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Sen. Rubio: Mexico's use of Cuban doctors is human trafficking, violates USMCA free trade agreement

Rubio condemned Mexico’s hiring of Cuban doctors, claiming that it is a violation of the USMCA free trade agreement between the two North American countries

April 27, 2022 4:30pm

Updated: April 28, 2022 6:40am

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, claimed on Wednesday that the leasing of Cuban regime employed doctors by Mexico is a violation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the free trade agreement between the two North American countries.

The law went into effect on July 1, 2020, effectively replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was previously signed into law by President Bill Clinton on Jan. 1, 1994. 

Rubio asked Washington to investigate the contract between Mexico and Cuba because the unfair terms under which the island's doctors are forced to work classify as "human trafficking."

The day before, the senator joined Reps. Maria Elvira Salazar, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Carlos A. Gimenez in sending a letter to the head of the Division for Monitoring and Enforcement of the free trade agreement, Samantha Tate, requesting to investigate the subject.

According to Mexico City's Ministry of Health, on April 27, 2021, 585 Cuban health professionals were incorporated in hospitals that treat patients suffering from Covid-19.

The Secretary of Health of Mexico City, Oliva López Arellano, told Diario de Cuba (DDC) that the work of the Cubans was "voluntary," and the amount the two countries agreed on was solely to cover their salary, as well as joint training, specialization, consultancy, and research.

In addition, the official added that professionals did not have freedom of movement due to pandemic restrictions.

In July, when Mexico City ended the "mission," and the first Cubans returned to the island, López Arellano confirmed that the local government had paid 135 million Mexican pesos (more than US$6 million) for their work in the North American country.

DDC reported out of the approximately $10,700 paid by the Mexican government for each of the 585 Cuban doctors and nurses, Havana only gave the staff $660 for three months ($220 per month). The Cuban professionals were told that the $220 they received was "for food."

The letter from the Republican politicians claims that the T-MEC is the standard for trade agreements and has strong provisions to uphold labor and human rights standards, and these provisions must be rigorously enforced to ensure that the United States respects this agreement and human rights standards.

According to the U.S. Department, Cuba's international medical missions are a form of human trafficking and modern-day slavery, the letter from the senator and fellow representatives states.

"For years, the regime in Havana has forced Cuban doctors and nurses to work abroad, for pennies on the dollar, to enhance the regime's propaganda that its medical care is world-class," said Senator Marco Rubio.