Healthcare professionals are Cuba’s main “exports,” with some 37,000 of the country’s doctors currently working in 77 countries. The Cuban government reportedly earns roughly USD 8 billion every year by sending its doctors abroad—and then pockets the lion’s share of their monthly salaries. Apparently, though, part of that revenue will be over after 2018, as Cuba announced it will withdraw from the More Doctors Program (Programa Mais Médicos), created in 2013. The reason: Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro.
Mr. Bolsonaro announced on Twitter—as he likes to do—that the continuity of the program would be subject to equivalence exams to attest the Cuban doctors’ capacity, that the doctors get the full amount of their salaries, and that they have the “freedom to bring in their families” to Brazil. “Unfortunately, Cuba hasn’t accepted,” Mr. Bolsonaro tweeted on Wednesday.
In a statement, the Cuban Ministry of Public Health said that Mr. Bolsonaro has given “direct, derogatory and threatening references to the presence of Cuban doctors, [declaring] and [reiterating] that he will modify the terms and conditions of the More Doctors Program, disrespecting the Pan American Health Organization and its agreements with Cuba.”
Not since the 1904 Vaccine Rebellion, when part of Rio de Janeiro’s population took to the streets to protest the compulsory variole vaccination program of the government, has a healthcare program generated so much headache. When the program was kicked off, doctors were called “slaves” in Brazilian airports – and the Brazilian right denounced what it called a communist conspiracy.
But even after Dilma Rousseff was impeached and the right-wing Michel Temer took over, the program withstood. And that’s because it was a success.