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There Will Not Be A Wave Of Physicians Returning To Cuba

“There Will Not Be A Wave Of Physicians Returning To Cuba” / 14ymedio,
Reinaldo Escobar, Jeovany Jimenez Vega
Posted on September 8, 2015

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Mexico, 7 September 2015 — Late last year,
Dr. Jeovany Jimenez Vega decided to go to work in Ecuador on a private
contract. From Guayaquil, where he works with his wife, he has read in
the official Cuban press the new relaxations that allow healthcare
workers who have emigrated to return to the Public Health System in Cuba.

The doctor, author of the blog Citizen Zero, was separated from his
profession in 2006 in retaliation for a protest over low wages in the
health care sector. He subsequently staged a hunger strike as a result
of which he managed to be restored to his previous job at the hospital
in Guanajay. This time, he responded by email to several questions for
readers of 14ymedio on the new measures, and the expectations and doubts
they generate.

Reinaldo Escobar. To what do you attribute the adoption of these
relaxations relating to Cuban doctors living abroad?

Dr. Jeovany Jimenez. It is obvious that this is a reaction to counter
the massive exodus of professionals. The Cuban authorities had plenty of
time, decades in fact, to do everything that they are promising today.
But it is only now, when a stampede is underway, that they decide to
implement a much fairer policy. The healthcare workers who generate
between eight billion and ten billion dollars annually with our work
abroad, we deserve this.

So far, healthcare workers had only received sticks, despotic treatment
and the capitalist exploitation of their work – in the strictest sense
of the phrase – when we see that on an official mission of work abroad
the healthcare worker receives only 20% of the salary that is agreed to
between the two countries. Not a single word has been said about this
situation and this is at the center of the desertions.

Escobar. Do you think that many of these doctors living abroad are
planning to return to the Island?

Jimenez. Those doctors who deserted from missions or who left to work on
individual contracts are not demanding to return to Cuba. They made
their firm decision after giving it a lot of thought. What is the most
evident reality for millions of Cubans is the profound, lamentable and
systematic deterioration of medical care at all levels throughout the
country. We have been witnesses for decades to the progressive
structural deterioration of doctors’ offices, polyclinics, dental
clinics and hospitals. Meanwhile the Cuban government continues to
divert resources to polish its repressive apparatus and our
neo-bourgeoisie spend big on luxury hotels and wandering around Turkey*.

Escobar. So you did not see it as an opening?

Jimenez. I greatly doubt that we are facing a genuine change towards
more opening from the regime. We are facing a government that in the
rest of its actions has changed nothing; it is still conducting its
internal dynamics as an authentic dictatorship. It still systematically
represses, with the greatest impunity, dissent in ideas and other basic
human rights. It has not shown the slightest sign, in the rest of its
facets, that would give us reason to believe that these measures can
engage a change of mentality leading to real openings.

We are simply looking at a pragmatic shift to adapt itself to the new

Escobar. What has been the reaction among physicians you know?

Jimenez. Oscillating between joy, disdain and skepticism.

Escobar. Is it possible to reverse the exodus of health professionals
with these relaxations?

Jimenez. The damage is done. Everything that happens today could largely
have been avoided if the Ministry of Public Health and the Cuban
government had listened seriously to the demands of our workers. They
should have been attentive to our needs and followed a fair and
reciprocal policy towards a sector that over the past three decades has
generated more than 50% of Cuba’s GDP, without this having resulted in
improvements to the status of our personal lives.

Every Cuban doctor who decided to leave the island to work abroad, did
it as a result of negative personal experiences and in search of
different, more promising horizons. In most cases they left behind on
the island extremely poor working conditions: an absurd monthly salary
that runs out in a week, disrespect, the frequent arrogance and even the
despotism of the authorities of their ministry and their government.
That professional experienced a high degree of frustration at having
devoted the best part of his or her life to a labor without being justly

That physician felt defrauded, if not betrayed. So these frustrations
and mistreatments are evoked when weighing a decision to return to Cuba.

Escobar. Will there be a wave of physicians returning to Cuban hospitals?

Jimenez. It is very doubtful that a massive return will happen, but it
is not entirely ruled out that some will choose to return after working
for a time abroad, especially if the authorities, this time, keep their
word and implement what they have promised. We know that with the Cuban
Government there will always be some distance between words and actions.

I doubt very much that this return will happen in the form of a wave,
not immediately. There is too much mistrust generated by decades of
broken promises to make it likely that now, by grace of an article in
the newspaper Granma, someone will make ??the most important decision of
his or her life, and return without further ado.

Escobar. Do you think that this could open a gap so that more doctors
leave Cuba once the punishments have been removed?

Jimenez. The time when punishments were feared is in the past. Perhaps
some, right now, perceive the long-expected starting gun, although there
are still many professionals who never left the country because they
didn’t find a way to finance the enterprise. Those of us who have chosen
to work outside Cuba, we did it with loans from family or friends, or
with the money accumulated on some official medical mission abroad.

Escobar. Besides the resources to travel, what other obstacles are there
on the road?

Jimenez. In recent months they have implemented the practice,
undoubtedly deliberately, of delaying all the legal validation of
documents in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the rest of the
ministries, with the obvious purpose of putting obstacles before any
possible departure from the country by doctors and professionals from
other sectors. This hindrance can only be explained as a policy of
deterrent to discourage future flights.

Escobar. In the announcement that appeared in Granma the only ones
included among those who can return are those who left under the new
Immigration Act, which came into force in January 2013, but there is
nothing said about those who left before. What do you think about that?

Jimenez. If this is so, we would be facing the perpetuation a grave
injustice. To prevent any Cuban citizen from freely entering his or her
own country is a grave violation of human rights practiced by the Cuban
government for half a century. Anyone who still doubts that this is a
rancid dictatorship can take this example: a doctor precluded by a group
of officials from meeting with his children for eight years (!) for
something as simple as having terminated a labor contract, for nothing
more than his having “deserted” a mission.

Such a decision would oppose the central objective of the new policy,
that seeks nothing more than discouraging departures and encouraging the
return of a greater number of professionals among those who once left.

*Translator’s note: A reference to recent photographs published in the
international press showing Fidel Castro’s son Antonoio Castro Soto Del
Valle enjoying a luxury vacation in Turkey.

Source: “There Will Not Be A Wave Of Physicians Returning To Cuba” /
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Jeovany Jimenez Vega | Translating Cuba –

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