Jimmy Roque Martínez
HAVANA TIMES — Practically no Cuban working abroad as part of an international brigade contracted by the their government knows exactly how much the host country pays Havana for their services, but most content themselves with the money they get, which allows them to buy certain things they need and is always much more than what they earn in Cuba.
Recently, there was news that at least five Cuban physicians in Brazil’s Mas Medicos (“More Doctors”) program, which aims to address some of the country’s healthcare needs, had deserted. Such desertions are far from uncommon. On this particular occasion, one of the doctors, Ramon Matos Rodriguez, is accusing Cuba of lying to her about the actual amount of her salary.
Another physician told me that it was only after six years of work in Venezuela that she was able to find out what her true salary was, thanks to a government official in the mission who was a friend of hers. If Cubans are cheap labor back home, why should they expect anything else abroad (signing a contract with the very same State that exploits them at home)?
During the preparations for the Mas Medicos program at the end of 2012, the first doctors who traveled to Brazil held a meeting with Ministry of Health officials, where they were told that anyone who deserted the mission would not be authorized to work in Brazil (not even in the private sector).
As regards the “work contract”, the members of Cuba’s brigade were told that, in the event a Brazilian government official in Cuba asked them how much they would be paid for their services, they were to reply they didn’t know, as they had yet to sign the agreement.
At the time, no one raised any objections to the bureaucrats who arbitrarily imposed such regulations on them.
The terms under which Cuban medical doctors are to work in Brazil were negotiated by the governments of Brazil and Cuba, as well as the Pan-American Health Organization and the Sociedad Mercantil Cubana Comercializadora de Servicios Medicos (Cuban Medical Services Firm).
It is true the Cuban government deceived Cuban health professionals by concealing the actual amount paid for their services, but the doctors surely suspected this ahead of time. It doesn’t make it any less unjust, but it seems hard to believe it took them by surprise.
The salary these doctors earn abroad is high compared to the average salary paid in Cuba (around 20-25 USD a month). This contradicts the foreign press campaign that refers to the work of Cubans in Brazil as “slave labor.”
If there is any maneuver by the Cuban State, it is to be found in the contracts. Lack of transparency is characteristic of this government. The brigade members were denied the right to know the real amount paid for their services and the percentage that would end up in government hands.
Or were they? Can any doctor who has deserted or is still working in Brazil make their contract public?
In addition, Cubans should also be informed of the amounts earned through medical services abroad and how these sums are used to improve Cuba’s healthcare system. There is no reason to conceal this information.
In a comment published in Havana Times this past January, a Cuban medical doctor denounced the government for lying to him about the amount paid for his services in Brazil and quoted Cuba’s Health Vice-Minister Marcia Cobas’ declarations for the Brazilian press on August 26.
On that occasion, Cobas had reported that Cubans would receive anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of the 10 thousand Reales (4,100 USD) Brazil would be paying for each professional. Now, we know the Cuban government is actually paying only 25 per cent of that salary.
In the meantime, Cuba’s official press has limited itself to reporting that some sectors in Brazil are attempting to discredit the Mas Medicos program and has offered partial information about the case of Dr. Ramona Matos Rodriguez, making no mention of the issue of salaries or the 62-thousand-dollar compensation Matos is suing for in Brazil’s courts.