The NGOs Prisoners Defenders, Outreach Aid to the Americas and the International Freedom Foundation (FIL) denounced on Wednesday (25) in Mexico City that Cuban doctors in state missions abroad work in conditions of “modern slavery”.
The complaint, based on a report presented last January, comes amid the controversy over the recent announcement about the hiring of 500 Cuban doctors by the Mexican government, a decision criticized by the opposition and the country’s medical schools.
As NGOs argue that the so-called Cuban internationalization missions – in which mainly doctors, but also other professionals participate – are the country’s biggest source of foreign exchange.
“This is where Cuba’s economic power lies, in slavery”, denounced Javier Larrondo, president of Prisoners Defenders. According to estimates, these missions raised up to US$ 8.5 billion per year, according to the complaint sent in 2019 to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the UN by these NGOs.
Larrondo detailed that, in 2020, in a previous mission by Cuban doctors to Mexico, each of the 585 participants received US$ 500 for three months of work (US$ 500 in Mexico and the rest on return to Cuba), while the Mexican authorities confirmed that they paid Cuba US$ 10.750 for each one.
In turn, the Vice-President of the European Parliament, Dita Charanzova, commented that “more than 80% of the money that Cuba raises for the brigades doctors goes to the regime and not to Cuban doctors”.
Despite criticism, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador defended the mission. “Why not have doctors? Let the conservatives, selfish, hypocrites know that we are not going to take a step back”, declared López Obrador at a press conference on the last day 18 of May.
The Mexican Ministry of Health reported in the middle of this month that the agreement, signed during López Obrador’s recent visit to Cuba, is valid for two years and can be modified by mutual consent or terminated at any time.
The complaint published by these NGOs in January has more than a thousand testimonies and, among the findings, it is highlighted that 25% of its participants claim that they did not voluntarily go to the missions.
In addition, 87% assured that economic factors influenced their decision and 41% suffered some type of sexual harassment by State officials – known as heads of mission – who accompanied them at work.
The associations highlighted that, according to With the so-called “eight-year law”, professionals who leave their mission prematurely or do not return immediately after completing it are prohibited from entering Cuba during this period.
Wednesday’s press conference fair changed locations shortly before the scheduled start time. The event would take place at the Museum of Memory and Tolerance. The conveners claimed to have received “extortions from the Communist Party of Mexico” and the establishment said it could not guarantee security.
Larrondo also stated that he had been asked not to criticize President López Obrador.” Restricting freedom of expression cannot be the flag of any party that claims to be left”, he lamented.