CubaBrief: Looking back at Fidel Castro five years after the tyrant’s death and new reports of his involvement in human trafficking coming to light

Fidel Castro died five years ago on November 25, 2016. The Cuban tyrant died at the age of 90 never having had to answer for his many crimes against humanity both in and out of Cuba. From Nicaragua, to Ethiopia, to Venezuela, and in many other places Fidel Castro and his brother Raul assisted tyrants and dictators to take power, hold on to it, and consolidate their rule. This legacy of oppression continues with a generational succession underway and the Castro dynasty positioning itself for continued rule in the island.

The Miami Herald is speculating on internal conflicts in the regime, but all indications are that Raul Castro, and his family are in control of the dictatorship. The questions arising out of the mass protests in July 2021: Is the Cuban autocracy losing control over the population? and Is the propaganda facade of the Castro dictatorship imploding and the real nature of the regime revealed to a wider audience?

There are reasons for optimism.

Cuban doctors trafficked by the Castro regime.

Global Voices reported on November 22, 2021 that “Cuba’s million-dollar health business is based on two pillars: a high-quality service on the island for foreigners, and the massive exportation of health professionals through medical missions. This lucrative model has allowed the government to spread propaganda and sell an altruistic façade, while Cubans have to endure hospital collapse and the doctors who are taking part in these missions are subjected to all kinds of violations of their rights.”

Cuban doctors are speaking out inside and outside of Cuba on regime abuses, and the failed health care system.

Frances Robles reporting in The New York Times on August 17, 2021 described how “after Cuba’s prime minister, Manuel Marrero Cruz, said that Cubans were complaining more about doctors and their poor service than they were about the shortages … nearly two dozen young physicians and medical students took to social media to state, one by one: “I am publicly declaring that doctors are not to blame for the collapse of the public health system.”

Sarah Marsh of Reuters on August 18, 2021 described it as a “rare public denunciation of conditions in the island’s hallowed health care system” and made reference to consequences for speaking out critically, but did not provide a specific example. For example, Desi Mendoza Rivero, a 43-year-old doctor and father of four children, was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment in connection with his critique of the authorities’ handling of a dengue fever epidemic in Cuba in 1997. Amnesty International recognized him as a prisoner of conscience, and eventually he was able to leave prison for forced exile in Spain.

“Slavery” is a powerful word with heavy baggage and should not be used lightly. Ms. Urmila Bhoola, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery along with Ms Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons sent a letter on November 6, 2019, to the Cuban government regarding the regime’s medical missions in which both special rapporteurs indicated that “reported working conditions could rise to forced labor, according to forced labor indicators established by the International Labor Organization. Forced labor is a contemporary form of slavery.”

This extends beyond doctors to the case of an under age girl trafficked by the Castro regime to develop a relationship with an Argentine rock star.

Mavys Álvarez Rego testified that she was trafficked, raped, and held against her will.

Mavys Álvarez Rego, a 37-year-old Cuban woman, who now lives in Miami, “told the press in Buenos Aires how she met Maradona at age 16, when the star, then in his forties, lived in Cuba, where he was undergoing drug treatment,” reported The New Indian Express on November 23, 2021. The mother of two “accused the late Argentine idol and his entourage on Monday of violence and abuse, including rape and holding her against her will.” She also “mentioned several other episodes of physical violence.” Álvarez Rego has not filed a complaint herself but gave evidence on November 18th in Buenos Aires to an Argentine prosecutor in connection with a complaint brought by the Argentine NGO Foundation for Peace and Climate Change.

Visa authorized by Fidel Castrp of underage minor Mavys Álvarez Rego .

Mavys Álvarez reports she was forced to get breast implants after being groomed and flown to Argentina from her native Cuba by Maradona’s associates, without the permission of her parents.” Cubans in 2001 were not allowed to travel outside of the island. Fidel Castro gave the authorization for the minor to travel with Maradona. According to Mavys Álvarez, “the only way to travel was either with the permission of the parents, being at least 18 years old, or through Fidel. Maradona was able to get the authorization and she traveled out of the country in November 2001.

Mavys Alvarez (then 16), Fidel Castro, and Diego Maradona (then 40) in 2001

The case of Mavys Álvarez Rego is important because it exposes Fidel Castro’s direct involvement in the trafficking of an underage Cuban girl to win the support of an Argentine soccer player.

Olivia Enos in her July 6, 2011 article “Shame on Cuba: Blind Eye to Human Trafficking” published in The Daily Signal underestimated the role of the Cuban dictatorship, but reported on what was taking place on the island nation. “If the girls give me trouble I hurt them.” These are the words of human trafficker Aktham Zuhair Salem Madanat. Known for trafficking girls from Cuba to the United Kingom, Madanat had no qualms about openly discussing how he lured 10- and 11-year-old girls into the sex trade. In fact, Madanat is one of many involved in the lucrative human trafficking market throughout Cuba and beyond.”

We now know that Fidel Castro engaged in the practice to advance his international image by befriending individuals such as Diego Maradona, and sacrificing the lives of Cuban girls to do it.

The Miami Herald, November 24, 2021

Castrismo’ rejected: Long shadow of Fidel doesn’t loom as large anymore | Editorial

By the Miami Herald Editorial Board

Updated November 24, 2021 9:37 AM

Fidel Castro gives a speech on Sept. 3, 2010, at the University of Havana. Adalbetro Roque Getty Images

Fidel Castro died five years ago this week, but his looming shadow and legacy of oppressing the Cuban people are alive and well.

A week ago, Cuban state police fanned out and squelched plans for massive demonstrations across the island, all in the name of preserving the spirit of Castro’s 1959 Revolution. The regime did the same with the summer demonstrations in July, but only after hundreds of Cubans had poured out into the streets in defiance. For the regime, the protests were a bad look.

On Nov, 15, it strangled planned protests before they could take flight.

https://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/article256034617.html


The New Indian Express, November 23, 2021

Cuban woman says Diego Maradona abused and raped her

Mavys Alvarez Rego, who now lives in Miami, told the press in Buenos Aires how she met Maradona at 16, when the star, then in his forties, lived in Cuba, where he was undergoing drug treatment.

Published: 23rd November 2021 04:25 PM

Mavys Alvarez shows a photograph of her with Diego Maradona and Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba, at a press conference in Buenos Aires, Nov 22, 2021. (Photo | AP)

By AFP

BUENOS AIRES: A 37-year-old Cuban woman, who had an affair with Diego Maradona as a minor 20 years ago, accused the late Argentine idol and his entourage on Monday of violence and abuse, including rape and holding her against her will.

Mavys Alvarez Rego, who now lives in Miami, told the press in Buenos Aires how she met Maradona at 16, when the star, then in his forties, lived in Cuba, where he was undergoing drug treatment.

“I was dazzled, he won me over… But after two months everything started to change”, she said, claiming that Maradona, who died from a heart attack a year ago at the age of 60, had pushed her into trying cocaine, in turn making her dependent.

“I loved him but I hated him too, I even thought about suicide,” she said.

Maradona is widely considered to be one of the greatest footballers in history and inspired Argentina to the 1986 World Cup.

He died last year after undergoing brain surgery on a blood clot, and after decades of battles with cocaine and alcohol addictions.

Alvarez Rego, a mother of two children aged 15 and four, said her relationship with Maradona lasted “between four and five years” but that she was subjected to abuse.

She claimed that during a trip to Buenos Aires with Maradona in 2001, she had been held against her will for several weeks in a hotel by Maradona’s entourage, banned from going out alone, and forced into a breast augmentation operation.

She also claimed that Maradona had “raped” her on one occasion at their home in Havana and mentioned several other episodes of physical violence.

Alvarez Rego has not filed a complaint herself but is giving evidence this week in Buenos Aires to an Argentine prosecutor in connection with a complaint brought by an Argentine NGO.

The organization, called “Foundation for Peace,” filed the complaint after seeing her confessions in the American media in recent weeks.

The complaint relates in particular to human trafficking, deprivation of liberty, forced servitude, assault and battery.

Alvarez Rego said she was speaking out after so many years of silence in order to balance some of the stories that were being told in a TV series about Maradona in the run-up to the first anniversary of his death on November 25.

She suggested that she would not be initiating further proceedings.

“I have done what I had to do, the rest I leave to the courts,” she said.

“I achieved my goal: to say what happened to me, to prevent it from happening to others, or at least so that other girls feel the strength, the courage to speak up.”

Five members of Maradona’s entourage who have been implicated have all denied the allegations via their lawyers. One has filed a counter-complaint against the NGO for slander.

https://www.newindianexpress.com/sport/football/2021/nov/23/cuban-woman-says-diego-maradona-abused-and-raped-her-2387163.html


Global Voices, November 22, 2021

‘Neglect at home, profits abroad’: Cuba’s medical system

Cuba exports medical missions while Cubans denounce collapse of healthcare at home.

This article is an excerpt from an investigation by Diario de Cuba and CONNECTAS, republished in Global Voices.

Cuba’s million-dollar health business is based on two pillars: a high-quality service on the island for foreigners, and the massive exportation of health professionals through medical missions. This lucrative model has allowed the government to spread propaganda and sell an altruistic façade, while Cubans have to endure hospital collapse and the doctors who are taking part in these missions are subjected to all kinds of violations of their rights.

The pandemic caused by the coronavirus gave way to an ideal situation to relaunch the promotion of Cuban medical services, which had suffered a decline between 2018 and 2019 after the end of Cuba-allied governments in Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador. In addition to reviving overseas contracting, the pandemic served as a framework for Havana to revive the propaganda surrounding the medical missions, which included a campaign for the Nobel Peace Prize for the group of professionals sent to work to contain Covid-19.

In October 2021, Cuba’s deputy health minister, Dr. Regla Angulo Pardo, announced that 57 teams made up of 4,982 health professionals had collaborated in the fight against Covid-19 in 41 territories in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe.

The dream of the Nobel Prize did not prosper. Instead, Cubans became weary, and their demonstrations made the front pages of the world’s major media. The collapse of the healthcare system and medicine shortages were some of the triggers of the historic protest on July 11, 2021. The protest was also fuelled by the uptick of Covid-19 infections and deaths since mid-April of this year.

The renewed Cuban propaganda was not enough to silence the irregularities surrounding the country’s medical missions model for years, nor to distract from the crumbling health system. Diario de Cuba and Connectas investigated and compiled numerous testimonies of professionals who have participated in such missions in Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, and even Saudi Arabia, and who denounce human rights violations.

The testimonies also reveal the current landscape of the health system in Cuba: the contrast between the health service for Cubans — whose deterioration has been going on for years but has accelerated with the pandemic — and the “health tourism” for foreigners, which continues to be internationally renowned.

According to the World Bank, Cuba has 8.4 doctors per thousand inhabitants, more than powers such as Germany (4.2), Sweden (4), the U.S. (2.6), or Japan (2.4). Yet Cuba experienced a 64 percent reduction in doctors from 2010 to 2017 from more than 36,000 to about 13,000.

How did Cuba become known for its medical missions? 

In 1984, the Cuban government created the Family’s Doctor and Nurse program (Programa del Médico y la Enfermera de la Familia), with the objective of providing health coverage to the entire population of the island. Although the program became a world reference, the fall of the Soviet Union and the crisis that ensued in Cuba showed that it lacked a plan for sustainability.

Then, salvation came with the rise to power of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. On Oct. 30, 2000, Cuba and Venezuela signed an agreement by which the Cuban side pledged to send doctors who would offer free services in places where health coverage was deficient and to train Venezuelan personnel. Venezuela, for its part, committed to sending 53,000 barrels of oil per day.

In 2011, the Cuban government carried out a series of privatizations following the Russian model, in order to make the state-owned economy fit into a free-market world. Thus was born the Comercializadora de Servicios Médicos Cubanos, the corporation that took over the business of exporting health personnel. Through this entity and thanks to the alliance with Venezuela, it was possible to export Cuban specialized labor on a massive scale, as well as to fulfill a dream dear to Fidel Castro: to export the revolution and expand its influence worldwide. In this way, in addition to being an economic asset, the medical missions also became a diplomatic asset.

The massive exportation of health professionals also solved a problem: the lack of employment opportunities for such an excessive number of doctors in Cuba. But what was a solution for the Cuban government has been an ordeal for many of the participating doctors. Testimonies gathered in this journalistic investigation, such as that of Dr. Elisandra del Prado Torres, reveal that the Cuban professionals were not allowed to meet and practice their religion or choose a romantic partner.

In addition to being victims of violations of their freedoms and fundamental rights, Cuban health professionals denounce having been forced to engage in political lobbying. A doctor who was head of an Integral Community Health Area (Área de Salud Integral Comunitaria) in Venezuela recounted how they had to meddle in local politics. “I was in charge of the Asic Caribe River, Arismendi Municipality, Sucre State. There I was forced to support the mayor in the reelection campaign. Every day I participated in meetings to map out strategies. All this with a Cuban security advisor named Miruslava. We practically had to tell the mayor how to act.”

Despite the pressures placed on professionals who participate in these missions, the alternative of not going is even worse. The difference in salary between staying in Cuba or joining a mission is so significant that even though healthcare professionals have to pay more than 75 percent of their salary to the authorities when they choose to work outside the island, it is still considered a more profitable option. In addition, anyone who refuses to go on a mission can be branded as counterrevolutionary and be punished, such as being assigned to a job in a distant town. Moreover, anyone who escapes from a mission is forbidden to return to Cuba for eight years.

The model that was first implemented in Venezuela was reproduced in several countries but was especially promoted in Brazil with the Mais Medicos program, in which at least 18,000 Cuban professionals participated over a period of five years.

Where do the substantial resources collected from these missions go? During the first half of 2021, the government allocated 45.5 percent of the budget to business services and real estate activities focused on international tourism, while only 0.8 percent went to public health.

Meanwhile, the health situation for Cubans is dire. The lack of medicines, oxygen, gasoline for ambulances and the general deterioration of the system is already widespread in the country. Social networks have become the stage where citizens complain about this situation, even those who are followers of the regime.

The contradictions in the Cuban healthcare system have worsened during the pandemic, the same one that enabled the government to relaunch its missions around the world. While the most basic medicines are scarce, more vaccines against Covid-19 are being developed in Cuba than in any other Latin American country. Yet millions of these doses have been sold to other countries when only 40.3 percent of the Cuban population was fully vaccinated.

In other words: business and politics abroad, neglect at home.

Written by Connectas
Translated byAnthony Sutterman
https://globalvoices.org/2021/11/22/neglect-at-home-profits-abroad-cubas-medical-system/

The Daily Signal, July 6, 2011

Shame on Cuba: Blind Eye to Human Trafficking

Olivia Enos @OliviaEnos / July 06, 2011

“If the girls give me trouble I hurt them.” These are the words of human trafficker Aktham Zuhair Salem Madanat. Known for trafficking girls from Cuba to the United Kingom, Madanat had no qualms about openly discussing how he lured 10- and 11-year-old girls into the sex trade. In fact, Madanat is one of many involved in the lucrative human trafficking market throughout Cuba and beyond.

In order to fight human trafficking, the State Department annually presents its Global Trafficking in Persons Report, a survey of 184 countries that measures compliance with human trafficking regulations specified in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).

The 2011 Report places Cuba and Venezuela on the Tier 3 list.

The Tier 3 designation is reserved for countries that do not comply with the minimum requirements in TVPA. Noncompliant countries receiving U.S. assistance can be sanctioned.

Cuba’s placement on Tier 3 is both warranted and necessary. Because prostitution is not criminalized for anyone over the age of 16, it is difficult to track child prostitution in Cuba. Economic malfeasance in Cuba has forced many young women into the sex-for-sale industry. Cuba’s tourism industry generated around $2 billion just in the past year, and illicit sex is a burgeoning part of the tourism industry profile. In fact, it has been suggested that the Cuban government even encourages sex tourism as a source for foreign cash that keeps the communist regime afloat.

Fidel and Raul Castro have turned a blind eye to sex tourism and human trafficking. One of Fidel Castro’s flippant brush-offs included the following:

There are no women forced to sell themselves to a man, to a foreigner, to a tourist…Those who do so do it on their own, voluntarily and without any need for it. We can say that they are highly educated hookers and quite healthy…

Such cynical views have landed Cuba a spot on Tier 3. Cuba’s blind eye toward sex tourism and human trafficking appears contradictory in a society where the state regulates virtually everything else.

Venezuela, home to Castro ally Hugo Chávez, also experiences high levels of trafficking, where of the 40,000 to 50,000 sex trafficked children, 78 percent are girls between the ages of 8 and 17. Venezuela’s placement on Tier 3 is the result of a failure to enforce existing trafficking laws or enact new anti-trafficking legislation.

Despite the large number of youth affected by human trafficking, Cuba and Venezuela continue to turn a blind eye to an age-old problem. It is striking how far these anti-American regimes will go to defy the U.S. in its efforts to eliminate the vestiges of modern-day slavery.

Olivia Snow is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm

https://www.dailysignal.com/2011/07/06/shame-on-cuba-blind-eye-to-human-trafficking/