Cuban doctors revolt: You get tired of being a slave

Mar 2012
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In a rare act of collective defiance, scores of Cuban doctors working overseas to make money for their families and their country are suing to break ranks with the Cuban government, demanding to be released from what one judge called a “form of slave labor.”

Thousands of Cuban doctors work abroad under contracts with the Cuban authorities. Countries like Brazil pay the island’s Communist government millions of dollars every month to provide the medical services, effectively making the doctors Cuba’s most valuable export.

But the doctors get a small cut of that money, and a growing number of them in Brazil have begun to rebel. In the last year, at least 150 Cuban doctors have filed lawsuits in Brazilian courts to challenge the arrangement, demanding to be treated as independent contractors who earn full salaries, not agents of the Cuban state. “When you leave Cuba for the first time, you discover many things that you had been blind to,” said Yaili Jiménez Gutierrez, one of the doctors who filed suit. “There comes a time when you get tired of being a slave.” “You are trained in Cuba and our education is free, health care is free, but at what price?” she said. “You wind up paying for it your whole life.”

The legal challenges are all the more important because the doctors have lost a common backup plan: going to the United States. The American government, which has long tried to undermine Cuba’s leaders, established a program in 2006 to welcome Cuban doctors, with the aim of exacerbating the island’s brain drain. But in one of his final attempts to normalize relations with Cuba, President Barack Obama in January ended the program, which had allowed Cuban doctors stationed in other countries to get permanent residency visas for the United States. “The end of the program was a huge blow to us,” said Maireilys Álvarez Rodríguez, another of the doctors who sued in Brazil. “That was our way out.”

The doctors’ defiance puts them at risk of serious repercussions by the Cuban government, including being barred from the island and their families for years.


https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/29/world/americas/brazil-cuban-doctors-revolt.html?mcubz=0
 

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