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South Florida Republicans Slam Cuban Regime on Mais Medicos

December 3, 2018 - 11:30am
Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Three Republicans representing South Florida in Congress took aim at the Cuban regime as it ends its partnership in the “Mais Medicos” (“More Doctors”) program in Brazil even as some Cuban health care workers file a lawsuit “alleging that the Pan American Health Organization facilitated the human trafficking of thousands of Cuban medical professionals.”

Last month, Cuba announced it was ending its role in Mais Medicos as incoming Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tightened up requirements for Cubans coming into his country to practice medicine. With Cuba ordering its residents to return, some Mais Medicos professionals are suing, insisting the communist regime is engaged in human trafficking. Cubans make up 46 percent of Mais Medicos professionals in Brazil. 

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., agreed that Cuba is engaged in human trafficking. 

“For far too long, the brutal regime in Cuba has profited from the human trafficking of medical professionals,” Diaz-Balart said on Friday. “Shamefully, reports indicate that rather than protecting the rights of these health workers to humane working conditions, fair wages, and freedom of movement, the Pan American Health Organization instead facilitated the sale of Cuban medical labor to foreign countries such as Brazil. While Cuban health care workers toiled in difficult conditions for paltry salaries, the regime in Cuba profited handsomely.  Even worse, the regime sometimes was lauded on the world stage for its trafficking in medical professionals as though it was behaving charitably, rather than perpetrating a lucrative scheme of exploiting its medical professionals.

“It takes tremendous courage for those trapped in Cuba’s medical professional exploitation scheme to describe the abuses that they have suffered,” he added. “I applaud their bravery in bringing these stories to light. Those countries and international organizations that have benefited from, or have facilitated, abusive labor practices must cease doing so until basic labor standards regarding safe working conditions, the prohibition of forced or compulsory labor, and fair remuneration are followed. The abuse and exploitation of Cuba’s medical professionals must end.”

Diaz-Balart was backed up by U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the first woman to ever lead the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee and currently the dean of the Florida delegation. Ros-Lehtinen did not seek another term this year 

“It is important that we pursue justice using all available means for the Cuban doctors to not be exploited,” she said. “That is why I led and filed along with Mario and my congressional colleagues, a friend of the court brief that would allow lawsuits against U.S.-based international organizations like PAHO. Cuban doctors and anyone who has been a victim of human trafficking should be able to recover damages from any entity that sponsors or profits from such a terrible practice. As Americans it is our duty to support people’s freedom from this economic slavery and we, in Congress and beyond, will do all that we can to ensure that these medical professionals are treated in a humane and fair manner. Our U.S. laws are clear when it comes to human trafficking and no person or organization is above that law.”

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., who was defeated by Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell last month and is now looking ahead at running for Miami Dade mayor in 2020 also called out the Cuban regime. 

“For too long, the Cuban regime has abused and exploited the forced labor of their medical professionals to line their own coffers.  I am proud to support these victims of the regime in their quest for justice and fair compensation for their service,” he said. 

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