CubaBrief: Venezuelan Déjà Vu in Mexico. Hundreds of Cuban doctors arrive in Mexico. Conversation on medical brigades

Venezuelan attorney and human rights defender Tamara Suju Roa, of the CASLA Institute, writing in La Patilla on May 25th warns of steps taken by the Mexican government that give her a sense of déjà vu with the path taken by Hugo Chavez to consolidate power in Venezuela. Mexico’s President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), is seeking to amend the constitution, militarize domestic policing, and set up a “happiness index”. These were all steps taken by Hugo Chavez at the start of his presidency in Venezuela twenty years ago.

Meanwhile, President López Obrador achieved an objective denied him since he took power in December 2018, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, he was finally able to bring in hundreds of Cuban doctors and subsidize the Castro dictatorship. Victor Hugo Becerra on May 27th writing in the Pan Am Post on this subject speculated that the Mexican president’s statement that the deadly pandemic “fit like a glove” was made because he had used the pretext of this crisis to reach this goal.

The Yucatan Times in their May 16th article, “More than 800 Cuban health professionals are working in Mexico,” reported that “AMLO’s government pays the Cuban doctors room and board and wages of more than $5,000 US dollars a month.” This is nearly six times what Mexican health workers are paid. (This is $1,600 more than the $3,400 Brazil paid the Castro regime for each Cuban health worker. Each Cuban health worker in Brazil was paid $790 per month.) This is at the same time that Mexican doctors are receiving unfair salaries, terrible benefits, and go days without food. Similar to other governments that have these arrangements with the Castro regime,  “AMLO’s government has repeatedly denied access to information about exact and real numbers. How many doctors and health professionals are in the country, and how much this “help” costs Mexico.”

However, through sources within the federal government’s Health Secretariat it was learned there are “almost 800 Cuban doctors and health workers” now working in Mexico to deal with COVID-19. This translates into $4 million dollars per month and $48 million dollars per year. This money is not going to Cuban doctors, but the Castro regime in an arrangement that UN human rights experts equate with human trafficking and “forced labor.”

Jason Poblete in a presentation, made public by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation on Youtube on May 26, 2020, outlined this illicit practice and explored legal avenues for redress on behalf of the Cuban health workers, who are victims of human trafficking.

This move is not popular in Mexico. There is not a shortage of Mexican medical doctors, but there is a shortage of funds to provide them positions in medical institutions and 20,000 new graduates in medicine per year are unable to find work. There is also a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) that has led to many health workers getting sick and placed in quarantine. This subsidy to the Castro regime does not help on the PPE front and does not help unemployed Mexican doctors. This has been going on for some time.

However, there is also a security concern with this influx of Cuban doctors into Mexico.

Mexico’s former Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Jorge Castañeda Gutman, in Latinus Opinion on April 7, 2020 provided a critical reflection on the idea of Cuban doctors being brought to Mexico by President López Obrador, before their arrival was announced.  Castañeda  warned that “among the doctors there are Cuban security and intelligence personnel. Not all the doctors are spies, but many of the spies are doctors. This is something well known because Cuban medical missions abroad have a long history, going back to the mid 1970s in Angola.”

Andres Oppenheimer warned in a May 17th OpEd published in El Nuevo Herald that If AMLO “is not transparent about Mexico’s deal with Cuba, we may be looking at a shady political giveaway of tens of millions of dollars to the island, on top of a violation of international human-rights and labor conventions.

All of this also needs to be viewed through the context of the existing Cuban health care system. Rosa María Payá on May 14, 2020 on the program Agora Live by the  Fundación para el Progreso gave a presentation in Spanish that answered the question “Does Cuba have the best healthcare system?” and answered that it was not in a half hour long discussion that touched not only on hospitals in terrible conditions but also larger failures in overall public health.

It is important to point out that it was not always that way.  The absence of human rights in Cuba, which includes the outlawing of independent labor unions and the right to strike for better living conditions and the absence of a free press means that living standards have collapsed, and that includes healthcare. This also means that today information on the COVID-19 pandemic provided by the Cuban government is not reliable. Within the context of a pandemic that can lead to disastrous consequences as we have seen in China a regime that shares the same ideology as Cuba’s.

There will be an opportunity tomorrow to probe into the Castro regime’s medical missions. Rosa María Payá will be taking part in a “Conversation about the Root of Evil in Latin America and the Cuban Communist Medical Brigades” on Thursday, May 28, 2020 at 1:00pm. This is part of a series of lectures organized by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation on Cuba’s Communist Threat. It will be in English and you can register to participate in the online event here.

La Patilla, May 25, 2020

Mexico, the Venezuelan Déjà Vu.

 By Tamara Suju Roa

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Resting on his ostentatious seat of power, with his petrodollar checkbook in hand that he spent throughout the world financing candidacies, political parties and other works, and forgetting completely about Venezuela’s development, Chávez boasted, in the year 2008, that our country had one of the highest indexes of “happiness” in the world according to a study published at the time and authored by a scientist from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. Chávez also noted that Cubans were happy as well, and stated he was certain Cuba occupied first place in the Caribbean. Those were the days that the country was busy with great demonstrations; Chávez had shut down RCTV, the oldest and most popular television channel in Venezuela, and about 30 radio stations; he was holding several political prisoners and activists he persecuted; and a great number of workers were unemployed as a result of losing their positions and jobs due to the closing down, or confiscation, of factories and private enterprises.

Not content with lagging behind, in 2013 Maduro created the Deputy Ministry of the People’s Happiness, whose objective it was to coordinate the government’s social programs. Could there be greater mockery? Impossible. 

Among the different strokes of similarity that the government of president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) is showing in Mexico, we point out his verbal incontinence when expressing populist ideas, even in the midst of the major world health tragedy we are going through at this time. Not long ago, AMLO was calling on his people to go back outdoors and to not let the economy collapse, as if nothing were happening, and he was seen kissing and hugging children in order to show that everything was as normal as usual. Reality and condemnation about his actions has made him react, and today Mexico occupies tenth place in deaths due to the virus, with 8,103 cases reported, 71,860 testing positive, and 2,333 new cases in the last 24 hours. 

Last Thursday, AMLO announced that he was working on a new “Happiness” index, different from the GDP. He stated: “Yes, it will measure growth, but also wellbeing, degrees of social inequality; it will be known if there is growth and less inequality… and another ingredient in these new parameters: the people’s happiness.”  Now, we already know how these metrics turn out in populist governments. 

AMLO also announced that the National Armed Forces (FAN, its Spanish acronym) will secure the streets for no more than 5 years –he said- until such time as his newly-created National Guard “develops its structure, its capacity and until it has completed its territorial deployment.” Urban security will thus be militarized, which reminds us Venezuelans of the worst memories of the time when Chávez and his government became unpopular, losing more and more support as social discontent increased, only to bring about harassment and repression, death and suffering. At present, that repressive Venezuelan FAN is what is keeping Nicolas Maduro in power, and it is doing so from its High Command which is involved in corruption and drug trafficking, and is complicit –by commission and omission- in crimes against humanity. 

MORENA, AMLO’s political party, has proposed that the Constitution be amended (Chavez’s best weapon for consolidating power) in order for the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI, its Spanish acronym) to review citizens’ estates and have access to their financial information, for the purpose of measuring the concentration of wealth in the country. I cannot help but remember when Hugo Chavez proposed -in the context of his policy against large unproductive estates, and alleged “financial monopolies of production”- to confiscate (read steal) farms, livestock, and private enterprises that he turned into smallholdings which today lay abandoned, the land destroyed, and companies gone bankrupt, their infrastructure left to rot.

Chavez only wanted to take over the private sector in order to monopolize and centralize the economy, and through that, to control all of society, which slowly was becoming impoverished, with a reduction of jobs, the decimation of the middle class, and by monopolizing the most needy with coupons and bags of groceries that today do not alleviate hunger or a Venezuelan family’s needs, forcing many people to look for food in garbage bins in order to survive. 

The as-yet timid predictions that are being made in Mexico about where AMLO is headed with his policies during this pandemic; with the grassroots empowerment of the military taking over urban and daily security; and the judicial fragility that the private sector –the great job creator- is facing with regard to its assets and wealth; all this should be an alert for all Mexicans. Let Venezuela be a mirror to you, so that you can see yourselves and the “achievements of the revolution of the 21st century” in that mirror. 

Let us fantasize for a moment that Chavez is alive. Who could doubt all the praise he would bestow upon the Mexican head of state. He might even dedicate a musical number to him in one of those horrible Sunday programs: “You are so much like me, that you can’t fool me”…

Panam Post, May 27, 2020

Cuban to Send Indentured Medical Workers to Mexico

Mexico, under López Obrador, joins the shameful list of countries that support the Cuban dictatorship.

By Victor Hugo Becerra

University hospital in Cuba (Photo: Flickr).

University hospital in Cuba (Photo: Flickr).

Spanish – A couple of weeks ago, President López Obrador claimed that the COVID-19 pandemic had “fit like a glove.” There was much debate at the time about the meaning of his words, which were, to say the least, inappropriate given the tragedy of hundreds of deaths that were already beginning to occur.

In light of what has been published over the last few days, he may have been referring to the fact that he finally achieved the goal he had been seeking for some time: to grant a lifeline to the Cuban dictatorship, by “hiring” between 590 and 800 Cuban doctors (I say “doctors” for the sake of convenience, since in reality they also include nurses, paramedics, therapists, stretcher operators, and other health care workers) to work in Mexico, the majority (supposedly 720 of them) concentrated in the country’s capital. This information is based on reports from the Mexico City authorities. It was necessary to provide transportation, food, and lodging to the professionals mentioned above in several hotels in the city. Hotels were forced to give up their rooms without compensation to “cooperate” in the official efforts against the pandemic. The federal government has been blunt about this.

López Obrador first signaled his intention to bring in Cuban doctors as soon as he came to power. He wanted to receive the thousands of doctors who were suddenly leaving Brazil. Then, in view of the scandal that was sparked, the Mexican president claimed that such information was untrue.

Today, it is proven, once again, that the López Obrador was the one who lied, the one who has become a serial liar. According to the organization SPIN-Political Communication Workshop, the president has made almost 25,000 “untrue statements” during his “morning” conferences since he came to power in December 2018.  It should be no surprise that if he ranks first-place finish in the Guinness Book of Records as the most deceitful leader on the planet.

These doctors are part of the Medical Brigades program maintained by the Cuban dictatorship to send health workers to almost 70 countries- a total of 55,000 active workers. Such services are not free or merely out of solidarity: the dictatorship pockets between eight and 11.5 billion dollars with them every year, an amount that quadruples the island’s tourism income and is equivalent to about 6% of its GDP. The human trafficking business helps stabilize the Castro dictatorship’s decadent economy.

A noteworthy feature of the Cuban program is that it is a copy of the system imposed by North Korea in 1967 during the administration of Kim II-Sung, grandfather of the current ruler, Kim Jong Un, to exploit low-skilled labor in inhumane conditions. It is an improved copy because this is supposedly skilled labor. One might, however, wonder how qualified these professionals might be, given the inability of the Cuban health system to put an end to epidemics such as scabies or dengue fever in its own territory, or the not very reassuring reports about the real professional competence of these doctors.

It is an open secret that such doctors are, in fact, “undercover agents” that Havana uses to raise revenue and promote the revolution. Thus, most are forced to report to Castro’s Intelligence and Counterintelligence in the countries where they are posted, doing propaganda and coercion work in favor of leftist regimes. It is also important to note that many of the so-called doctors are merely spies. Their mission is to gather information about each country and infiltrate institutions such as the army, intelligence services, and telecommunications.

The members of these medical missions are, in reality, indentured: they face pressure to enlist and are threatened with reprisals by the Cuban government if they do not participate. When they arrive in a foreign country, their passports are held to prevent them from deserting, and they are forbidden to travel with their families. The families are used as hostages in case of bad behavior or desertion. They are abused at the job, and work up to 64 hours per week, often including weekends.

Additionally, these missions are infiltrated by spies who keep an eye on the doctors day and night. They are threatened or sexually harassed regularly, forbidden to make local friends or have love affairs without first reporting them. They are also not allowed to marry without asking permission, cannot drive, and are restricted from moving around. The doctors are forbidden to use cell phones or talk to the press. If they flee, they are sentenced to three to eight years in prison under Article 135 of the Cuban Penal Code or are prohibited from returning to Cuba. Their families and friends suffer various consequences: demotion of their jobs on the island, eviction from their homes, confiscation of “saved” funds, and broad social stigma, ostracism, and threats. There are many direct testimonies to this system of indentured servitude.

In return, the doctors only receive about 20% of their salaries, while 75% go to the Cuban dictatorship, and the remaining 5% to the Pan-American Health Organization, which shamefully acts as an intermediary in the business.

Moreover, of the 20% that the healthcare workers are supposed to receive, they get only half while they are on the mission. The other half is withheld in Havana to pressure them to return. 

How much is the Mexican government paying for each doctor? The government has not declared this, but the amount paid to the Cuban dictatorship would be about 3,600 USD per worker. In Brazil, for example, Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff paid the Cuban government 3,400 USD a month for each member of the health brigade, of which the doctors were supposed to keep about 390 dollars, and another 390 was deposited in Cuba. This amount is nevertheless an important income for them since a doctor in Cuba can earn only 80 USD a month. But it does not change the fact that there is shameless exploitation of their hunger and need.

The government of López Obrador in Mexico is helping to perpetuate an immoral slave system, condemned even by the United Nations, as it sends people to a country to provide a service, but in exchange, the Cuban government keeps most of the money. Thanks to the government of the fourth transformation, we Mexicans have become accomplices to the most aberrant violations of human rights.

I also want to point out that we do not know how the presence of Cuban agents in Mexico will affect our relationship with the United States. Given López Obrador’s improvised handling of the COVID-19 crisis (and all of his government’s issues in general), it would not be surprising if he did not consider this other facet. We complain about being Trump’s “electoral piñata” in the United States, but we are not helping ourselves with our own bad decisions.

Yucatan Times, May 16, 2020

More than 800 Cuban health professionals are working in Mexico.

By Yucatan Times

While the Mexican doctors receive unfair salaries, ridiculous benefits, and long days without food, AMLO’s government pays the Cuban doctors room and board and wages of more than 5,000 US dollars a month.

MEXICO (Efe/Times Media Mexico) – According to sources in the federal government’s Health Secretariat, almost 800 Cuban doctors and health workers are operating in Mexico to deal with the coronavirus, COVID-19.

The Health Secretariat explained that they had been directly attending to a delegation of Cuban doctors for several weeks. They supported with lodging, food, and transportation to medical centers.

The capital’s Secretariat of Economic Development (Sedeco) told EFE that they have a count of 800 Cuban doctors, nurses, and health professionals who are staying in Mexico City.

The hotels have been granted by businessmen in exchange for the federal government’s benefits to accommodate these health professionals. In recent days, an article was published explaining that several of these Cuban doctors were staying at the Hotel Imperial, on Paseo de la Reforma.

The information added that most of the doctors – up to 720 – worked in Mexico City and its suburbs, where there are more cases. However, some were sent to other states.

“We have a health cooperation agreement with Cuba for some time now. In particular, now for the attention of the pandemic, several Cuban doctors and nurses are here, in different hospitals of the city“, said last Friday the head of Government of the CDMX, Claudia Sheinbaum under the excuse that Mexico suffers from a deficit of doctors and nurses, which has been proved false, since there are plenty of health professionals, except the federal government does not want to pay them full wages.

The collaboration is in conjunction with the Institute of Health for Welfare (Insabi), the Ministry of Health of the Government of Mexico City, and the Cuban government, said Claudia Sheinbaum. “It is part of this international collaboration. It is good that these nurses and nurse specialists are supporting us in a critical way in Mexico City,” she said.

On April 24, the federal Health Secretariat published an agreement in the Official Journal of the Federation (DOF), establishing that “for the duration of the health emergency generated by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, health professionals with training abroad” could be hired.

The Undersecretary for Prevention and Health Promotion, Hugo López-Gatell, explained at the time that Mexico City had indeed identified collaboration with the Cuban doctors. “The role of this personnel is to help with the enormous experience that the members of the Republic of Cuba’s health team have in public health, at this moment it is vital,” (SIC) said Lopez-Gatell.

On April 8, Mexico’s Foreign Ministry reported the arrival of ten Cuban experts to evaluate the COVID-19 pandemic but without providing “medical services to the population”. The visit of the Cuban specialists represents a sample of the historical friendship that Mexico has in Cuba,” the Foreign Ministry said.

In the days following this date, based on this agreement in Mexico City, hundreds of more Cuban doctors would have arrived, with hardly any publicity done when medical material has come from the United States or China.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) has avoided reporting the exact number of Cuban doctors. It has sent EFE’s request for information to the press officers in Mexico City.

The “medical missions,” as they are called in Cuba, consisting of sending health professionals to countries requesting it from the Cuban government. This aid is not free, and it is the Cuban government that collects the salaries of the doctors and other health professionals who work in a near-slavery scheme.

According to figures from April 30, provided by the Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, dozens of them have been sent to Caribbean countries such as Dominica, Barbados, Grenada, Suriname, or Belize. While 31 professionals were sent to Honduras, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and in Mexico, according to Cuban authorities, “technical assistance” was sent, without specifying the number of health personnel.

In Africa, delegations were also sent to Togo, South Africa, Angola, and Cape Verde. And finally to countries like Italy, Qatar, or Andorra.

In practically all cases, Cuba has made public the departure of each brigade. Before the exit to the country of destination, a farewell ceremony is held for the professionals who are traveling in the facilities of the Central Unit of Medical Cooperation, on the outskirts of Havana.

AMLO’s government has repeatedly denied access to information about exact and real numbers. How many doctors and health professionals are in the country, and how much this “help” costs Mexico.

El Nuevo Herald, May 17, 2020

Cuban doctors in Mexico may be pawns in a shady giveaway and human rights abuse

The Oppenheimer Report 

Mexico’s populist government claims to protect the oppressed, but it has silently invited at least 590 Cuban health workers to Mexico City despite United Nations and human rights groups’ assessments that Cuba’s medical missions abroad may amount to slave labor.

To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with Mexico inviting foreign doctors to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. And there would be nothing wrong with Mexico inviting Cuban doctors, if it were done transparently and within international human rights standards. But that doesn’t seem to be the case here.

Between 590 and 800 Cuban doctors have arrived in Mexico City in recent weeks, according to a report quoting the Spanish news agency EFE’s government sources. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s government has given few details about the Cuban doctors’ arrival.

“We have a health cooperation agreement with Cuba for some time now, particularly now that we need it to face the pandemic, several Cuban physicians are in the city, in different hospitals, (as well as) nurses,” Mexico City’s government-backed mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said on May 15.

The doctors’ gradual arrival has coincided with the arrival of a 20-member Cuban medical brigade in Honduras, and with Argentina’s announcement that it plans to bring in at least 200 Cuban doctors to help fight the pandemic.

In November, the United Nations special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery and the U.N. special rapporteur on trafficking in persons said in a letter to Cuban authorities that the island’s medical missions abroad “could amount to forced labor.”

Cuban doctors abroad only get about 20% of their wages, while about 75% goes to the Cuban dictatorship, and 5% to the Pan American Health Organization, which has shamefully brokered several host countries’ medical cooperation agreements with Cuba.

What’s just as alarming, many of the so-called “Cuban doctors” abroad are not even doctors. Bolivia’s interim government said in March that of the 702 Cuban medical workers deployed in the country until recently, only 202 were medical doctors.

In recent days, I talked with two former members of Cuba’s medical missions abroad. Like many others, they had enrolled because the pay was much better than in Cuba.

While doctors in Cuba make only between $20 and $40 a month, the Brazilian government used to pay Cuba $3,400 a month per doctor, of which the Cuban doctors were allowed to keep up to $790 a month.

Dr. Fidel Cruz, who served in Venezuela and Brazil until he defected in 2016, told me that as soon as he arrived in Venezuela, his passport was taken away at the airport. His minders from the Cuban government didn’t let him leave home after 6 p.m. or invite Venezuelans to his place, he told me.

At election time, Cuban doctors were asked to campaign for Hugo Chavez, and later for Nicolas Maduro.

“We were specifically asked to pick up people at their homes, and to take them to the voting places,” Cruz told me. “And when we saw patients, we had to tell them that ‘if you don’t vote for Maduro, we may have to leave the country next month, and you’ll be left without our medical services.”

Dr. Rossella Rivero, who also defected in Brazil in 2016, told me that when Cuban doctors desert, their families back home often suffer retaliations. She said that one of her children, also a physician, was demoted from his job as a practicing doctor and forced to fumigate homes against dengue-fever mosquitoes for two years.

Granted, Mexico may need foreign doctors. But it should hire them directly and individually, not as if they were owned by the Cuban regime.

And Lopez Obrador, who claims to be a crusader against corruption, should disclose how much Mexico is paying Cuba for these missions. If Mexico pays Cuba the $3,400 a month per physician that Brazil paid, it would be paying four times more than it pays most Mexican doctors.

If he is not transparent about Mexico’s deal with Cuba, we may be looking at a shady political giveaway of tens of millions of dollars to the island, on top of a violation of international human-rights and labor conventions.



Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald, 3511 N.W. 91 Avenue, Doral, Fla. 33172; email: