Values Are Weapons as Cuba Defends Doctors against US intervention

The George W. Bush administration initiated the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program (CMPP) in 2006. The idea was to persuade overseas Cuban doctors to abandon their posts and relocate to the United States. Cuba’s medical solidarity programs, in place for half a century, would suffer. President Obama ended the CMPP in January, 2017. Now the U.S. government wants to reinstate it.

Cubans defending medical outreach associate what the doctors do with ideals of human dignity and solidarity. U.S. rationales for their own interventions are either unconvincing as to humane purposes or not for public knowledge.

The U.S. government thus speaks of bringing democracy to Cuba and Venezuela. That those nations are under U.S. siege brings to mind the Vietnamese town Ben Tre. U.S. forces destroyed it in 1968 in order “to save it.” Otherwise, what many regard as the actual purpose of U.S. interventions, the commandeering of power and wealth, is unmentionable in mainstream circles.

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Cuba demonstrates coherence between intervention in the health care of other peoples and values. Former Cuban President Fidel Castro, speaking in Buenos Aires in 2003, stated that, “Our country is able to send the doctors that are needed to the darkest corners of the world. Doctors, not bombs!” He had just proclaimed Cuba’s unwillingness (and inability) to launch “preventative surprise attacks in any dark corner of the world.”

Marisnely Echemendía Concepción recently sounded a strong note of human solidarity. “[F]ormed by the revolution and following the teachings of Marti, Che, and Fidel,” the Cuban doctor carries out “health promotion and disease prevention” in Caracas.

“I believe in altruism, in humanitarianism, and in internationalism,” she states. “These make up the essence of medical education in my country and validate this teaching of the Apostle (Marti): ‘Helping someone in need is part duty and part happiness.’”

And, “I would have it known and widely so – by the peoples of Our America and throughout the world – that my humanist and solidarity-based vocation can be relied upon, always. My sole interest is to improve the health of those we care for. Political affiliation, race, and religious creed don’t matter.”

Besides, “We Cuban medical graduates take on an international commitment that remains and goes with us wherever we are needed. After all, a doctor is only a slave to his or her calling as a humanist.”

Revolutionary Cuba puts values into practice. Some 600,000 Cubans have provided medical services “in more than 160 countries.” Cuba has educated 35,613 health professionals from 138 countries at no personal cost to the students.

In assailing the Cuban doctors, U.S. officialdom has machinations, lies, and force at its disposal, but little else.

On May 7 Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey asked Secretary of State Pompeo to reinstitute the CMPP. Rubio and Menendez had previously introduced a Senate resolution to that effect.

That resolution cited “human trafficking,” “forced labor,” and “salaries directly garnished by their government” as characterizing Cuban doctors’ experience in Brazil. Some 8000 of them had joined former President Dilma Rousseff’s “More Doctors” program to care for destitute and underserved Brazilians. In late 2018 the Cuban government withdrew them due to President-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s animosity.

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U.S. ally Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, backs restoring the CMPP. He views Cuba’s pay arrangements with other states as “modern slavery.” Cuba uses its doctors for “cementing alliances with other countries.”

Serving abroad, the doctors receive their regular salaries to which are added bonuses for overseas work and coverage for living expenses abroad. Salaries are deposited in a Cuban bank or paid to a family member. Most countries hosting the doctors reimburse Cuba’s government at rates high enough for the funds to serve other purposes.

Funds received from Brazil paid for medical equipment and modernization of Cuban medical facilities. In return for the services of Cuban doctors, Venezuela guarantees Cuba delivery of low priced oil.

Thus U.S. meddling in Venezuela impinges upon Cuba. A recent New York Times report charged Cuban doctors in Venezuela with pressuring patients to support the government and political party of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The implication was that all the Cuban doctors did likewise.

National Security Advisor John Bolton and others in the Trump administration claim that 20,000 Cuban military personnel operate in Venezuela. The unspoken hint is that 20,000 Cuban health workers serving now in Venezuela are military people. Cuba’s Granma newspaper offers perspective: “140,000 Cuban health workers have provided … services in Venezuela” – which would have been lots of soldiers.

The Times article and the Bolton allegations are slanderous. Bolton is an old hand. As under secretary of state for arms control in 2002, he falsely charged Cuba with having ”provided dual-use biotechnology to … rogue states.”

Cuban journalist Randy Alonso Falcon explains why the U.S. government would revive the CMPP. He cites “barefaced brain drain” and disruptive effects leading to reduced income for Cuba’s government. He could have mentioned U.S. enthusiasm for sullying the image of Cuba as paragon of medical solidarity.

Weeks before he died in combat in 1895, emblematic Cuban revolutionary Jose Marti advised a young person in the United States: “Whoever has a lot inside doesn’t need much outside. Whoever is all display on the outside, doesn’t have much inside.”

Dr. Fernando González Isla, head of Cuba’s medical mission in Venezuela, tweeted the quotation. Dr. Marisnely Echemendía Concepción re-tweeted it. Identification with values and ethics must be Cuba’s special weapon in this conflict.

Some 2,000 Cuban Doctors Will Enhance Venezuela's Health System

Caracas, Jan 19 (Prensa Latina) Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has remarked that the incorporation of 2,000 new Cuban doctors to Barrio Adentro (Inner Neighborhood) Mission will enhance medical care for Venezuelan people.

The doctors will join 500 medical specialists who arrived on Thursday from Cuba as part of the comprehensive cooperation agreement signed between both countries.

'Within the framework of the 60th anniversary of the first visit of Commander Fidel Castro to Venezuela, we will hold a special ceremony to welcome 2,000 community doctors, who will join the Barrio Adentro Mission to enhance medical care of the people,' the President wrote in Twitter.

Cuban Ambassador Rogelio Polanco ratified Havana's support for the Bolivarian government in health matters, highlighting the importance of bilateral cooperation, 'based on a shared awareness of the need to promote unity and social justice in Latin America and the Caribbean. '

Our cooperation with Venezuela is inspired by ideals that go far beyond mere commercial exchange, our thoughts are common to the need for unity of nations and the fight for a fairer world economic order, Polanco stressed in statements to Venezuelan Television.

To date, the Barrio Adentro health mission has saved the lives of one million 772 thousand people.

This social program, fruit of the cooperation between Cuba and Venezuela, expanded its scope during 2018, when 127 million 168 thousand medical consultations were made throughout Venezuela.

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Brazilian Municipalities Still without Doctors

Brasilia, Dec 14 (Prensa Latina) About 3,000 candidates who signed up for the Mais Medicos (More Doctors) program in Brazil have not yet showed up for work in municipalities in which they were assigned to, Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper says on Friday.

The tripartite commission, made up of representatives from the municipalities, the states and the Union, that work with the program told journalist Mônica Bergamo who writes for GGN newspaper.

The deadline for doctors to start working ends on Friday. A total of 8,517 posts were opened after Cuban professionals withdrew from that initiative after President-elect Jair Bolsonaro questioned their professionalism and made derogatory statements against them.

According to Bergamo, the high number of people that initially enrolled to replace the Cuban doctors excited Bolsonaro, who 'posted on Twitter that almost 100 percent of the posts (from Cuban doctors) were already filled by Brazilian physicians.'

However, only '60 percent of them have so far been covered', the journalist wrote.

A second issue lies on the fact that a good part of the more than 4,000 Brazilian doctors who already showed up at work will leave the posts as of March, when the country's medical residences begin, Bergamo explains.

GGN newspaper states that the professionals report difficulties and errors in the Program Management System website of the Ministry of Health that are preventing registration in More Doctors program.

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Return of Cuban Doctors Afflicts Brazilian People (+Photo)

Havana, Dec 2 (Prensa Latina) Brazilians are very sad because of our departure, said Dr. Giannis del Toro, upon returning to Cuba after two years in Brazil as part of the More Doctors program.

In statements to Prensa Latina, the young specialist from the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba said that her mission was carried out in a very poor place in the Brazilian geography where the population lacked medical assistance.

She also highlighted the importance of the work done by the Cuban health professionals in Brazil, because patients before they arrived were unable access health services. Medical care will again worsen with the return of the doctors to Cuba.

'I am very satisfied with the work performed by my colleagues and me, we return with our heads held high, we cannot allow anyone to discredit Cuban doctors, dignity cannot be changed for money,' del Toro stressed.

For her part, Dr. Liutmila Soler commented on her experience in her four years of mission and stressed that many elderly people in the area where she was, met a doctor thanks to her presence.

We visited the most remote places twice a week and we worked without a break so that we could take care of as many patients as possible, Soler said.

The specialist from the eastern province of Granma described as wise the decision of Cuba of withdrawing from the More Doctors program, after unfounded questioning by President-elect Jair Bolsonaro.

According to official data, some 113 million Brazilians in more than 3,600 municipalities were treated by Cuban doctors since the beginning of the More Doctors program five years ago.

The doctors that arrived this morning come from nine states of Brazil, such as Ceara, Bahia, Piaui, Espiritu Santo, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Norte, Minas Gerais, Marañon, and Amapa.

With the first flight on Saturday, more than 2,000 health professionals have arrived from Brazil since the beginning of the return process on November 22.

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Some 44 Million Brazilians to Be without Medical Care in 2019

Brasilia, Nov 19 (Prensa Latina) About 44 million low-income Brazilians will be without medical care as of 2019, in more than 2,000 municipalities within the country, an international organization has warned.

In a statement, to which Prensa Latina had access, the International Network of Intellectuals, Artists and Social Movements in Defense of Humanity-Brazil Chapter, denounces that the government of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who proclaims himself without ideological bias, 'will lose about 9,000 Cuban doctors for ideological reasons and, also, for ignorance.'

The release refers to Cuba's decision to stop participating in the More Doctors in Brazil program due to the unwise demonstrations and unacceptable conditions for Havana that Bolsonaro said he would impose to the Cuban professionals once he takes power on January 1.

Bolsonaro will have to answer for the predictable medical tragedy 'for not knowing the history of the Cuban medical missions around the world,'the network of intellectuals states.

The document explains that 'the first Cuban humanitarian medical mission was in 1963, in Algeria. Cuba, on behalf of the defense of humanity, undertook the task to help care of poor populations in many countries as part of its policy of international solidarity.'

Cuban humanitarian missions spread across four continents, with own unique characteristics, based on an understanding of the needs of each people, according to the message.

The text gave as an example that on May 31, 1970, Peru was hit by a 7.9 quake on the Richter scale, in which more than 80,000 people were killed and thousands of families were homeless.

Cuba was the first country to send aid to the Peruvians. Two years later, on July 8, 1972, the government of Juan Velasco Alvarado restored diplomatic ties with the Caribbean nation, the text recalls.

During the following decades, Cuba sent free medical teams to several countries affected by natural catastrophes, the document says.

Brazil, the world's eighth largest economy, is 125 in the world health ranking. Trained by federal and state universities, Brazilian doctors refuse to pay attention outside the large urban centers, the network states.

'To end a program of 55 years of experience, competence, solidarity is at least a total lack of humanity. To leave the population without this vital medical care is to condemn it to premature death,' the international organization says.

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USA Praises Bolsonaro for Leaving Brazilian People without Doctors

Brasilia, Nov 16 (Prensa Latina) Despite leaving millions of Brazilians without medical care for contemptuous statements against Cuban health professionals, President-elect Jair Bolsonaro was praised by the United States, Brasil 247 website posted on Friday.

The site refers to the applause given on social media by U.S. Assistance Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Kimberly Breier, for the position of the future Brazilian president, which forced the departure of Cuban physicians from the 'More Doctors' program.

Brazil 247 posts that 'Bolsonaro's pressure on Cuban doctors, in a clear sign of harmony with U.S. foreign policy, was praised by the United States government.'

The Cuban Ministry of Health (MINSAP) announced on Wednesday that it was withdrawing the Cuban doctors from the program, started in August 2013 by former President Dilma Rousseff, following the modifications announced by Bolsonaro.

Such alterations suppose unacceptable conditions and breach the guarantees agreed from the beginning of the initiative that were ratified in 2016 with the renegotiation of the term of cooperation between the Pan-American Health Organization and the Brazilian Ministry of Health, and the cooperation agreement between the regional health entity and the Cuban Ministry of Public Health, the MINSAP statement says.

The website warns that due to the withdrawal of Cuban doctors, at least 24 million Brazilians will not receive medical attention and the threat hangs over other initiatives such as the Family Health Program.

Former Brazilian Health Minister Alexandre Padilha, who participated in the implementation of the program, told the press that this withdrawal will have a terrible impact on the health system, as Cuban doctors worked in the most vulnerable regions. 'They are in the Amazon, in rural towns and favelas'.

Cuban doctors are not only qualified, but they are specialists in rural medicine, something that the Brazilian health system lacks, Padilha said.

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Brasil Popular Highlights Preference for Cuban Female Physicians

Brasilia, Jun 24 (Prensa Latina) The express preference for the care provided by Cuban female physicians who are rendering their services in the Single Healthcare System (SUS) was highlighted here today in the 56th issue of the newspaper Brasil Popular

This is shown by several surveys carried out by academic and scientific institutions, like the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, said the publication, which recalled the beginning of the More Doctors program, launched in 2013 by then President Dilma Rousseff.

The newspaper added that the Cuban doctors were harassed, disrespected and slandered by Brazilian medical institutions, with support from big media organizations, which are insensitive to the needs of the majority of the people to have health professionals who are willing to do a competitive, humanistic and friendly work.

'Rapidly, thanks to their competence, ethics and dedication, the Cuban doctors, mainly women, went from being damned to be the favorite by SUS users,' Brasil Popular pointed out.

The Cuban female doctors, who had to face the racism and machismo with which they were welcomed by Brazilian institutions, are decorated now for their absolute, spontaneous and sincere preference from their patients, who fear that the coup that overthrew Rousseff will affect the program, whose approval rate exceeds 90 percent, the newspaper noted.

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