CubaBrief: Communist Cuba Enslaves Physicians and NGO demands effective medical care for Cuban activist

Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz was first hospitalized in Cuba in June of 2019 with an outbreak of a rash. In mid-July 2019 she was returned to Havana to  La Covadonga Hospital.  On August 8, 2019 she was transferred to intensive care. Family members complained that they were receiving differing diagnoses while her situation continued to worsen. Xiomara was in intensive care and doctors were saying that it could be lung cancer or tuberculosis.

The NGO Race and Equality on October 18, 2019 issued a statement demanding that she be afforded “effective medical care.” That was not to be the case. She was sent home, but did not improve. In the early morning hours of December 26, 2019  Xiomara lost consciousness and is now in the infectious diseases ward of the Miguel Enriquez Hospital, also known as La Benéfica.  The question that arises is why is it taking so long to identify her illness? Six months without a diagnosis?


The Castro regime bills itself as a medical superpower exporting Cuban doctors around the world for profit, in an arrangement that has been identified as human trafficking by some and called slavery by others.

Beyond profiting off the doctors, the Castro regime also uses healthcare to leverage support and patient treatment is conditioned on their obedience to advancing Castro regime objectives. The New York Times reported that Cuban doctors in Venezuela were ordered to deny or ration care to advance Nicolas Maduro’s election prospects in the March 17, 2019 article, “It Is Unspeakable’: How Maduro Used Cuban Doctors to Coerce Venezuela Voters.”

If this happens abroad to Venezuelans with Cuban doctors on a humanitarian mission, then one must ask is medical care in Cuba also conditioned to leveraging political objectives?  The case of Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz, who is a former prisoner of conscience, and Lady in White, should be viewed in this light. Could the failure to properly diagnose and treat her be politically motivated or are Cuban doctors not competent to provide effective care?


Marion Smith, executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, writing in  The Wall Street Journal on December 25, 2019 sums up the nature of the Castro regime’s humanitarian doctors program as “a system that combines slavery with espionage.” Below you will find his OpEd, followed by the October 18, 2019 Race and Equality statement on the plight of Xiomara Cruz Miranda.

The Wall Street Journal, December 25, 2019

Communist Cuba Enslaves Physicians

Havana sends them abroad, steals their wages, and forces them to act as spies.

By Marion Smith

What do you call a system that combines slavery with espionage? In Communist Cuba, you call it humanitarian aid. For decades Havana has sent tens of thousands of doctors abroad as a supposed sign of goodwill, only to steal their income and use some as unwilling spies. Fortunately, more nations are rejecting Cuba’s “help.”

After toppling socialist dictator Evo Morales in November, Bolivia expelled more than 700 Cuban doctors, accusing them of fomenting protests demanding Mr. Morales’s return to power. Ecuador moved to evict the 400 or so Cuban doctors within its borders a few days earlier. One doctor said she and her colleagues received only a third of their promised salaries, with Havana keeping the rest. She also said Cuban authorities forced them to “send messages of support to the revolution.”

In late 2018, incoming Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro demanded that Cuba allow the more than 8,500 doctors in his country to bring their families and collect their full salary, which was paid for by Brazilian taxpayers. Havana soon recalled the doctors. A year before, at least 150 Cuban doctors in Brazil filed lawsuits detailing their mistreatment. One said, “There comes a time when you get tired of being a slave.”

More than 60 nations still participate in Cuba’s doctor program, with official and unofficial estimates ranging from 29,000 to 50,000 “health professionals” across Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific and elsewhere.

It’s unknown how many doctors are tasked with espionage, but it is evident how much money they make Havana. Most host countries pay Cuba directly, giving the Communist nation some $11 billion annually. The regime takes an average of 75% of their promised salaries, rising to 90% or more in wealthier nations. In some cases, international bodies like the Pan-American Health Organization abet this theft by brokering Cuba’s deals.

Not all countries pay Havana in cash; Venezuela pays with oil. Cuban doctors there reported being forced to withhold critical medical care until close to the 2018 presidential election, so that Nicolás Maduro’s regime could take credit. Others went to poor communities and warned that medicine would be cut off if Mr. Maduro or his allies lost.

The doctors are coerced into silence. Havana effectively treats their families as hostages. That so many are speaking out anyway shows how much they resent their inhumane and immoral treatment.

The Trump administration should persistently and loudly urge other nations to follow the example of Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil and end their participation in the communist slave-trade spy ring. The U.S. should also re-establish the Cuban Medical Parole program, which President Obama ended as he left office. It allowed Cuban doctors who defect to obtain U.S. visas quickly, weakening the oppressive regime while giving doctors a fast track to freedom.

The dissident doctors’ bravery should inspire the rest of us to action. Cuba’s flagship humanitarian aid program is dangerous, dehumanizing and downright evil, and it demands to be stopped.

Mr. Smith is executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

Race and Equality, October 18, 2019

Race and Equality demands effective medical care for the Cuban activist Xiomara Cruz Miranda

The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race & Equality) expresses grave concern regarding the health of Cuban activist Xiomara Cruz Miranda, whose condition has worsened in recent days while she awaits a firm diagnosis. Her situation is all the more concerning given that she should be benefiting from the precautionary measures granted to her by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

According to reporting from the independent media outlet Diario de Cuba and the testimony of her family members, Xiomara Cruz’s status remains delicate and uncertain. “She continues to be very debilitated, with constant fevers and severe muscle pains. Her doctors are giving her daily medications and running tests, but they still give vague answers to our questions and do not give us any written documents,” according to one of her family members.

At first, doctors believed that Xiomara suffered from tuberculosis; she has received tuberculosis treatments throughout her time in the hospital. However, tuberculosis tests conducted in early August showed negative results. According to a statement in Diario de Cuba by Xiomara’s daughter Clara Iznaga, the doctors could not explain this result and “they do not understand why she continues to have these pains…The doctors change their opinions and never give a clear answer. One day it is tuberculosis, the next day it is lung cancer. Although they have run several tests, they have never shown the results to the family, which is why we really do not trust the doctors.”

Although some press sources have reported that Xiomara will be sent home now that she is no longer believed to be contagious with tuberculosis, Cuban activists report that she will actually be transferred to another hospital to be tested for cancer. Doctors raised the possibility of lung cancer early in Xiomara’s ordeal and subsequently ruled it out, but her family members are now re-considering the possibility as they still cannot find any explanations for her continued illness.

“What they’re doing is putting us through a labyrinth,” said one family member regarding officials’ non-committal and negligent treatment of Xiomara and her family, noting that doctors have not yet addressed a third possible diagnosis of non-tuberculosis bacterial lung infection.

As Diario de Cuba reports, Cruz Miranda was sentenced to one year and four months in prison for her supposed crime of “threats.” She began her sentence in the El Guatao women’s prison and was later sent to Ciego de Ávila, where she was hospitalized with skin lesions and other symptoms that have only worsened over time.

In July of this year she was transferred to Havana for treatment in La Covadonga hospital (where she remained under custody). At the end of July, she was rushed to intensive care with low hemoglobin, fatty liver, fluid in her lungs, shortness of breath and a high red blood cell count along with the same skin condition.

Race & Equality insists that the Cuban state guarantee Xiomara’s right to health by prioritizing and delivering the medical attention that she needs. Although Xiomara was perfectly healthy upon being taken into custody, her life is now in danger. She is suffering from daily fevers, has lost weight and is very weak. Medical negligence and blatant violations of Xiomara’s rights to life, health and dignified treatment are obvious given these facts. We urge the international community to speak out regarding the serious danger to the activist and rights defender’s life.