us-sanctions 14 May 2020

Cuban doctors ‘forced labour’ say US senators

Two US senators have condemned Cuba’s medical mission of sending doctors around the world as a form of modern slavery and are asking Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to engage with US allies including Italy, Qatar and Argentina to inform them of Havana’s ‘forced labor practices’.

In a letter to Pompeo, senators Marco Rubio (Republican) and Bob Menendez (Democrat) expressed concern at the Cuban government’s practice of sending doctors abroad – especially during the current pandemic – because most of their earnings go to the government in Havana.

Cuba uses its respected health service to generate major export earnings by sending tens of thousands of health workers to dozens of countries. The senators claimed that the practice amounts to human trafficking and modern slavery.

‘Despite the growing body of evidence on the Cuban regime’s trafficking of doctors and medical personnel, we are alarmed that governments such as in Italy, Qatar, South Africa, Argentina, and several Caribbean nations have accepted Cuba’s medical missions in recent months,’ the senators said in a 6 May letter to Pompeo.

‘We respectfully request that you direct the U.S. Embassies in each of these countries to deliver a demarche to host government officials to inform them about the Cuban regime’s forced labor practices,’ the letter added.

‘As governments around the world are forced to take extraordinary measures to address the pandemic and many communities still face challenges in the United States, we urge the Trump Administration to continue the United States’ longstanding humanitarian tradition of providing available assistance to those countries most affected by COVID-19,’ the senators said.