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Cuban doctor: “With my salary in Cuba I couldn’t afford an egg a day”

JuanAlfonso

PanAmPost

US$18 Monthly Salary Left Juan Afonso No Choice but to Leave
Juan Afonso is a Cuban-born physician. He lived, studied, and worked in Cuba under the communist health-care system. But far from the praise that uninformed observers heap on Cuba’s medical care, Afonso says the reality is much different. He fled Cuba for Chile in the 1990s, and says he could hardly afford to feed himself on his monthly salary on the island.
He speaks with a split accent, a perfect mix of Chilean Spanish and Cuban slang, after living in the Andean country for over 20 years. Some 280 kilometers away from the Chilean capital of Santiago is Talca, where Afonso currently lives and has established a private practice, on top of his shifts at a primary-care emergency room.
Prior to arriving in Chile, Afonso took part in a state-sponsored mission in Laos, and says he dreamed of the day the regime would allow him to buy a car. He confesses that the thought of escaping on raft heading toward Miami entered his mind more than once.
After reading a PanAm Post report on the Cuban health-care system, published on October 6, Afonso decided to get in touch and share his experiences as a doctor on the island.

How would you describe the Cuban health-care system?
The Cuban medical system is not healthy. I have family, people that I love that still live in Cuba, and I would like to see the country thrive. But nothing can be fixed without recognizing the essence of what’s going on here.
Many talented people have moved to the United States and elsewhere; good people, experts, have been forced to leave. It’s not that they don’t love their country and have abandoned their brothers, but you need to be practical. If you are starving in your own country, and they [the regime] are having a laugh at your expense — with low wages, no chance for a raise, and unpaid shifts — what are you going to do?
I look at my university professors. If they would have left in 1959 to the United State, they would be very wealthy by now … but they stayed. They sacrificed themselves, and trained thousands of future doctors.
When I saw how those brave doctors were abused by a group of leeches and bureaucrats, I told myself: “What am I doing in this country? I wasn’t born to be slave.” And I don’t regret it, despite the government not allowing me to return to my country, and especially now that I’m speaking out publicly. They would throw me in jail.
One has to be consistent. I’m only talking about things I’ve experienced: my own experience. I hope one day Raúl [Castro] will show some compassion and actually speak with the doctors in the country. About 20 years ago, he asked the public for their opinion on the matter, but I don’t think he read a single reply. The government has been making fun of us for a long time now.

How much does a doctor like you make in Cuba?
I will tell you something: I would have liked to stay in Cuba. I left because I could barely afford to buy a single egg to eat a day.
I remember the Argentinean crisis of 2001, when the banks froze people’s accounts, and a man on TV held up a package of spaghetti and said, “Look at all we have to eat!” When I saw that, I remembered what we experienced in Cuba when the Russians left in the 1990s, and the terrible famine we went through. With a pack of spaghetti, I would have been the happiest man on Earth.
In 1993 and 1994, the hunger was terrible. At that time, I earned US$18 per month, in a country where prices are the same as everywhere else. I have a Cuban friend living in Chile who is a dermatologist. He used to tell the shoemaker, “Today, I’ll buy only the left shoe.” He was kidding, but it had some degree of truth.
I used my bicycle to visit my patients’ homes. It was my only means of transportation, and changing a flat tire cost CUP$400, which was roughly my monthly income.
Then I started listening to Radio Martí, and a friend of mine, who happens to be a prosecutor, told me I should stop [criticizing the regime], because they would put me in jail. There is no separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary in Cuba.

Continue reading Cuban doctor: “With my salary in Cuba I couldn’t afford an egg a day”

After thousands of defections, the Castro brothers want their slave doctors to return

Colombia Cuban Doctors

The slave doctors, that are sent all over the world by the Castro brothers in exchange for hard currency, represent over $10 billion dollars a year to the dictatorship.  Until now, they were always threatened that if they defected, they would never be able to return to Cuba and their relatives would not receive permission to leave the Island.
But that has not worked, since thousands of slave doctors have defected from their ‘missions’ in Venezuela, Brazil and other countries.
Now, instead of threats, the Castros are begging them to return, get back the job they had before they left and everything will be forgotten:

From the AFP:

Cuba has decided to allow doctors who deserted while on foreign missions to return home without punishment or loss of position in the state health care system, the government said Friday.
The action comes amid worries of a brain drain of Cuban medical professionals as the Communist-ruled island loosens long-time restrictions on emigration.
Doctors in particular have faced stringent restrictions on travel since the 1960s, and stiff sanctions awaited those who deserted from government-sponsored missions in foreign countries.
Under the new policy announced by the ministry of public health, doctors who deserted while on foreign missions are being welcomed back.
They “have the opportunity, if they so desire, to rejoin our National Health System, and will be guaranteed work placement in conditions similar to those they had before,” a ministry statement said.
Likewise, Cuban doctors who have emigrated under a more open policy introduced in 2013 can also return, although with no guarantee of working for the state system.
In the past, deserters and emigres alike were barred from visiting the country for periods of five to 10 years, or even for life in some cases.
An estimated 25,000 doctors and a similar number of health professionals currently serve in international missions in 68 countries.
But the missions have been plagued by complaints about comparatively low pay and defections.
In recent weeks, about 100 medical deserters turned up in Colombia seeking to travel to the United States under a program adopted in 2006 during the administration of George W. Bush.
Although better off than most of the Cuban population, doctors make much less than their Latin American counterparts.
But the international missions allow them to make 10 to 20 times their normal salary, which in Cuba averaged 1,600 pesos, or a little more than 50 dollars a month, last year.
Cuba insists it still has one of the highest doctor-patient ratios in the world.
The island receives about $10 billion a year for the medical services it provides other countries, mainly Brazil and Venezuela, making it the top source of hard currency revenues.

Over 700 Cuban doctors working in Venezuela have fled across to Colombia

Yaneisy Perez, left, and fellow Cuban doctors, show their diplomas during a protest to draw attention to their plight to get U.S. visas at the Banderas square in Bogota, Colombia, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. Dozens of health workers who defected while serving on aid missions in Venezuela fled to Bogota expecting to swiftly get visas to the United States under the 2006 Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, designed to help Cuban medical mission deserters find refuge in the U.S., but many complain they have been waiting for months without a response. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)
Yaneisy Perez, left, and fellow Cuban doctors, show their diplomas during a protest to draw attention to their plight to get U.S. visas at the Banderas square in Bogota, Colombia, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. Dozens of health workers who defected while serving on aid missions in Venezuela fled to Bogota expecting to swiftly get visas to the United States under the 2006 Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, designed to help Cuban medical mission deserters find refuge in the U.S., but many complain they have been waiting for months without a response. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

Deteriorating conditions in Venezuela are causing increasing numbers of Cuban medical personnel working there to immigrate to the United States under a special US program launched in 2006 that expedites their applications.
For geographical reasons, neighboring Colombia is a favored gateway for Cubans fleeing Venezuela, who’s a populist government, is struggling to rein-in runaway inflation, widespread shortages of goods and services and rising social unrest.
On Saturday, the exodus reached critical mass when about 100 Cuban doctors, who deserted a medical mission in Venezuela and have been stranded in Colombia for months awaiting entry into the US, staged a protest to draw attention to their plight.
Brandishing their diplomas, the Cuban health professionals congregated in a plaza in Kennedy, a working-class neighborhood built in the 1960s with funds from John F. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress.
Several described how punishing working conditions and widespread shortages of food and basic necessities, compounded by meager pay and mistreatment in Venezuela is leading many to sneak across the border seeking a new start in the United States.
While they say conditions in Colombia are better than Venezuela, the cost of living is higher, and many say they have had to borrow money from strangers and have been surviving on a single meal a day.
Apparently health care professionals say they fear the delays in processing their visa requests under the 2006 program could be a sign that President Barack Obama is seeking to end the incentive as part of his campaign to normalize relations with the communist island.
The 2006 US program was designed to lure Cuba’s medical talent and deprive President Raul Castro’s family government of an important source of foreign revenue.
Cuba has not made public how much it pays doctors on foreign missions, though it is believed to be a small fraction of what it collects from the nations where they serve.
Cuba, which prides itself on a comprehensive healthcare system and has long exported doctors and nurses to friendly states, currently has more than 50,000 healthcare professionals in some 66 nations as part of the international outreach program dating back to the 1960s.
The majority, thought to number about 10,000 persons, work in Venezuela, which sends Cuba some 92,000 barrels of oil a day worth about US$3.2 billion a year in exchange.
In Colombia, authorities said that 117 Cuban doctors are currently in the country processing visa requests with the United States. A total of 720 have arrived this year so far, although 603 have been deported because they exceeded the 90-day safe-conduct granted by Colombia in order to solicit a US visa.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said last week that while Cubans regularly voice their concerns about the program, it’s not part of bilateral talks taking place between the two governments and there are no plans to eliminate it.
“It is not at all related to our new policy with respect to Cuba,” he said. “There’s no tie, no connection”.

MercoPress

Why is the Obama administration keeping Cuban doctors out while letting unskilled illegals in?

Yaneisy Perez, left, and fellow Cuban doctors, show their diplomas during a protest to draw attention to their plight to get U.S. visas at the Banderas square in Bogota, Colombia, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. Dozens of health workers who defected while serving on aid missions in Venezuela fled to Bogota expecting to swiftly get visas to the United States under the 2006 Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, designed to help Cuban medical mission deserters find refuge in the U.S., but many complain they have been waiting for months without a response. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

Yaneisy Perez, left, and fellow Cuban doctors, show their diplomas during a protest to draw attention to their plight to get U.S. visas at the Banderas square in Bogota, Colombia, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. Dozens of health workers who defected while serving on aid missions in Venezuela fled to Bogota expecting to swiftly get visas to the United States under the 2006 Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, designed to help Cuban medical mission deserters find refuge in the U.S., but many complain they have been waiting for months without a response. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

A group of about 100 Cuban doctors who fled to Colombia, and who are entitled to visas to enter the US, are being stalled by the Obama administration, even as open border policies permit unskilled laborers to flood in. Yesterday, they held a protest in Bogota to call attention to their plight.
The Cuban doctors had been stationed in Venezuela under a program dating to the 1960s in which Cuba sends medical professionals overseas as a moneymaking and political influence-buying mission. The doctors are paid very little by Cuba, which collects fees from the host countries for their services. Venezuela sends Cuba 92,000 barrels of oil a day, worth $3.2 billion a year, for instance. This is the very definition of exploitation, of course.
To counter this Cuban program, the US in 2006 created a program to issue visas to Cuban doctors and thus deprive the regime of crucial funds, while addressing the looming domestic shortage of medical professionals. But the Obama administration, perhaps in an effort to improve relations with Cuba has stalled in issuing visas to the Cuban medics. Camilo Hernandez of AP writes:
About 100 Cuban doctors who deserted a medical mission in Venezuela and have been stranded for months in Colombia seeking entry into the U.S. staged a protest Saturday to draw attention to their plight.
The health care workers say they fear the delays in processing their visa requests under a 2006 program aimed at luring Cuba’s medical talent could be a sign that President Barack Obama is seeking to end the incentive as part of his campaign to normalize relations with the communist island.
Wearing white doctor’s coats and brandishing their diplomas, the Cuban medical workers gathered in a plaza in Kennedy, a working-class neighborhood built in the 1960s with funds from John F. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress. Several described how widespread shortages and mistreatment in Venezuela is leading many to sneak across the border seeking a new start in the United States.
With many doctors retiring to avoid entanglement in the red tape and financial penalties of Obamacare, the US faces a serious doctor shortage. But it looks like the Obama administration values kowtowing to a communist dictatorship over the needs of the American people, and the existing regulations.

American Thinker