CubaBrief: Hundreds of Cuban doctors join case against the Castro regime denouncing overseas medical program as a form of slavery at the Int’l Criminal Court.

The word “slavery” is a powerful term with heavy baggage and should not be used lightly. 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 both special rapporteurs indicated that “according to forced labor indicators established by the International Labor Organization. Forced labor constitutes a contemporary form of slavery.”

“Last year, Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, described the medical corps programme as “a system of modern slavery”. It involved “tens of thousands of people who are forced to live abroad without knowing where they are going next, whose passports are confiscated, who are controlled by intelligence agents and have most of their earnings confiscated by the Cuban government”, he said.”

Today, Agence France Presse revealed that 622 doctors had joined a case against the Castro regime at the International Criminal Court accusing their overseas medical program as a form of slavery. “Speaking in Madrid, Cuban Prisoners Defenders president Dr Javier Larrondo said the doctors had given accounts that were “identical or very similar” showing they had suffered from “slavery”.”

Yesterday, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, introduced the Combating Trafficking of Cuban Doctors Act. The new legislation seeks to strengthen accountability for the Cuban regime’s documented human trafficking and exploitation of Cuban doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals through overseas medical missions.

Below is the AFP article from today and the statement released yesterday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

AFP NEWS, September 22, 2020

More Medics Join ICC ‘Slavery’ Case Against Cuba

AFP – Agence France Presse September 22, 2020

Hundreds more Cuban medics have joined a case against Havana at the International Criminal Court, accusing the government of submitting its overseas medical corps to “slavery”, an NGO said on Tuesday.

The medical corps, a flagship initiative started in the 1960s, is one of the Cuban government’s most lucrative sources of income and employs thousands of professionals in dozens of countries.

But the lawsuit accuses former president Raul Castro and current leader Miguel Diaz-Canel of crimes against humanity for running a programme that acts as a form of modern slavery.

The Cuban Prisoners Defenders (CPD) advocacy group and a political group called the Cuban Patriotic Union filed the case in May 2019, initially including 110 testimonies by doctors.

But last month hundreds more joined the case, which now counts the testimonies of 622 doctors, the CPD said.

Speaking in Madrid, CPD president Dr Javier Larrondo said the doctors had given accounts that were “identical or very similar” showing they had suffered from “slavery”.

Last year, Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, described the medical corps programme as “a system of modern slavery”.

It involved “tens of thousands of people who are forced to live abroad without knowing where they are going next, whose passports are confiscated, who are controlled by intelligence agents and have most of their earnings confiscated by the Cuban government”, he said.

Dr Manoreys Rojas, a trauma specialist, told reporters that since giving up his position in Ecuador in 2015, he had not been allowed back to see his family in Cuba and was even refused entry when his daughter attempted suicide in 2018.

“I have tried to see them in various different ways and I’ve not been able to,” he said, fighting back tears.

The case, which has been shrugged off by Havana, centres on Cuba’s decades-old tradition of “medical diplomacy” in which teams of medical professionals, mostly doctors, are sent to work abroad for three-year periods during which most of their salaries are paid directly to the Cuban government.

A cornerstone of Cuban foreign policy, the programme is the island’s most important source of income bringing in $11 billion in revenue between 2011 and 2015 — outstripping money earned from foreign remittance, tourism and nickel exports.

But that income has dropped in recent years largely because of the crisis in Venezuela, where more than 20,000 medics had been working, and Havana’s decision to cancel the programme in Brazil following the rise of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro.

Created in 1963, the medical corps was one of the flagship initiatives of the revolution led by the late Fidel Castro. By the end of 2018, there were 34,000 professionals working in 66 countries under the scheme.

This story was produced by AFP. For more information go to AFP.com.

© Agence France-Presse

https://www.barrons.com/news/more-medics-join-icc-slavery-case-against-cuba-01600789506

United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee, September 21, 2020

Menendez, Rubio Unveil New Effort to Combat Trafficking of Cuban Doctors

Bipartisan legislation strengthens accountability for the Cuban regime’s human trafficking schemes and supports Cuban medical professionals serving overseas

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WASHINGTON — The legislation reaffirms the U.S. commitment to defending democratic values and human rights in Cuba, and re-establishes the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program in order to allow eligible Cuban medical professionals, and their immediate family, to come to the United States.

“Cuba’s medical missions abroad are not humanitarian, but in fact a calculated, coercive money-making scheme by a regime relying on indentured servitude to fill its coffers,” said Ranking Member Menendez. “The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us all of the selfless sacrifices and the global need for frontline workers, particularly doctors and nurses. But we all must recognize that garnishing the wages of Cuban medical professionals, withholding their passports, retaliating against their family members, and subjecting them to other forms of coercion represents nothing less than state-sponsored human trafficking. We are introducing this legislation out of a bipartisan commitment to hold the Cuban regime accountable for these abuses and offer protection to its victims here in the United States.” 

“I’m proud to join Senator Menendez in introducing this important bill, which highlights how these so-called missions violate the human rights of Cuban medical professionals and also re-establishes the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program suspended by the Obama Administration,” said Senator Rubio. “Through the diplomatic scam of foreign ‘medical missions’, the Cuban regime has perfected the art of state-sponsored human exploitation while illegally enriching themselves. The U.S. must stand in support of the Cuban medical professionals who are subjected to deplorable working conditions, confiscation of their legal forms of identification, and significantly reduced compensation.”

A copy of the Combating Trafficking of Cuban Doctors Act of 2020 can be found HERE.  Key elements of the legislation include: 

  • Requires a new State Department annual report documenting conditions in each country where Cuba has deployed foreign medical missions, including a determination as to whether such conditions qualify as severe forms of trafficking in persons per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.

  • Re-establishes the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program that ended in January 2017, in order to allow eligible Cuban medical professionals, and their immediate family, to come to the United States. 

  • Expresses the sense of Congress that Cuban medical professionals are subjected to state-sponsored human trafficking and calls for Cuban medical personnel to be fully compensated for their work.

  • Recognizes evidence that the Cuban regime’s deployment of Cuban doctors during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as through the Mais Médicos program in Brazil between 2013 and 2018, constitute human trafficking, and documents concerns by the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery and the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons.

  • Requires the Departments of State and Health and Human Services to implement a balanced approach to address the Pan American Health Organization’s role in the Mais Médicos program—mandating transparency and accountability, preventing future support for Cuban medical missions, and ensuring PAHO has necessary funding to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and other health needs in the region.

https://www.foreign.senate.gov/press/ranking/release/menendez-rubio-unveil-new-effort-to-combat-trafficking-of-cuban-doctors