By Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES – Dollars sent to aid workers in Venezuela are being photographed in Cuba to prevent counterfeit. The online daily Diario de Cuba recently published a photo of several Cuban doctors surrounded by LED televisions in an airport waiting room. Both of these photos are the subtle faces of a large business: exporting labor with the label “Proletarian internationalism”.
The welcoming of our doctors is what the highest leaders of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and Government want to show of the old and failed system we suffer. We only see the hidden face when internationalists come out of Customs on their way home, pushing the typical trolleys full of highly sought-after domestic appliances. Every made-up or real hero also carries hidden and troublesome truths, half-truths that are hard to value and well-documented lies.
Medical professionals are subject to a special regulation if they need to travel to other countries; they need to get a document, called a “Release Letter” (a telling name for such a prized written requirement), signed from the Minister of Health.
Going on an Internationalist Mission appears to be an affordable option if you want to get on a plane to escape daily hardship. It’s worth repeating that a doctor’s average monthly salary in Cuba is the equivalent of 65-70 USD per month.
The agreement between Brazil and Cuba stipulated that every doctor willing to risk their lives between anacondas and piranhas if necessary, would receive 3500 USD per month. The irony is that these predators remained in their Homeland, protected by air-conditioning. The doctors would receive maybe 25% of the abovementioned sum, but even that small slice of the cake isn’t paid to them directly in palpable notes; it builds up on a card which they can access when they return from their mission “with the job done”.
Brazil isn’t an exception and the same rule applies for Cuban doctors in Venezuela, Argelia, Kenya or Saudi Arabia. Photographing dollars only applies to Venezuela, as the local Bolivar’s hyperinflations forces relatives of every aid worker to supply them with financial aid in USD from the Homeland.
At this point, those of you who don’t know much about Cuban affairs will be asking yourselves: but where’s the business?
Well, know that the Communist State holds absolute monopoly control over the country’s national and foreign trade, imposing strict and detailed Customs regulations on its citizens. Good Cuban doctors win the prize of exemption and receive liberal treatment at Customs which isn’t normal in Cuba. They are definitely heroes and they are treated as such.
Going back to the photographs, one of those much-wanted 32” Samsung Smart TVs costs about 500 CUC on the national market. State prices in stores are scandalous but compulsory. Then there’s the black market, which is why doctors, nurses, paramedics and other Health, Education or Sports professionals, carry loads for themselves, their relatives and a little extra of whatever they can sell in Cuba. The TVs cost around half the price on the Island in Brazil.
This is extra income in hard currency, collecting a fraction of the payment that they were denied when they signed the contract with their government’s employment agency, asserting an absolute willingness to do it. What would happen if they said something else?
Once in foreign lands, they will “give it their best”, a trending phrase in Cuba today. When they travel, they must leave partners, children, siblings, parents… behind. As if that wasn’t enough, punishment for abandoning a mission includes an eight-year ban on returning to Cuba. The threat is being repeated today now with the debacle of the government’s great business with Brazil.
A lie that has been duly-documented involves reiterating the Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) leadership in this many million-dollar agreement. The PAHO was used as a convenient intermediary to sidestep the bothersome requirements that were being demanded from the Head of State in a democratic country, something that even Cuban leaders didn’t think about.
Just so you know, accepting the new rules set forward by Bolsonaro was impossible for Havana as they broke any totalitarian understanding of big business practiced by the Cuban State.
They would empower citizens and admit what has deliberately been hidden up until now: that the Cuban government sought this business out from their Brazilian counterparts and imposed conditions in relation to the goods up for sale, that is to say, highly-skilled labor by the name of doctors. Even heroism, altruism, sense of internationalism is under the State/Party’s strict control.
Millions have vanished into thin air, but “dignity” has been kept intact, a matter of semantics, it doesn’t specify that the honor of the agreement’s signees was insulted.
However, in Brazil, Cuban medical professionals are showing other semantics, like they have been in other countries for some years now. Up until now, over 20% of the total scheduled to fly back to the Socialist Homeland have decided to stay in Brazil.
Human beings were given, or maybe we won over millions of years of evolution, the right of free will, to decide what we do with our own lives, an inalienable right that no government can take away from us.
With the document that the Cuban Public Health Ministry needs to sign in mind, the #NoSomosDesertores campaign was born, reclaiming the only dignity they can.
Vicente Morin Aguado: [email protected]