CUBA has announced the withdrawal of its medical brigade from Brazil following “unacceptable conditions and contemptuous” threats by President-elect Jair Bolsonaro.
A huge Cuban medical contingent has been participating in the Programme More Doctors for Brazil since its inception in August 2013.
This initiative launched by then president Dilma Rousseff pursued the double purpose of guaranteeing medical assistance to the majority of the Brazilian people, following the principle of universal health coverage promoted by the World Health Organisation.
The programme had planned the inclusion of Brazilian and foreign doctors who would go to work in poor and remote areas of that country.
Cuba’s participation in the programme was arranged through the Pan-American Health Organisation with one distinctive feature, for it was intended to fill the vacancies left by doctors from Brazil and other nations.
During the five years of work, around 20,000 Cuban cooperation workers attended to 113,359,000 patients in more than 3,600 municipalities.
They managed to provide health coverage to a universe of up to 60 million Brazilians at the moment when they accounted for 80 per cent of all the doctors who were taking part in the programme. More than 700 municipalities were able to count on a doctor for the first time ever.
But on Wednesday, the Ministry of Public Health announced that President-elect Bolsonaro had made direct, contemptuous and threatening comments against the presence of Cuban doctors.
Cuban authorities said Bolsonaro had declared and reiterated that he would modify the terms and conditions of the Programme More Doctors, in full disregard of the Pan-American Health Organisation and the agreement reached by that organisation with Cuba.
Cuba said Bolsonaro had since questioned the qualification of Cuban doctors and conditioned their permanence in the programme to a process of validation of their titles and established that contracts would only be signed on an individual basis.
“The announced modifications impose conditions that are unacceptable and fail to ensure the guarantees that had been previously agreed upon since the beginning of the Programme, which were ratified in 2016 with the re-negotiation of the Terms of Cooperation between The Pan-American Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health of Brazil and the Cooperation Agreement between the Pan-American Health Organisation and the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba. These unacceptable conditions make it impossible to maintain the presence of Cuban professionals in the Programme,” reads in part the declaration.
“Consequently, in the light of this unfortunate reality, the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba has decided to discontinue its participation in the Programme More Doctors and has informed so to the Director of the Pan-American Health Organisation and the political leaders of Brazil who founded and defended this initiative. The decision to bring into question the dignity, professionalism and altruism of Cuban cooperation workers who, with the support of their families, are currently offering their services in 67 countries is unacceptable.”
Cuba indicated that during the last 55 years, some 600,000 internationalist missions have been accomplished in 164 nations, with the participation of 400,000 health workers who, in quite a few cases, have fulfilled the honourable task more than once.
“Their feats in the struggle against the Ebola virus in Africa, blindness in Latin America and the Caribbean, and cholera in Haiti as well as the participation of 26 brigades of the International Contingent of Doctors Specialised in Disaster Situations and Great Epidemics “Henry Reeve” in Pakistan, Indonesia, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Venezuela, among other countries, are worthy of praise,” states Cuba. “In the overwhelming majority of the missions that have been accomplished, all expenses have been covered by the Cuban government. Likewise, 35,613 health professionals from 138 countries have been trained in Cuba at absolutely no cost as an expression of our solidarity and internationalist vocation…The peoples from Our America and from all over the world know that they will always be able to count on the solidarity and humanistic vocation of our professionals.”