Doctors With Borders: Cuba Ends Medical Agreement With Brazil

Foreign Policy, Global Politics, Health, International Relations, Latin America, Nationalism

The Cuban government ended a five-year agreement with Brazil after President Jair Bolsonaro referred to the arrangement as “slave labor”.

According to Bolsonaro, Cuban doctors only received 25% of their pay while their government got the remaining balance. Bolsonaro stated that the agreement can only continue if Cuba agrees to pay the doctors in full and allow them to bring in their families as well.

Bolsonaro, who proudly refers to himself as a supporter of U.S President Donald Trump, was popularly elected as the new President of Brazil. His election as a Far-Right candidate was testimony to the Brazilians’ frustration toward Leftist rule. Brazil’s crime rate as well as incidents involving graft and corruption had been on the rise the last few years.

The President-elect of Brazil plans to provide asylum to any Cuban who requests it. However, he clarified that because Cuban doctors were not qualified, they would have to take the licensing exam in order to practice medicine in Brazil.

Brazil’s Health Ministry is planning to execute a waiver that will require Cubans to invalidate their medical diploma. This is a necessary step for the Cuban doctors to work directly with the Brazilian government instead of the Pan-American Health Organization.

Cuba generates tremendous export earnings from the more than 50,000 healthcare workers that find employment in 60 countries.

The Cuban doctors worked in the poorest and most remote areas of Brazil where local doctors do not want to practice. With the Cuban government’s decision to terminate the agreement, Brazil has to find immediate replacements for the 8,332 positions vacated by the Cuban doctors.

A group of town mayors, the FNP, as well as the Conasem which is the council for municipal health authorities issued a joint statement raising their concern that more than 29 million Brazilians may no longer have access to basic healthcare.

The group has asked the government of Bolsonaro to find ways to make the Cuban doctors stay.

According to a spokesman for Brazil’s Foreign Ministry, they have been able to fill in the vacated positions with 3,648 Brazilian doctors. However, the replacements were focused on predominantly urban areas.