Cuban MD to File Suit in Brazil

Brazilian government defends its More Doctors program

By José Alberto Gutiérrez* (Café Fuerte)

Dr. Ramona Matos with a group of opposition politicians and parliamentarians who support her complaint to the government of Dilma Rousseff.
Dr. Ramona Matos with a group of opposition politicians and parliamentarians who support her complaint to the government of Dilma Rousseff.

HAVANA TIMES — Ramona Matos Rodríguez , the Cuban doctor who left the “More Doctors” program in Brazil, has opened a Pandora’s Box.

After leaving the doctor’s office where she had been located in the remote Pacajás municipality in the northern Brazilian state of Pará, the Cuban sought protection in the heart of Brazilian politics, the capital Brasilia.

Politicians of the Partido Democratas (DEM), in opposition to the government of President Dilma Rousseff, immediately gave their support to the doctor, seeking the advantages in politics these types of cases tend to provide, especially in an election year.

Matos, who remains hosted on the premises of the Chamber of Deputies, was presented to the parliament, and her case taken to an emergency meeting with the Minister of Justice, the Brazilian Lawyers Association and the Public Ministry, besides receiving considerable media attention .

Legal Action

The latest action from DEM, announced its leader Mendonca Filho, is to file a suit at the Ministry of Labor in which Matos demands the portion of her salary (nearly 90%) that goes to the Cuban government.

Payment to members of the Cuban mission takes place through a web of contracts signed between the Brazilian Ministry of Health, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Distributor of Cuban Medical Services S.A.

Matos will also request compensation for alleged moral damages. She says she is “deeply deceived” after she was presented with a contract in Cuba for $1,000 a month of which $400 would be paid to her in Brazil and $600 deposited on the island. She claims that it wasn’t until after her arrival in Brazil that she learned the real amount budgeted for the program’s participants is around US $4,200.

“Brazilian law provides that any person who has the value of their work reduced is suffering unequal treatment and has the right to claim moral damages,” said the DEM Rep. Mendonça Filho who is advising the Cuban doctor in this action.

Beyond the individual suit by Matos, the opposition party plans to present a class action suit against More Doctors, the banner program of Rousseff in the field of public health. This suit would cover all Cuban doctors, forcing the Brazilian government to reimburse them the full value of their wages.

In an interview with the newspaper O Globo, Labor Ministry prosecutor Sebastião Caixeta, said he agreed with the claims of Dr. Matos and said in the coming days he will submit a report recommending the full payment of salaries for Matos and the more than five thousand Cubans who are currently working in Brazil in the More Doctors program.

According to Caixeta, the employment contracts revealed by Matos, signed by Cuban professionals and the Distributor of Cuban Medical Services SA, proves that this is not just a simple scholarship grant, but of common labor relations governed by the laws of the country.

Meanwhile, Brazilian President Rousseff tries to distance himself from the Matos case, considering it an isolated case and confident that incidents of deserting Cubans will not multiply. She believes this specific case should be resolved by the relevant ministries of Health and Justice, and never reach the Presidential Palace.

Among Ministers

The new Brazilian minister of Health, Arthur Chioro, who replaces the former Minister Alexandre Padilha, has downplayed the defection of the Cuban doctor and announced Mato’s removal from the official program and her prompt replacement in the distant Pacajás. Padilha, the outgoing minister, was the spearhead of the More Doctors program. He left his office to present his candidacy for the post of governor of the State of Sao Paulo, one day before Matos went public in Brasilia.

“The revolution began with More Doctors will continue,” said Chioro.

Matos, 51, also filed a request with the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia for protection under the special program for defecting Cuban physicians in third countries, in force since 2006. Under the so-called Cuban Medical Professional Parole, more than 1,500 members of the Cuban medical missions have been granted asylum in the USA.

* Cuban journalist and executive editor of Terra Latin America and the United States. He lives in São Paulo.


5 thoughts on “Cuban MD to File Suit in Brazil

  • To say a Cuban doctor should be grateful to be educated at the public expense is like saying a slave should be grateful to wear the chains the plantation owner paid for.

    The Cuban government takes 95% of the labour value of their workers and in return gives them crappy “free” education for their children. That is simply slavery of another kind.

  • After nearly 30 years don’t you think she’s paid them back by now.

    As soon as the Castros pass on, so will their cult of personality. In 10 years I predict Cuba will be Capitalist and far more prosperous! Of course te Castros won’t be around to see it…..Unfortunately. The only question is the roll the military elite will be plaing in the economy

  • Do you even know one Cuban doctor? My best friend in Cuba is a neurosurgeon. In fact, he is Chief of Surgery at his hospital in Havana. He takes the P5 bus to work every day for an hour each way. At least once every two weeks he is opening up someone’s skull and operating on their brain. He has even operated on members of the Council of Ministers. He has practiced medicine for nearly 30 years and he has never earned more than 30 cuc per month. Every once in a while he is given a free week in Varadero or Cayo Largo. I have hooked him up with a surgeon buddy here in the ‘States who sends him surgical stuff not available in Cuba. My buddy here gets most of the stuff he sends for FREE from medical reps who are trying to sell him something. Please don’t give me the BS it is because of the embargo. Not true. It is because Cuba is broke and can’t afford the best tools that most US surgeons take for granted. Anyway, this excellent surgeon has never earned more than 30 cuc in any given month. By US standards he would be earning $40K per month. Even by Canadian standards, he would be earning $15K per month. If he were to defect to the US today, he has more than paid the Castros back for his education. This woman has practiced medicine for more than 20 years for the same slave wages. The Castros do not own these doctors. Even under benefit of the doubt, they have a right to work where they want after, say, 10 years. One more thing, there is nothing free about education in Cuba. With an effective tax rate of 95% on salaries paid by the Castros, every Cuban has purchased their education and health care every day they show up to work.

  • Hogwash. The Cuban doctors are in an official mission and receive their payment as such. Think about when a government contracts a construction company to build an hospital, the government pays the company not the workers directly. That’s what happens and so is the case with the Cuban medical brigade – which is doing an worderful job by the way ( see ). This woman is a liar – they knew very well the conditions when they signed in the program waaay back in Cuba, even the most reactionary piece of crap like O Globo acknowledges that ( see ). And the Cubans are payed up to R$4000 directly, and the rest goes to the Cuban government and their family back in Cuba ( see ).

    This whole story is a set up from the beginning – she wanted to see her boyfriend in Miami ( see ) and is being used by Caiado in the Brazilian Congress.

  • I think it is unethical and immoral for a doctor who has been trained at the public expense in Cuba, to take that expensive education elsewhere to make money.
    The purpose of the national health care system’s training of all doctors is to provide the medical care needed in Cuba for a low cost not to supply individuals with a means to become wealthy in the U.S. and in other for-profit health care countries.
    Those trained at the public’s expense should be required to serve a term that is commensurate with that expense .
    It’s part of Marxist/communist /mutual-aid philosophies that we get from the society what we need and give to that society according to our ability to give and these Cuban trained doctors sign up for that philosophy when they accept free medical training.

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