The Squandering of Cuba’s Greatest Resource

Alberto N Jones

Cuban doctors at work.  Photo: telesurtv.net
Cuban doctors at work. Photo: telesurtv.net

HAVANA TIMES — On November 17, 2014, the most influential print media in the United States, the New York Times published the 6th consecutive editorial on Cuba entitled “A Cuban Brain Drain, Courtesy of the US”.

This shocking revelation was unknown to the majority of its readership, accustomed to a hostile rhetoric about defecting baseball players, stagnated economy and a lack of basic goods.

This contradiction became clear, when Secretary of State John Kerry, US Representative to the UN Samantha Powers and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest acknowledged Cuba’s critical contribution in the fight against Ebola, while at the same time the US State Department is covertly supporting the infamous Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program.

This program is the brain child of Emilio Gonzalez, an extremist right wing Cuban American, who during his stint as the head of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services in 2006 and fully supported by the Cuban American Congressional delegation, made it part of George W. Bush anti-Cuba policies.

This barbaric piece of legislation is intended to undermine the Cuban government, by encouraging and facilitating Cuban physicians, dentists, therapists, pharmacist and psychologists, working with the poorest of the poor in the most intricate places around the world, to abandon their patients, head to the US and embrace the American Way of life.

Their hate against Cuba, did not allow Ileana Ros-Lethinen, Mario Diaz-Balart, Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez and others to reflect on the harm they were doing to people who may have seen a physician for the first time in their lives and whose destiny has been one of hunger, pain, suffering and death.

Cuban Government Shares the Blame

At the same time, huge blunders by overzealous, insensitive and unresponsive managers of the Cuban Ministry of Health and other governmental entities, repeatedly ignored pleas for fair and just wages, better living conditions in situ, rescinding the draconian limitation on family imported goods and the prohibitive Customs tariffs.

Promises to MDs of the sale of used cars, homes, appliances and the timely access to their bank accounts were broken with impunity or delayed at will without any recourse.

Cuban doctors in Venezuela.  Photo: Caridad
Cuban doctors in Venezuela. Photo: Caridad

Many managers of the Cuban healthcare missions in different countries assumed or were given overwhelming authority, which lead to unfair disciplinary actions, tarnished careers and denied legal recourse to claimants. This combined with the USA’s Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, created the perfect broth, the right temperature and the ideal humidity for these germs to proliferate and create the tragic defections that follows:

2006 – 11, 2007 – 781,   2008 – 293,  2009 – 519,  2010 – 548,   2011 – 384,  2012 – 681,  2013 – 995,  and 2014 – 1278.  Total – 5,486

Far worse than the cold number of 5,486 professionals ripped away from their patients, is the fact, that none of these professionals were serving patients with options to choose, pay or go to another physician; only suffer and die.

Cuba has been robbed of thousands of years educating its people and millions of dollars in training, healthcare, subsidized housing, food, transportation, stipend and more, to see millions of its intended patients deprived of their service.

Reenacting a similar action against Cuba in 1960-63, when 50% of its 6000 physicians were lured to Miami, by dangling in front of them an expedited exit –Visa Waiver- and the glamour and glitter of the American way of life, millions of patients were left to suffer or die, because of the loss of their expertise.

Cuba countered by building 22 Medical Schools and 80,000 physicians in lieu of one medical school and 3,400 physicians in 1963, to treat and expand the healthcare service of its people and those of 60 countries in 4 continents.

This scorch land policy failed in 1963 and will fail in 2014, as Cuba continues to train thousands of conscientious physicians willing to be on the front line against Ebola in Africa, malnutrition in Pakistan, blindness in Bolivia or Cancer in Surinam.

But the Cuban government must be willing to review critically and correct immediately, the way the country’s most important, valuable and respected representatives have been treated by insensitive bureaucrats and mediocre politicians placed in key positions.

The recent financial compensation which is paid to healthcare professionals in Brazil, South Africa and Portugal, may not be just, but is fair enough to keep both parties happy. How many billions of dollars and professional manpower has Cuba lost, by underpaying or irritating, those who left their patients in disgust?

Cuba has learned that its massive humanitarian healthcare programs can also yield substantial income. There is no doubt, that in the coming years, Cuban healthcare services will become the largest and most stable source of income of the country.

Great Potential

Cuban doctors off on a foreign assignment.  Photo: granma.cu
Cuban doctors off on a foreign assignment. Photo: granma.cu

Cuba’s geographical location, make it readily accessible to tens of millions of women deprived of reproductive rights in the United States by fundamentalist religious groups. Millions of Hispanic ex-military men and women in dire need of mental health treatment, sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Substance Abuse, Depression, Bi-Polar etc., with insufficient Spanish Speaking mental health professionals, could flow to Cuba for help, along with with millions of senior citizen fleeing violence, insecurity and un-affordable cost of living.

Why then, with such a bright healthcare future, is this self-destruct policy in place, because of a few leaders counting pennies and cheating the nation’s most venerable workers, out of a fair and decent standard of living?

Thousands of Cuban physicians who were enticed by the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program to defect after being alienated by absurdities of the Cuban Ministry of Health and others and led them to ignore the suffering of their patients, can be found in Hialeah behind supermarket counters, driving tractor trailers, cleaning bathrooms or learning how to rip-off Medicare without going to jail.

Cuba must demonstrate to the world as it did in the 1960-70’s and 1990’s, what a nation with vision and principles is capable of doing. One way would be by building three huge and superbly equipped Medical Centers and Research Institutes in Santiago de Cuba, Holguin and Santa Clara, to provide critically needed service to millions of patients without healthcare insurance in the US, the Caribbean and Latin America and magnanimously salvage the education, prestige and expertise of those professionals, who for whatever reason left their posts and patients and return them with dignity to their profession, to serve their country, the world and out of the fangs of the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program.


13 thoughts on “The Squandering of Cuba’s Greatest Resource

  • November 27, 2014 at 12:54 pm
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    It’s also worth noting, the growth in the Chinese economy did not happen despite of the US economy, it happened because of the US economy. US innovation in science & technology still leads the world, and by a long margin.

    No Nobel prizes in science have been awarded to Chinese scientists working in China. Of the nine Chinese Nobel Laureates, 7 were working in the US, 1 in France and the other in the UK & US.

    Two Chinese Nobel Laureates who are living and working in China are the writer Mo Yan (Literature, 2012) and the pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo (Peace, 2010). Both of whom are repressed & harassed by the Chinese government.

    Until the Chinese dictatorship stops harassing their intellectuals, they will remain a second rate power.

  • November 27, 2014 at 12:21 pm
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    I tried unsuccessfully to raise concerns about a human tragedy that demands urgent attention and why, destroying healthcare professionals careers for political expediency, compounds, do not solve the problem. Some facts from the World Health Organization

    Country Inhabitants Physician x 1000 inhabitants

    Costa Rica 4.8 1.31

    Dominican Republic 10.4 1.88

    Ecuador 15.7 1.69

    Honduras 8.1 0.37

    Jamaica 2.7 0.41

    Mexico 122.0 1.96

    Philippines 100.1 1.15

    US 319.2 2.42

    Cuba 11.3 6.73

    Compare Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, with a common history in 1898

    http://news.yahoo.com/doctors-flee-puerto-rico-us-mainland-165338626.html

  • November 27, 2014 at 11:59 am
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    China has the 2nd largest military budget in the world, after the US. Given the difference in currency values, the Chinese get a far greater bang for their buck. Chinese draftees get paid next to nothing for their service in the PLA.

    China does have troops abroad. Currently, the Chinese Navy is engaged provocative exercises in a disputed region of the South China Sea. Chinese troops have continued to occupy Tibet since invading in 1968. Today the PLA labourers are working to build a rail way along the border to India in expectation of a war with the South Asian neighbour.

    In 2012, China established a naval base in the Seychelles island in the Indian Ocean. More bases are planned in the region: Chinese observers forecast 18 possible overseas bases of PLA Navy, including Chongjin Port (North Korea), Moresby Port (Papua New Guinea),Sihanoukville Port (Cambodia), Koh Lanta Port (Thailand) Sittwe Port (Myanmar), DHAKA Port (Bangladesh), Gwadar Port (Pakistan), Hambantota Port (Sri Lanka), Maldives, Seychelles, Djibouti Port (Djibouti), Lagos Port (Nigeria), Mombasa Port (Kenya), Dar es Salaam Port (Tanzania), Luanda Port (Angola) and Walvis Bay Port(Namibia).

    Recently, China has launched their first modern aircraft carrier and tested super-sonic anti-ship missiles.

    So yes, China is a rising economic power, but they are also a rising military power in the Pacific & Indian Ocean regions.

  • November 27, 2014 at 11:31 am
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    Are you confusing GNP with trade in Latin America? Even with GNP in mind, the Chinese are still more than “a few years” away. Relax, don’t count us out just yet.

  • November 27, 2014 at 8:20 am
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    Forbes indicates that China is gaining fast on the US and will overtake us in a few years. I dont think Forbes is exaggerating. We spend our resources on military might while China concentrates on business and has no military abroad.

  • November 27, 2014 at 7:41 am
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    The US is not taking the smart people, Cuba is pushing them away by clinging to the socialism that buries the country in despair. The US offers opportunity and the ability to grow. Cuba offers control and regulation that stifles brains and creativity. I knew Cuba before Castro. Businesses were flourishing and money was there to be earned. Socialism does not work – never has. Until Cuba abandons socialism, it will continue to reply on the mediocre. Thank you, by the way, for sending your best and brightest – we know what to do with them.

  • November 27, 2014 at 5:41 am
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    Two basic remarks:
    First: Cuban doctors are individuals with rights, not “resources” owned by the Cuban regime.
    Second: lack of hope is what makes them flee.
    The Cuban regime is responsible for both the brain drain and the disastrous situation in Cuba that provoked it.

  • November 26, 2014 at 6:57 pm
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    Venezuela exports to US 40.2%
    Venezuela exports to China 7.9%
    Mexico exports to US 80.O%
    Mexico exports to China 1.8%
    The facts don’t gel with your opinion!

  • November 26, 2014 at 4:03 pm
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    Check your facts. Compare US trade with Latin America to China’s. The US, with our 40 million Latin Americans living in this country, has a huge advantage in cultural and commercial trade ties to Latin America. Don’t confuse Chinese loans in exchange for oil for influence. Twelve ex-Presidents from Latin America either live or maintain homes in the US. Yes, there has been an increase in the presence of the Chinese and the Russians in Latin America, but rumors of either of these two countries supplanting US influence are hugely exaggerated.

  • November 26, 2014 at 3:36 pm
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    The “MIRACLE NATION” who put the David in the David and Goliath story, must not abandon the path God has put them on.The new African nation or Goliath that has turned itself into the “MOST HATED NATION EVER” is out of control and at war civilly.
    I would like to keep the real names secret out of respect to the next of kin.
    The situation around the globe is a result of and has been proven to be the result of foriegn interference of the worst kind”MURDER OF THEIR PARTNERS”.
    The abilities of the average Cuban to reflect on this odd statement , is testament to their innosense and purity.
    How can the establishment in Cuba keep to their destiny as providing the example for making a planet and its communities successful and healthy?
    The Chinese have shown the answer and show much wisdom as a world leader,
    By developing solar energy and LED lighting and maintaining financial systems
    while in a transitional phase of the World under One and only GOD experienced by all men and interpreted individually as is obvious globally.
    The murders in the middle east can not be ignored and extremism is the result of the rape.Baptista with another name is lurking .A wise most senior man recently said we can not forget what led to the “REVOLUTIONARY WAR”.
    By now you are asking ,What does this have to do with this article about the brain drain? Look to the past , know your destiny, “IT IS CUBA’S TIME” follow the heroe’s example and accept Gods Will and fear no evil.
    Let God punish the traitors as he feels fit, it is a mysterious way, those doctors will never be as successful because money is not the measure of success,
    pride and keeping to the path of saving humanity has rewards beyond a number on a piece of paper.Train more doctors.
    Pray and God bless the world.
    Thank you

  • November 26, 2014 at 3:07 pm
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    Cuba’s greatest resource, the human mind, has been squandered by the wasteful, corrupt and inhuman Castro regime.

    Liberate the Cuban intellectual capacity in all it’s splendour. Liberate the Cuban people and allow the natural resource of human creativity and intellect to flourish in Cuba.

  • November 26, 2014 at 10:56 am
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    Dr. Jones analysis fails to adequately address the reason the Castros are able to prostitute Cuba’s medical professionals around the world in the first place. Are Cuban doctors better than Swiss doctors? Better than German or Mexican doctors? Generally they are not. Cuban doctors are CHEAPER to employ than doctors from other countries. Moreover, doctors in other countries are free to decide for themselves without pressure from their government to work abroad or remain at home with their families. Given a Cuban doctor’s monthly salary not exceeding $40 per month in Cuba. the promise of working abroad for a monthly salary of a $1000 is an incredible opportunity. If you offer a Mexican or German doctor $1000 per month, he punches you in the nose. American doctors who VOLUNTEER to work for ‘Doctors Without Borders’ willingly forego higher incomes to work for free or simply for a very low salary to cover basic expenses. The point simply is that there is NOTHING altruistic about what Cuban doctors do around the world. It is a business for the Castros and it’s a chance to Cuban doctors to earn, from the perspective of the slave wages they are paid in Cuba, a much higher income by working abroad. With this in mind, why would the Castros complain when a Cuban doctor is attracted by the opportunity to defect? No pimp should be surprised when one of his working girls decides to leave to work for a pimp who treats her better. If the Castros paid a competitive wage to Cuban doctors in Cuba, the US program wouldn’t work. But the Castros don’t want to lose the income advantage they have to sell medical services abroad. As a result, the defection of Cuban doctors to the US is simply the cost of doing business.

  • November 26, 2014 at 10:43 am
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    The US does what it can to bring Cuba to its knees but there is now too much support for Cuba in Latin America for this to be successful. Instead, it is the US that is starting to be marginalized in Latin America. The days of the Alliance for Progress are long gone as we now concentrate our efforts there on immigration and drug wars. And we can no longer count on military coups to get rid of populist governments. Unfortunately the conservative element in politics is now too strong for any meaningful change. China now has more influence in Latin America than does the US and Russia is making an effort as well to counterbalance our efforts in expanding NATO to its borders.

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