Correspondent in Havana
At the end of his first international tour on Monday with a visit to Cuba, the president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), assured in a press conference that his country signed a cooperation agreement in health matters that includes the possibility that Mexican general practitioners can be trained in Cuba as specialists, “we are going to grant scholarships for that purpose,” said the president . Similarly, he declared that the Mesoamerican country is going to buy the Abdala vaccine from Cuba for the immunization of children despite the fact that this -nor any other Cuban vaccine candidate- has not been approved by the WHO.
As part of this agreement, AMLO undertook to “hire” 500 Cuban doctors, thus obviating an issue that has already been classified by the United Nations as “forced labor.”
At the beginning of 2022, the NGO Prisoners Defenders (PD) expanded its complaint to the United Nations by presenting a report with 1,111 testimonies of Cuban professionals, victims of slavery and forced labor through these so-called internationalist missions. Among the violations of the human rights of these professionals – artists, engineers, sailors, teachers and health personnel – is the fact that most do not participate voluntarily, the Cuban regime withholds their passports and they only receive 20 % of their salaries, the remaining percentage remains in the hands of the Cuban government. Likewise, the so-called “8-year law” prohibits professionals from returning to Cuba for 8 years if they do not return to the country after finishing the job, and they are classified as “deserters” and “undesirable.” According to PD, thousands of professionals suffer from these types of conditions each year, with the consequent psychological damage to their children, spouses and family members.
Last February, Republican congressmen Maria Elvira Salazar, Mario Diaz-Balart, Carlos Gimenezand Senator Marco Rubiothey sent a letter to the Office of Commerce and Department of Labor, requesting an investigation into possible violations of the United States-Mexico-Canada Treaty by Mexico.
“By forcibly exporting its doctors, the Cuban regime is sponsoring human trafficking. Our trading partner, Mexico, accepts exploited labor,” the signatories alleged.
In the midst of the pandemic, Mexico also accepted several Cuban health professionals. In February of this year, the Latinus portal warned about the murky links between the National Council for Science and Technology of Mexico (Conacyt) and the Cuban regime to the detriment of the development of knowledge and research in the Aztec country. The portal revealed that in 2021 the AMLO government -through Conacyt- paid 34 million pesos (1.66 million dollars) to Comercializadora de Servicios Médicos Cubanos SA, a public limited company created in 2011 and internationally accused of human trafficking and forced labor.
Before the arrival of the pandemic, the internationalist missions constituted -along with tourism and remittances from abroad- one of the main sources of the Cuban economy. Faced with the economic crisis, the Cuban regime aspires to be able to revive the sector.
Not even the tragedy caused by the explosion at the Hotel Saratoga in Havana, which occurred some 24 hours before AMLO’s visit and which has claimed the lives of at least 41 people, stopped the itinerary and even the celebrations at the Palace of the Revolution to entertain the guests.
AMLO assured that he is willing to act as an intermediary between Cuba and the United States so that this nation lifts the “blockade.” Referring to his impressions of the Cuban ruler, Miguel Díaz-Canel, AMLO expressed his support for him: “Cuba has an extraordinary president. An honest, hard-working, humane man, a very good person.” This complicity was also evidenced when he received, from the hands of his counterpart, the José Martí Award, the highest distinction awarded by the Cuban government.
After the protests of July 11 (11-J) last year, Mexico was one of the few countries that not only did not condemn the repression unleashed by the Cuban regime, but also blamed the alleged US “blockade” for the crisis and the anti-government protests. Shortly after, Díaz-Canel (who had ordered the repression of those protests), was the guest of honor at the commemoration of the Grito de Dolores, in Mexico.
During his visit to the island (May 7 and 8), AMLO received a letter signed by mothers of 11J prisoners, in which they asked him to intercede for their children and the rest of the imprisoned protesters. However, the Mexican president has not referred to it or to the situation of political prisoners or the constant violations of human rights in the country.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism