Statement by Yaira Jiménez Roig, Director of Communications of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba
Cubaminrex Spokesperson Channel on the decision adopted by Cuba to discontinue its participation in Brazil´s "More Doctors" program.
I would like to thank and greet all those who are watching me right now through the Youtube channel of our chancellery. We have created this space to offer information about recent events in which our country decided to discontinue its participation in Brazil’s More Doctors Program. Upon this decision, our health professionals have started to return to our country.
I advise you that we will be broadcasting live, in Spanish, and once this transmission concludes, we will be airing it in Portuguese and English.
First of all I would like to refer to the decision, announced by the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba on November 14 last which, as was explained, was a consequence of the direct, contemptuous and threatening comments made by Jair Bolsonaro, president-elect of Brazil, about the presence of our doctors in that country, assuring that he will modify the terms and conditions of the More Doctors Program.
These statements that the president-elect has reiterated almost on a daily basis since November 14 question the professional skills of our doctors and condition their permanence in the program to a validation test and the signing of contracts on an individual basis.
I would like to assure you that none of the members of the transition team has informed the ministry of public health of Cuba of any interest in discussing the terms of cooperation in force, which indicates that the interest of the president-elect is not to maintain the program, but to cancel it.
For years, the president-elect, in his condition as parliamentarian, criticized and proposed the adoption of measures against Brazil’s More Doctors Program and particularly against Cuban doctors.
Curiously enough, the president-elect is now worried about the families of Cuban doctors. However, in 2016, while being a Member of Parliament, he introduced a draft amendment aimed at preventing, at all costs, that the relatives of doctors could settle in Brazil, so that the Cuban doctors would abandon the Program.
Obviously, the president-elect, with his contradictions, is showing that, what he really wants is to put an end to the presence of Cuban professionals and the More Doctors Program. For example, one clear contradiction in his statement is that he is requiring Cuban doctors to undergo a test whereby they can show they have the competence and skills to work in Brazil, and at the same time, without requiring that test or some sort of evidence, he announces that he will automatically grant political asylum to all Cuban doctors.
This behavior is anything but serious and is a source of great concern for our authorities and our medical staff.
We can no longer be reassured that our doctors will be safe in this environment filled with uncertainties, with a government of doubtful professionalism that doesn’t want to maintain this humanitarian program full of beautiful life stories.
In other words, Bolsonaro requires Cuban doctors to pass a test as a condition to continue working; and for the political show, he gives them a blank check, without caring about their being qualified professionals or not.
The president-elect wants to modify the conditions of the program to really do away with it, as has already been pointed out by his designated Minister of Health, who has considered the program that has brought about so many benefits to Brazil as a project of political proselytism associated to a party, something that we categorically reject, as was evidenced by our permanence in Brazil even after the coup d’état dealt against President Dilma Rousseff.
I think it is necessary to go back a little into history.
In September of 2016, Cuba stated that our doctors would continue to participate in the program provided that the conditions agreed by the parties were maintained.
Cuba lived up to its word and our cooperation workers continued to offer their services despite our stand with regards to the new authorities.
Therefore, I likewise refute the allegations that attribute the presence of Cuban doctors in the program to political or ideological preferences for any party in particular.
The first agreement was signed in 2013 with the government of the Workers’ Party and the second agreement was signed with the government of the parties of the Brazilian Democratic Movement and the Brazilian Social Democracy.
Never have Cuban doctors asked what party their Brazilian patients belonged to when they came seeking for medical assistance.
Never have Cuban doctors cared about the political affiliation of the health authorities that directed them.
In fact, I can assert that, in many cases, mayors and governors belonging to right-wing parties welcomed our professionals with great hospitality and lent them full support.
And, why? Because our doctors are more than doctors, they are human beings who heal and cure people in need, anywhere in the world.
I would also like to inform today that, since the return of the Cuban professionals began on 22 November, more than one thousand doctors, from all 15 provinces and the special municipality of the Isle of Youth, have already arrived in Cuba.
At their places of residence they have been welcomed by their families, neighbors and local authorities, who have shown recognition for the humanitarian and altruistic work that they had been doing.
Cuban doctors have kept on tending to patients at their posts until the very last possible moment.
I have just read a testimony by Dr. Arnaldo Cedeño Núñez, from Granma province, who had been tending to indigenous children of the Apalai Waian ethnic group in Brazil since 2016.
Arnaldo is already back in Cuba and he’s brought fond memories of his tour of duty. He told that he developed a very close relationship with those children, that he tended to them with all his love and he taught them to sing and dance and understand our culture.
This is something only our doctors do. With them, thousands of stories are arriving in Cuba in these days, all of them worth sharing.
Most of our professionals are being given a sad but affectionate farewell by the local health, administrative and political authorities, and particularly by the Brazilian people who used to go to their offices.
I don’t think Bolsonaro knows of stories like these. We invite the Brazilian and international media to become acquainted with such stories to be able to understand that the hardest-hit are the millions of Brazilians who were able to receive health care thanks to the Cuban doctors.
We will now answer some of the questions received at firstname.lastname@example.org (link sends e-mail). This is an email address that we have made available to the media.
- The first question that will be answered concerns an issue that has been raised by several media in respect of allegations that Cuba was the mastermind of the More Doctors Program.
I categorically deny that Cuba has masterminded the More Doctors Program, as a Brazilian news organization intended to imply.
The More Doctors for Brazil Program was a creation of the Dilma Rousseff government, which was concerned about meeting the basic health needs of millions of Brazilians residing in rural areas, in the Amazon region, in indigenous communities and risky regions where other doctors were not willing to go.
Going to those areas, where there were no primary health care services and not a single doctor had been seen there ever, was certainly a stand advocated by Cuba in the negotiations.
Consequently, I reject the reports published by certain media claiming that the cooperation was an initiative promoted by Cuba with the purpose of generating revenue.
Cuba has promoted and continues to promote medical cooperation and the export of medical services. In that overall context, Cuba did explore the ways to establish mutually beneficial relations with Brazil in the area of economic cooperation.
However, the request for Cuban doctors to deliver their services in Brazil in large numbers and throughout the entire country resulted from Brazil’s inability to fill the vacancies available in the municipalities covered by the Program with doctors registered in Brazil, with Brazilian doctors registered abroad and foreign doctors. It was in that strict order that the professionals were selected for the Program.
The analysis made in Brazil indicated that the training of doctors and subsequent employment in underserved communities would take too long. Thus, they resorted to employing foreign doctors through an open bid which was available to any professional from any country. In that process, Brazil requested, I repeat, Brazil requested Cuba’s cooperation.
- We have learned that TV Globo reporter Geiza Duarte has asked about the details on the number of doctors who have returned to Cuba
In this connection, I can confirm that so far 1540 cooperation workers have returned to our country in 7 flights from Brazil
- I would like to take this opportunity to react to some media organizations who have requested to interview our doctors prior to their return to Cuba.
In this connection, I would like to inform that the interested parties can contact our Embassy in Brasilia at the email address shown below email@example.com (link sends e-mail). Our colleagues there stand ready to support these requests.
Arrangements are being made so that news organizations have access to the Cuban specialists and learn firsthand of their views, experiences and the feelings they have in this moment; as well as the love to the Brazilian people and their concern about the millions of people who will be left with no health care.
- Next, let’s respond to Erica Fernanda, from Brazil, who’s interested about Cuba’s reaction to the statements made by president-elect Jair Bolsonaro and the support that our Embassy and the Cuban authorities are giving to the returning professionals.
We reiterate Cuba’s position that the statements made by president-elect Jair Bolsonaro are unacceptable and disrespectful.
The professionalism and altruism of Cuban cooperation workers are beyond doubt. In 55 years, over 400 000 health cooperation workers have served in 600 000 internationalist missions in 164 countries. Figures like these speak for themselves about the level of preparation and commitment of Cuban health workers.
As regards the second part of the question, the Cuban government has begun an orderly return of the medical personnel, ensuring all guarantees for the cooperation workers and their safety.
- From TeleSur, reporter Rolando Segura asks: based on the stance of president-elect Jair Bolsonaro, how does the Cuban government assess the politization of the health issue for more than 30 million Brazilians in underprivileged and inhospitable areas?
On this issue, like I said in my initial remarks, we believe the position of president-elect Jair Bolsonaro to be contradictory and anything but serious. It is evident that Bolsonaro has adjusted its statements according to his political expediency and not the interests of the Brazilian people.
There are countless examples showing Cuba does not get politics mixed with the health of any people. Our doctors regret that more than 30 million underprivileged Brazilians cannot continue to receive the medical care they were giving them.
With these questions we come to the end of this broadcast. The email address firstname.lastname@example.org (link sends e-mail) will remain active for your questions.
You are kindly invited to check us out again next Wednesday, 28 November. Your questions will be answered.
The Portuguese and English language versions of this broadcast will be available soon.
I thank you all for your attention. Have a good day.