Rubio and Menendez call on Blinken to take firm stand against indentured servitude of Cuban doctors
The Senators' concerns were sent after Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia announced their intention to continue their participation in Cuba’s international medical missions program
March 18, 2023 3:07pm
Updated: March 18, 2023 3:07pm
Senator Marco Rubio (FL) and Sen. Bob Menendez (NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter on Friday to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, asking him to "significantly expand U.S. diplomatic efforts to end the cruel exploitation of approximately 50,000 Cuban medical professionals."
The senators' concerns were sent after Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia announced their intention to continue their participation in Cuba’s international medical missions program.
Those three countries made the announcement "despite the substantial body of evidence documenting the harms" of Cuba's medical leasing program, which has been referred to as "a form of human trafficking and modern-day slavery" by the U.S. Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) and annual Human Rights Report, the letter notes.
Cuba's military dictatorship has been criticized for using the medical mission programs as a way to control and exploit its own people.
Critics argue that the program is exploitative in nature because it reportedly pays Cuban healthcare professionals significantly less than their counterparts from other countries, while the government keeps a large portion of the funds earned from the program
Some critics argue that the program amounts to forced labor, as healthcare professionals face civil penalties, restrictions or exile when they choose to abandon the program.
Furthermore, many of these health professionals are forced to work in precarious conditions and without adequate legal protection, which has led to evidence of labor exploitation.
"Not only does the Cuban regime confiscate the passports, professional credentials, and salaries of the victims of these programs, they also threaten these professionals and their families should they attempt to leave," the senators wrote, highlighting that "involvement in these missions is a clear violation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and these nations’ own laws prohibiting forced labor."
Cuba has been repeatedly accused of trafficking its medical personnel, sending its health professionals to work abroad in precarious conditions and without adequate legal protection, and receiving large sums of money in return.
The regime has also reportedly forced workers to participate in these medical missions and checks by withholding their passports.
The Cuban medical missions are a direct violation of Article 23 of the USMCA, which calls for “the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor," their letter states, emphasizing that the medical missions are also inconsistent with U.S. commitments to fundamental and universal human rights.
"Involvement in these missions is a clear violation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and these nations’ own laws prohibiting forced labor," the Senators said.