Viernes, 22 de Marzo de 2019
Última actualización: 02:03 CET

Theft and Subsidies, Not Exports

Cuban medical personnel in Brazil. (PANAMPOST.COM)

Once gain former Economy minister José Luis Rodríguez has attempted to pull the wool over everyone's eyes. Apparently the Castro dictatorship has called on him to do its dirty work and cook the books to present a more favorable picture of the regime's administration.

Rodríguez recently wrote, in Cubadebate, that the export of doctors, nurses and other health professionals brought in revenue amounting to an average of 11.543 billion dollars yearly between 2011 and 2015. False. As a source he drew upon the 2016 Statistical Yearbook on Health – which was so incomplete that it does not even mention how many health professionals work outside Cuba, the most important factor of all. The Ministry of Public Health acknowledges that there are about 50,000 in all.

I think it is appropriate to note that last February Rodríguez announced that in 2016 Cuba paid its foreign creditors $5.299 billion, which is also false. And, in 2006, as Minister of the Economy, he said, with a straight face, that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Cuba had grown 12.5%, the greatest growth in the world, even surpassing China.

This time the former Castroist higher-up – who today serves as an advisor at Cuba's International Economy Research Center (CIEM), and at the aforementioned Yearbook of Public Health – is guilty of several more “inaccuracies.”

To begin with, in order for the medical services that Cuba exports to 62 countries on four continents to have generated $11.543 billion, the average salary of each contracted Cuban professional would have to have been around $19,200 per month, which is impossible. His claim is even more far-fetched when said yearbook indicates that 35 countries paid for these services, and the other 27 paid nothing.

The key to all this is that the regime lies. It calculates Venezuelan subsidies as a sale of medical services. Curiously, in his article Rodríguez did not include the year 2016, in which Caracas slashed its subsidies to the Island. Experts estimate that they have fallen by 40%, and that oil deliveries were reduced from 110,000 to 55,000 barrels a day, which would explain the current fuel crisis on the Island.

Cuba now depends and will depend more and more of the flow of foreign currency coming from the "Empire" via remittances, packages and travel to the island, which in 2016 came to more than 7 billion dollars. That figure probably already equals or exceeds the subsidies from Venezuela, and triples the gross revenue generated by tourism.

Moreover, even supposing that everything stated by the former minister were true, it is immoral for the Castroist leadership to openly proclaim that it steals salaries from doctors. That's called trafficking. Those $11.543 billion belong to the doctors, who earned them with their work, and then saw them confiscated.

According to the pact between the previous government of Brazil and Cuba, negotiated with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Brazilian government pays Cuba $4,080 per month for each Cuban doctor. Of this amount, the physician receives less than 25%, that is, less than $1,000, according to doctors who have left Brazil, and complaints from the National Federation of Brazilian Doctors, which describes the contracts as "slave work." For every Cuban doctor in Brazil, Castro pockets $3,000 a month.

The figures do not add up

There are now some 10,400 Cuban doctors and professionals in Brazil; that is, 20% of those it has abroad. Venezuela, meanwhile, has more than 34,000 professionals, almost 70% of the total. That means that if the average salary obtained, based on the figure cited by Rodriguez, comes to $19,200 per month, and Brazil pays only $4,080 per doctor, then Venezuela pays several times that monthly amount for each Cuban professional, which is untrue.

Moreover, the $11.543 billion reported surely include the more than $720 million per year that Cuba was making by re-exporting gasoline from Venezuela, or refined in Cienfuegos with crude given away by Caracas. Is that not that a subsidy, like the one that was previously received from the USSR, when the Island re-exported Soviet oil?

It is outrageous that the international community has not condemned the export of Cuban doctors, essentially working as slaves in the 21st century. Neither the International Labor Organization (ILO), nor any government in the world has censured this abusive practice. The UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Maria Grazia Gianmarinaro, just visited Havana, but apparently apparently was satisfied with the explanation provided by her hosts, masters of propaganda to protect the dictatorship.

In Brazil, for example, Article 149 of the Penal Code states that "slave labor" exists when one is subjected to "forced labor, excessive shifts, and remuneration that is dramatically deficient relative to the work performed, justified by debts owed one's employer."

But the governments of Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff wanted to favor the Castros, and signed those shameful agreements. And the current government has done little to fight this abuse.

Why no self-employed doctors?

The truth is that more than a third of the 90,161 doctors of the Island, according to the yearbook, do not work in Cuba, but rather abroad, which affects medical services on the Island. The regime graduates them, en masse, to export and exploit them, as they are sent abroad for the selfish aim of confiscating their wages. They are reminiscent of the "talking instruments," as Marco Terencio Varrón called slaves in classical Rome, 2,000 years ago.

If the Castro hierarchy allowed university professionals to enjoy economic freedom, provide their services on their own, and doctors to have private practices, they would render a valuable public service, earn much more income, and not have to accept being exported as if they were owned by the State, or the Castro family, to receive meager remuneration, with which to make their lives and those of their families on the Island more bearable.

Exported doctors have their freedom of movement restricted. They travel alone, without their families. Their passports are held, and they are enlisted in pro-Castro political campaigns with local populations, with which they cannot interact privately. The whole system is like a modern version of labor markets in the 18th and 19th centuries through which masters rented out their slaves to third parties for given periods.  

In short, the $11.543 billion cited by Rodríguez were not obtained just through the "exported services." Rather, they mainly came from Venezuelan and Brazilian subsidies. And the money confiscated from doctors constitutes an international crime, which does not prescribe, and ought to be punished.