rule in your favor by
political reasons in the country are more varied And in some cases, they won their case
be hired directly or be able to contract marriage And if I remember correctly, there is a case where
there is a judge who says that this was slavery. However, in Brazil, a case for slavery was brought
modern, against the Palermo Protocol that does not Unfortunately progressed I believe that because the
the court ruled in favor of Cuba. I believe that the cases that have been presented are fair, it has
there has been a tremendous business an exploitation With Cuban doctors with complicity
of international organizations, complicity In two ways, one that can supply you
medical equipment and medicines to give the The appearance that these doctors are going to give a
tremendous medical care, propaganda and Two take a % of that exploitation and
in which in this case what is documented Is the Panamerican Health Organization, the
OPS, which participated in the business between Cuba And Brazil, which was a millionaire business where
Cuba took millions but OPS also Took their %, there is a pending lawsuit
because Cuban doctors must be paid Because they were exploited and enslaved and
that remuneration has to start with the That participated those who were accomplices in
this kind of slavery.

What I lost? The smile of my grandparents, because I can’t see them anymore Because regardless of the 8 Years I decided to go to Cuba until the dictatorship falls. I love my country I am proud of
country where I was born I grew up, but I don’t go to Cuba anymore Until the dictatorship falls. Then what I lose? the smile of my family Family as such, I lost friends too, I have
for example a friend, my best friend of all Life, her husband is from state security
then and with her I can no longer write The mother is a prosecutor, from Pinar del Río, in fact, it was a
of the first that she criticized the decision I had made And I feel that I did not lose them, that this is
my chance to teach them the system And the indoctrination that exists in Cuba. I feel that I win especially in freedom, I have created Family of which I am super proud, I have
two children already, a two-month-old and a boy of two years And I think that is what I have gained the most in
educate my children and teach my children about The importance of reporting everything that is related
with socialism and communism, I have won In freedom, I have won my own criteria, I have won until
in self-esteem, I have gained in learning what things An employment contract in this country, which ones
are the clauses that cannot be violated In an employment contract, I have a comparison
now to say what I want for My life, what do I want for my children,
won in all respects in everything from the Human point of view to the point of view anti-communist I am more anti-communist than a ever.

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