Cuban Doctor Requests Political Asylum in Brazil

Ramona Matos Rodríguez. Photo: g1.globo.com

HAVANA TIMES — A Cuban doctor sent to Brazil as part of the Mas Medicos (“More Doctors”) government healthcare program has abandoned her place of work in the Amazonian state of Para and has approached the Brasilia Congress to request political asylum, DPA reported.

The 51-year-old Ramona Matos Rodriguez, one of the 7,400 Cuban medical professionals hired to provide health services in remote areas of Brazil, was brought before the press today by leaders of Brazil’s Democratas (DEM) opposition party, who received her when she approached the Legislature this past Tuesday.

In declarations for the press, Matos stated she arrived in Brazil at the end of last year and had been working in the Amazonian city of Pacaja since then. She decided to abandon the program after finding out the Cuban government was receiving 10,000 reales (some 4,166 US dollars) a month for her services.

The medical doctor affirmed she was receiving a mere $400 a month from the Cuban government and that an additional $600 dollars were being deposited in an account she would have access to upon her return to the island.

“I feel I was cheated by the Cuban government. They didn’t tell me Brazil would be paying 10,000 reales for the services of foreign medical doctors. They informed me I would receive $400 dollars here and $600 dollars there (in Cuba), after the termination of the agreement. I even thought it was a good salary, but I didn’t know the cost of living in Brazil was going to be so high,” she said.

The Cuban medical professional declared she left Pacaja last Saturday and that, this month, she decided to approach DEM leader Ronaldo Caiado at the party dispatch in the Lower Chamber to request political asylum.

The deputy for the opposition announced that his advisors are already drafting a formal asylum request that will be brought before Minister of Justice Jose Eduardo Cardozo tomorrow. He vowed that the Cuban doctor will be granted refuge at the DEM dispatch in Congress until the case is resolved.

The Mas Medicos program was launched by President Dilma Rousseff to address the shortage of physicians in poor and isolated cities around Brazil.

The arrival of Cuban health professionals was made possible by a three-party agreement between Brasilia, Havana and the Pan-American Health Organization (OPS).

Under this agreement, the Brazilian government transfers 10,000 reales (4,166 US dollars) to the OPS per Cuban doctor every month. The organization delivers most of this amount to the Cuban government which, in turn, pays its medical professionals.


9 thoughts on “Cuban Doctor Requests Political Asylum in Brazil

  • February 9, 2014 at 6:12 pm
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    MattB and Moses: so far we just know about this particular defection. Have you heard of any other?

    MattB, actually they are slaves. They DON’T have their passports, this news you’ve read isn’t true. The Federal Police has sought for her. These cubans are under strict vigilance. Their contract is really obscure. Domestic worker here don’t earn much, but they have freedom. I’m Brazilian, I live in Brazil and I am keeping up the news about this matter since last year. They are modern slaves, just lacking the anckle bracelets. This is so sad.

  • February 7, 2014 at 11:57 am
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    The issue here is choice. When you worked for “N American company” you had the option to quit and work somewhere else, likely for more money, if you wished. Nothing forced there. Cuban doctors only other ‘choice’ is to say no to an international mission opportunity and continue working in Cuba for an average of $23usd per month.

  • February 7, 2014 at 10:10 am
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    I think Ramona is the only one so far which is why the folks against Mais Médicos are being so vocal about it. Actually the contract is with Pan-American Health Organization (paho.org). EBC (a Brazilian news agency) stated yesterday that she has her passport and traveled quite easily in Brazil. There aren’t any ankle bracelets on the more than 7400 doctors in Brazil. You want to talk about indentured servants Moses? Take a look at the domestic workers in Brazil. Now those folks have it bad but better than so many others that have even less.

  • February 7, 2014 at 9:59 am
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    I once worked for a N American company that charged US$150/hour for staff time. Staff got 10%-20% ot the charged time. We didn’t call ourselves “forced labor.”

    There will always be people unhappy with their employment situations. Ramona knew what she was signing up for as Cuba does this (hire out their doctors – thousands) in quite a few different places in the world to generate hard to get income for the tiny nation. I think it is widely known that Cuba still is under a U.S. blockade (since October of 1960 and considered the world record for blockades). A pretty genius idea – hire out publicly educated doctors with great public health training to places where there are no doctors or the locality’s doctors won’t work.

    And no, to anticipate your questioning of my political sympathies, I’m not a communist nor a Cuban.

  • February 6, 2014 at 8:50 pm
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    I was under the impression that was what people do when they wake up and realized they were being used. Do you like to be used Anna?

    By the way , it is the government at lakes dignity in using its citizens as forced labor.

  • February 6, 2014 at 4:10 pm
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    If someone filed a I-589 before the EOIR here in the US claiming that they were entitled to asylum because of their low salary, not only would they be laughed out of court, they would be barred from future benefits for making a frivolous application.

  • February 6, 2014 at 11:29 am
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    This is what money does with weak people lacking dignity.

  • February 6, 2014 at 9:19 am
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    There have been quite a few ‘defections’ of Cuban medical staff in Brazil since the start of this program last year. It is curious that this defection should be highlighted. It is hard to believe that this doctor did not know that Cuba was to earn $4K per month for her services. Despite the Castros best efforts to maintain an information blackout, there are very few secrets in Cuba. The regime assumes a certain percentage of its indentured servant-doctors will defect and staff their programs accordingly. The Castros also take away passports and impose strict limitations on movement so that the Cuban medical staff have little opportunity to escape. Yet, like athletes, engineers, teachers and other Cubans on international missions or conferences or sporting events, where there is a will, there is a way. Cubans who make up their mind to no longer live under the Castros tyranny always find a way to slip away. Internet sources state that her husband lives in the US but that she leaves a daughter behind in Cuba who may face reprisals from the Castros. How sad is it that in 2014, there is still a country on the planet whose citizens must “escape” in order to improve the quality of their lives?

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