CubaBrief: Does forced labor of Cuban doctors and shipyard workers amount to a contemporary form of slavery?

Ms. Urmila Bhoola, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, along with Ms Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children, sent a letter on November 6, 2019 to the Cuban government regarding the regime’s medical missions in which the special rapporteurs indicated that “according to forced labor indicators established by the International Labor Organization. Forced labor constitutes a contemporary form of slavery.”

However this is not the first time that the issue of the Castro regime engaged in the trafficking of Cuban workers was addressed formally as a contemporary form of slavery. Fourteen years ago a civil suit was filed in a U.S. District court in Miami that disclosed “that up to 100 Cuban shipyard workers are forced to work against their will at Curacao Drydock Co., a ship repair company with an agent in Delray Beach, Klattenberg Marine Associates” in conditions that were “practically slave labor” fixing up vessels. The suit was filed by three workers who escaped [ Alberto Justo Rodríguez, Fernando Alonso Hernández and Luis Alberto Casanova Toledo] and revealed that “they were ordered to work 16-hour shifts for $16 a month.” … “According to the suit, the men often worked 112 hours a week. Their wage amounted to 3 ½ cents an hour.” The suit was filed in August 2006 and was first reported by the Associated Press. The Cuban government was using the Cuban workers’ labor to pay back what the regime owed to Curacao Dry Dock Company for the repair of Cuban ships.

Alberto J Rodríguez, Fernando A Hernández and Luis A Casanova Toledo

Alberto J Rodríguez, Fernando A Hernández and Luis A Casanova Toledo

Similar to the Cuban doctors, the shipyard workers upon their transfer to Curacao had their passports seized, and were monitored by state security and held against their will.

“The men were forced to labor in sweltering weather and dangerous conditions, like hanging from scaffolds. When Rodríguez broke his foot and ankle in 2002 while scraping rust from the hull of a ship, he was sent home to heal — and then ordered back after his recovery. […] Plaintiff Luis Alberto Casanova once suffered an electric shock but was forced to finish his shift despite bleeding from his tongue. The workers’ supervisors were other Cubans, including a nephew of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the suit alleges. ”They always told us if we didn’t work, they’d throw us out of the country, fire us and send us to jail,” Rodríguez said. “Really, we were slaves. We didn’t have a voice or a vote.”

The Miami Herald continued to follow the story and reported on it in 2008.The trio were awarded US$50 million as compensation and US$30 million as punitive damages in 2008, in a default judgment, and the appeals process has continued over the next 12 years. On  May 27, 2015 the Curacao Chronicle, in the article “Slave labor victims of Curaçao Dry Dock get nod enforce $67million USA claim” reported that “the quest by three modern-day slaves for US$80 million in restitution has come to the Singapore port of call. Three Cuban slave-labor victims were given the High Court’s go-ahead to enforce a US$50 million claim won in a United States court against any assets that the Curaçao dry dock has in Singapore. The High Court rejected the bid by Curaçao Drydock Company to set aside the US judgment, making clear the claims were enforceable in Singapore as they were meant to compensate the victims, not punish the company.”

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 8.31.55 AM.png

Ironically, the World Health Organization (WHO) and its American subsidiary, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) published a hand out in 2012 on human trafficking that includes the above chart on “health and well being at various stages of trafficking.” This is ironic because in December 2018, the PAHO was named in a class action lawsuit  by Cuban doctors, who are trafficking victims, who claim that the international health organization had “collected over $75 million since 2013 by enabling and managing the illegal trafficking of Cuban medical professionals.” Both organizations have been under scrutiny for their relationships with dictatorships, and reporting on outbreaks of dangerous diseases.

Secrecy continues to shroud these arrangements between the Castro dictatorship and other countries, but from time to time information arises that illuminates the reality behind the propaganda.

Rebecca Davis, of The Daily Maverick, in her May 9, 2020 podcast “Don’t Shoot the Messenger” reported that the South African state is being charged over R450 million ( $24,434,550.00 ) for the Cuban medical mission sent to South Africa to fight Covid-19. Meanwhile, South African doctors who trained overseas do not have the right to practice medicine in their home country. “Unlike with the Cuban doctors, nobody is rolling out the red carpet for these unemployed local medics.” revealed Davis. She also interviewed Rene Govender, an advocate, who has spent years trying to obtain the right for these South African doctors to practice in South Africa, who reflected the outrage of these medical doctors at the Cubans getting a green light to practice, while they are still denied.

Mary O’Grady in her May 10, 2020 column, “How Cuba’s Spies Keep Winning” published in The Wall Street Journal explained how “Cuba has myriad ways of spreading disinformation, combating critics, and widening its influence. Return access to the island for journalists and academics, for example, is denied when there is unfavorable coverage, which is presumably why yours truly cannot get a visa.” This explains, in part the positive press coverage, but the profitable trafficking of doctors can be explained by another common practice.  “Blackmail is another method of manipulation,” and O’Grady explains how she has “twice interviewed a Cuban defector who told me it was his job in Cuba to retrieve video cassettes from hidden cameras in hotel rooms and official residences where visiting dignitaries were staying. The goal was to capture on film compromising behavior that could be used to extort political favors or, for example, force a resignation. With heavy political and diplomatic traffic to the island from Europe and Washington, it’s a safe bet that at least a few have been compromised in this way.”  However, the heavy diplomatic traffic also involves Latin America and Africa. The same practices can be applied there, and would explain how the Castro regime could charge over $24 million dollars for what is billed in the press as a “humanitarian deployments.”

Dr. Jaime Suchlicki interviewed in the publication The DePaulia on April 27, 2020 provided greater context on the Cuban government’s “Doctor Diplomacy” agenda explaining that, “If you go to Cuban hospitals you will find out that they’re understaffed.”  The director of the Cuban Studies Institute added, “a lot of the better doctors are out of the country,” and that “Cuba still does not have enough equipment, medicine, or doctors to combat a pandemic and to receive support from the government.” Dr. Suchlicki concluded that the Cuban dictatorship’s “top priority is economic and second political influence to vote with Cuba and support Cuba’s position internationally.”

However, international political influence also means that the Cuban dictatorship inserts itself into national politics. Over the past six decades the regime has used bombs and bullets, but also “doctor diplomacy” to advance its objectives in ways that violate medical standards and ethics. The New York Times on March 17, 2019 reported that Cuban doctors on orders from their ideologically committed higher ups have been ordered to deny patients needed treatment in exchange for political loyalty and not all the folks dressed like health care workers, were healthcare workers but some were just playing the role.

Daily Maverick, 30 April 2020

Coronavirus Analysis

Is the deployment of Cuban doctors to SA justified?

By Rebecca Davis

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 8.32.03 AM.png

The arrival of 217 Cuban healthcare workers to South Africa to help fight Covid-19 has been accompanied by unconfirmed reports of a R439m bill. While Cuba and SA have a long history of shared medical resources, this mission is raising eyebrows not just for its alleged cost but also because of the difficulties some SA-based doctors have experienced in finding work.

When 217 members of Cuba’s Medical Brigade landed in South Africa on 27 April, they received a heroes’ welcome from President Cyril Ramaphosa.

But, simultaneously, a planning document began to circulate which purports to show the cost of deploying Cuban health workers to South Africa to fight Covid-19. The total expenditure amounts to just shy of half a billion rand – R439,916,337 – and that total is based on only 187 Cubans arriving, rather than the 217 who have materialised.

Attempts by journalists to verify this budget have been unsuccessful. Both the Treasury and the Department of Health failed to respond to repeated requests for comment on the matter from Daily Maverick and other media outlets – which in itself may be revealing.

Health department spokesperson Popo Maja neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the budget to News24 on Thursday, saying: “It is not fair that anyone should focus on the price tag over the need to save lives.”

In response to questions sent by Daily Maverick to the Cuban embassy in South Africa, the embassy issued a statement denouncing a “smear campaign” against Cuba and paying tribute to the “heroism and altruism” of the Cuban doctors.

“The Cuban government pays the full salary of all our doctors while they are assisting other countries. The host countries have assumed the transportation, accommodation, food and basic means for the doctors, the minimum necessary in order to contribute to the sustainability of our healthcare services,” the Cuban embassy statement read.

On the embassy’s Facebook page, it has adopted a similarly pugnacious approach to comments from the public expressing concern about the mission’s expenditure.

“Cde, the enemies of International Solidarity will always try to create doubts,” the official embassy account responded to one such comment.

“This is not a commercial transaction. This is cooperation. Authorities will provide for the doctors just the minimum necessary in terms of accommodation and sustainability. No [sic] the luxuries and big payments that usually other doctors around the world receive. Just the basics. All our doctors are voluntaries [sic] coming to help not to enrich themselves.”

Yet the amount listed on the document for salaries, which totals R294,566,232 for the 187 health workers for 12 months, suggests that they are receiving on average over R1.57-million per year.

A doctor with knowledge of public sector healthcare salaries told Daily Maverick that this is equivalent to the salary of a top government specialist in South Africa.

If accurate, a monthly salary of over R130,000 would amount to a significant increase for a Cuban health worker. It is reported that the highest-paid Cuban doctors make less than $70 per month at home – just less than R1,300.

However, it has also been reported that relatively little of the money earned by Cuban doctors abroad is kept by the doctors themselves, with the Cuban state allegedly retaining a portion.

Brazilian newspaper El Pais reported in 2018 that the Cuban government keeps 75% of overseas doctors’ wages; the UK Guardian stated in 2013 that the state’s cut of wages is 25%; while independent Cuban media outlet ADN Cuba (DNA Cuba) maintains to the current day that the regime retains between 70 and 90% of doctors’ salaries.

What is no secret is that exporting doctors is a hugely important source of revenue to the Cuban government, bringing in an estimated $11-billion per year, and making the lease of healthcare workers Cuba’s most lucrative export.

The Economist reported in April 2020 that Cuba is particularly cash-strapped right now, with the Covid-19 pandemic having halted the important revenue brought in by tourism.

A detailed breakdown of the Cuban medical staff deployed to South Africa has not been made public, with a statement from the Presidency listing their expertise as follows:

  • Experts in the fields of epidemiology, biostatistics, and public health;

  • Family physicians to guide interventions through door-to-door testing and to assist local health workers in health promotion and disease surveillance at the community level;

  • Healthcare technology engineers to assist in maintaining the inventory, deployment and repair of aged medical equipment; and

  • Experts to provide technical assistance working with local experts.

This information offers little insight as to whether all members of the Medical Brigade have the expertise to warrant such allegedly high salaries.

The unverified budget also lists extremely high amounts for “chartered flight” [singular], at almost R10-million, and budgets for a monthly food and accommodation stipend of R50,000 each on top of salaries – calling into question the Cuban embassy’s contention that the doctors receive “just the minimum necessary in terms of accommodation and sustainability”.

South Africa and Cuba have a history of cooperation in the field of public health stretching back over two decades, with 732 South Africans having received medical training in Cuba’s internationally renowned health system to date. The presence of Cuban health workers in South Africa’s rural areas has been a staple since the late 1990s.

A South African doctor who worked with Cuban doctors in Mpumalanga in 1999 described his Cuban counterparts as “a great bunch of guys”.

Internationally, Cuban doctors have won admiration for work in some of the toughest public health contexts on record. When Ebola struck West Africa in 2014, Cuba sent more healthcare workers to assist than any other country. Cuban doctors were praised for their role in treating Chernobyl victims, and doctors dispatched to Honduras after hurricanes in 1998 had a significant impact on improving live birth and maternal mortality rates.

But the proficiency of most Cuban doctors has not stopped their arrival being controversial in many countries. In May 2018, Reuters reported that doctors’ unions in Kenya were enraged by a plan to bring in 100 Cuban doctors rather than employ some of the over 2,000 Kenyan doctors and specialists awaiting deployment by the ministry of health.

Tensions have been running even higher over the deployment of the Cuban Medical Brigade to 23 countries during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Argentina, health officials recently had to meet with doctors’ representatives who complained that there were already 170 foreign doctors residing in Argentina who were willing to work on Covid-19 and were still waiting to have their qualifications approved by the health ministry.

A petition on change.org asking the Argentinian government to reconsider allowing Cuban doctors to enter garnered over 170,000 signatures, with the petition organisers pointing out that Argentina has one of the highest doctor-to-patient ratios in the world and that the resources to be spent on the Cuban doctors could better go towards protective gear for health workers.

In March this year, an Italian news outlet ran an opinion piece denouncing the arrival of a Cuban medical mission in Italy as “expensive and unprepared”, pointing out that hospitals in Lombardy then had to seek translators, who would be exposed to the virus.

In the small European principality of Andorra, to which Cuban healthcare workers were also sent, local media reported in April that a “significant” quantity of the Cuban delegation turned out not to have sufficient training or experience to work in frontline medical contexts and had to be redeployed to less critical roles.

Many of these currents are already evident in South Africa too, where both the South African Medical Association (Sama) and the nurses’ union Denosa have expressed concern over the deployment of the Cuban doctors. Sama termed their arrival “premature”, while Denosa described the South African government’s actions as “unpatriotic” in a context where many local nurses and doctors are sitting without work.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize defended the move at a media briefing on Tuesday night, telling journalists: “Cuban doctors will not take anyone’s post. They will be working alongside South Africans.”

Mkhize also said that currently unemployed local doctors and nurses should contact their provinces.

“We have fast-tracked new hires in the Eastern Cape. We would like to say, we will take in more doctors and healthcare workers. Provincial departments will indicate how to do this,” Mkhize said.

The Cuban doctors in South Africa were seemingly able to have their medical registration organised with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) within days, at an alleged cost of more than R700,000 to the South African government.

This has caused particular unhappiness in the South African Internationally Trained Health Professionals Association (SAITHPA), which put out a statement on Wednesday pointing out that their members – South African citizens who have obtained medical degrees from institutions outside South Africa – have battled for years to obtain registration with the HPCSA in order to be able to work.

SAITHPA’s statement read:

“Their bewilderment and disappointment in relation to the disregard shown by the HPCSA to them is now further enhanced by the recent importation of medical personnel from Cuba, as these unemployed medical graduates wonder why R440-million of money from their taxpaying parents has been used to import doctors whilst they remain unemployed and willing to serve through the necessary channels.”

Questioned about this issue at Tuesday’s press briefing, Mkhize said: “That one is a difficult one. Everyone has to be registered by the HPCSA. But some of them have challenges related to the schools where they trained.”

He advised local doctors in this position to take the matter up with the HPCSA – counsel which is certain to anger the relevant doctors, some of whom have been forced to approach the courts in recent years in response to the HPCSA’s intransigence.

Mkhize and other health officials have insisted that the Cuban doctors are necessary to bolster South Africa’s fight against Covid-19. Local doctors canvassed by Daily Maverick were in general agreement that the Cubans’ contribution would be welcome. As one put it: “Any doctor will be helpful.”

But the government still has pressing questions to answer: about the price tag of the mission, whether the expertise offered by the Cubans could truly not be replicated locally at a lower cost, and ultimately whether the real beneficiary of the deployment is South Africa, or perhaps the cash-strapped Cuban state. DM

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-04-30-is-the-deployment-of-cuban-doctors-to-sa-justified/

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Curacao Chronicle, May 27, 2015

Slave labor victims of Curaçao Dry Dock get nod enforce $67million USA claim

WILLEMSTAD – The quest by three modern-day slaves for US$80 million in restitution has come to the Singapore port of call. Three Cuban slave-labor victims were given the High Court’s go-ahead to enforce a US$50 million claim won in a United States court against any assets that the Curaçao dry dock has in Singapore.

The High Court rejected the bid by Curaçao Drydock Company to set aside the US judgment, making clear the claims were enforceable in Singapore as they were meant to compensate the victims, not punish the company.

“There is no purpose in setting aside a judgment if there is not going to be something to be gained by having a trial,” said Justice Lee Seiu Kin in judgment grounds released yesterday.

He clarified that a foreign judgment may be given effect under the common law if it satisfied the legal requirements of the court in Singapore.

The judge dismissed Curaçao Drydock’s appeal against an assistant registrar’s decision last year, thus rejecting its move to set aside the judgment.

The court enforcement order allows the Cubans to garnish, or seize, any monies owed by Singapore firms to Curaçao Drydock.

Singapore-registered ships, for instance, may owe Curaçao Drydock money after using its shipyard services, and these debts could be legally seized to settle the judgment sum.

Mr Alberto Licea (49); Mr Fernando Henandez (49); and Mr Luis Toledo (37), all ship construction technicians, were made to work 16-hour shifts in harsh conditions, doing demanding and dangerous tasks on ships and oil platforms for up to 15 days straight.

They were found to have suffered significant physical injuries which led to psychological damage while working for Curaçao Drydock.

They had been forced to travel and work there by the Cuban government as part of a scheme to pay off the country’s debts. The men escaped and went to Colombia in 2005 before they were allowed to enter the U.S.

When they sued the firm in the U.S. in 2007, Curaçao Drydock tried to have the case heard in Curaçao but failed. It abandoned its defense and lost the suit by default.

Miami federal district judge James King awarded the trio US$50 million as compensation and US$30 million as punitive damages in 2008, in a default judgment.

The US judge noted that they had suffered a harrowing experience, “in effect serving a hard-labour prison sentence with no end in a foreign land”.

Judge King added that Curaçao Drydock conspired with Cuba to force its citizens to travel and work there.

In Singapore, the three victims, through their lawyer, Mr. Sim Chong, sought to enforce the US$50 million judgment awarded for compensation and not the additional US$30 million in punitive damages. The latter is not recognized in Singapore, as argued by defense lawyer Syn Kok Kay.

It is understood that the three men, now based in Florida, have some way to go in their efforts to recover all the sums due to them.

Last December, through a court order they garnished US$82,618 owed by KGJ Cement (Singapore) to Curaçao Drydock, which KGJ handed to their lawyer.

According to a US report earlier this month, a Texas district court had late last year ordered US$2.6 million garnished from Liberia-based Formusa Brick Marine Corp, which owed the debt to Curaçao Drydock.

The issue is the subject of appeal.

http://curacaochronicle.com/politics/slave-labor-victims-of-curacao-dry-dock-get-nod-enforce-67million-usa-claim/

The Miami Herald, July 17, 2008

Cuba paid debts with forced labor, lawsuit says

BY FRANCES ROBLES

Each Cuban worker got two pairs of overalls, a set of sturdy boots, a helmet and food commensurate with how hard he worked.

Their labor fixing up American cruise ships at a Curacao dry dock was valued at $6.90 an hour. But the 108 Cuban shipyard hands who worked double shifts in a joint venture between the Cuban government and the Curacao Dry Dock Company did not get to spend their wages. Their earnings were applied to the Cuban government’s debt with the company, court records show.

Documents reviewed Wednesday by The Miami Herald in an ongoing 2006 lawsuit filed in Miami by the workers offer a rare glimpse at employment terms normally kept secret between the Cuban government and the firms with which it does business. The documents appear to offer proof that the government’s joint ventures abroad sometimes involve unpaid labor.

Instead of a salary, the men got money for food and 400 Cuban pesos a month — about $18 at the current exchange rate.

Three former dry-dock workers eventually escaped what their attorneys call a ”forced labor camp” in Willemstad, Curacao, and filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Miami, alleging the Cuban government offered them up as slave labor to pay off its debts.

Alberto Justo Rodríguez, Fernando Alonso Hernández and Luis Alberto Casanova Toledo — who now live in the Tampa Bay area — sued the Curacao Dry Dock Company, saying it forced them to work against their will while Cuban agents kept an eye on their every move.

Their boss at the docks: Fidel Castro’s nephew.

In court papers, the Curacao Dry Dock Company says allegations it forced employees to work 112 hours a week in substandard conditions are untrue. In a sweeping denial of wrongdoing, the company acknowledged it did not pay the Cubans and that managers held the workers’ passports “for safekeeping.”

”Because of the significant debt owed by . . . Havana to defendant for repairing ships . . . monies that defendant would otherwise pay to the Havana shipyard for the provision of temporary workers from Cuba are subtracted from the debt owed by the shipyard,” the company’s attorneys wrote in a court filing.

The suit was filed under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreigners to file civil suits in U.S. federal courts when a serious international law has been violated. It was unclear how much the Cuban government owed the company.

The court filing responding to the lawsuit added that the workers got a per diem and ”additional benefits.” Employment contracts show the men were supposed to receive $1,500 a month for a per diem, but the workers say they received only a $12 daily food allotment to spend at the company store.

Court documents also show that the dock’s production manager was Manuel de Jesus Bequer Soto Del Valle, the nephew of Fidel Castro’s wife, Dalia Soto Del Valle. The records show Bequer’s employment ended in April 2007 and he later sued the company.

Without detailing the cause of his lawsuit, the records show the company settled for $125,000.

Asked what Bequer was like, plaintiff Alonso Hernández said through his Miami attorney, Orlando do Campo: “Manuel Bequer was a despot — a Nazi. He had no regard for our health or well-being and personally put me in dangerous and hazardous situations. His only concern was to exploit the Cuban laborers to the fullest extent possible.”

The men said they worked 3 p.m. to 7 a.m. shifts 15 days in a row. They got days off only when the docks were empty, attorney John Andres Thornton said.

In the suit, attorneys allege that the Cuban government and the Curacao Dry Dock company formed the joint venture to repair ships as a way to skirt the U.S. trade embargo against the communist nation.

Now Thornton said the Cuban government has enacted revenge on the plaintiffs’ families — who are still on the island — by refusing their children access to day care and higher education.

The Curacao Dry Dock Company did not show up for depositions scheduled in Miami last week, and its Boca Raton attorneys want off the case. At a hearing Wednesday before U.S. District Judge James L. King, attorney Stephanie Traband asked the court to allow her Boca Raton firm, Proskauer Rose, to be removed from the case, citing irreconcilable differences.

The workers’ attorneys assert Curacao Dry Doce is trying to dodge the case — and a financial judgment against the firm — by not cooperating in the suit.

http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/human-rights/curacao.htm

https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/world/article24491479.html

The Miami Herald, October 28, 2006

Cuba accused of slavelike labor deal

Cuban shipyard workers say they were forced to work as modern slaves at a Curacao ship repair company

By Frances Robles. frobles@MiamiHerald.com.

The Cuban government conspired with a Curacao ship repair company to provide practically slave labor fixing up vessels, including Miami-based cruise ships, and kept workers under harsh conditions, a lawsuit filed in U.S. District court in Miami alleges.

The civil suit filed before Judge James Lawrence King alleges that up to 100 Cuban shipyard workers are forced to work against their will at Curacao Drydock Co., a ship repair company with an agent in Delray Beach, Klattenberg Marine Associates.

The suit, filed by three workers who escaped and now live in Florida, alleges they were ordered to work 16-hour shifts for $16 a month, a low wage common in their native Cuba.

”We started work at 3 in the afternoon and kept working until 7 a.m. the following day,” plaintiff Alberto Justo Rodríguez told The Miami Herald. “We worked in the worst, most uncomfortable parts of the ship. Where nobody wanted to go — that’s where they sent the Cubans.”

112 HOURS A WEEK

According to the suit, the men often worked 112 hours a week.

Their wage amounted to 3 ½ cents an hour.

The suit was filed two months ago and was first reported Friday by The Associated Press.

Rodríguez, a former shipyard worker in Cuba, was summoned to the Ministry of Transportation in 2001 for a mandatory transfer to Curacao. Upon arrival on the Caribbean island, he says, his passport was seized.

He and up to 100 other Cubans worked on a joint venture with the Cuban government and Curacao Drydock, a company that does shipyard repair, including work for U.S.-based cruise lines, oil companies and shipping firms.

The joint venture between the Cuban government and Curacao Drydock has Cuba providing the workers for the company, providing a source of cash for the Cuban government, the suit alleges.

Curacao Drydock, the suit alleges, knew the Cuban workers were being held against their will.

A written statement provided by Curacao Drydock attorney Matt Triggs to The Miami Herald says many of the suit’s allegations are directed at the Cuban government.

”There are allegations, however, regarding the health and safety of our employees that are of great concern to Curacao Drydock Co.,” the statement said, stressing that the company has safety measures in place. “Nevertheless, the company is undertaking a full investigation of the allegations.”

The suit claims the men were forced to labor in sweltering weather and dangerous conditions, like hanging from scaffolds. When Rodríguez broke his foot and ankle in 2002 while scraping rust from the hull of a ship, he was sent home to heal — and then ordered back after his recovery.

The suit claims plaintiff Luis Alberto Casanova once suffered an electric shock but was forced to finish his shift despite bleeding from his tongue.

The workers’ supervisors were other Cubans, including a nephew of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the suit alleges.

”They always told us if we didn’t work, they’d throw us out of the country, fire us and send us to jail,” Rodríguez said. “Really, we were slaves. We didn’t have a voice or a vote.”

FORCED VIEWING

On time off, Rodríguez said, they were forced to watch videos of political speeches, marches and the Cuban government Mesa Redonda — Round Table — TV news shows. He escaped in 2004 and now works odd jobs in Hialeah.

The suit was filed by Miami Beach lawyer John Andres Thornton under the Aliens Tort Act, which allows foreigners to file civil suits in U.S. federal courts when an international law has been violated.

Curacao Drydock has asked the judge to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction.

The suit seeks unspecified damages. No trial date has been set.

Co-plaintiffs Fernando Alonso Hernández worked in Curacao from 1995 until he fled in January 2005. He and the third plaintiff, Luis Alberto Casanova, who worked in Curacao from 2002 until 2005, now work in shipyards in Tampa.

One of the plaintiffs, Thornton said, now makes in an hour what he used to get in a month.

https://www.cubanet.org/htdocs/CNews/y06/nov06/02e13.htm