Cuban Doctors in Indentured Servant Limbo in Colombia

medicos-cubanos-venezuelaJim Wyss has a shocking story in the Miami Herald  about the sprawling state-sponsored human trafficking ring known as Barrio Adentro, and the Cuban doctors now getting stranded in Bogota as they try to flee indentured servitude in Venezuela.

The stories the Cuban doctors tell tell read like the stories of Eritrean refugees trying to get themselves smuggled into Europe: people punished for sharing a meal with Venezuelan opposition members, women punished for getting pregnant without permission, doctors mercilessly preyed on as they try to make their way to Colombia.

Almost everyone interviewed had stories of being extorted by the police or robbed along the way.

A 27-year-old dentist, who did not want to be named, said Colombian guards stripped him naked and robbed him of 70,000 pesos, or about $38 — all the money he had.

“People are taking advantage of us every step of the way,” he said.

Pérez said that Cubans streaming across the border are so commonplace that people are waiting for them. “We’re being hunted,” he said.

While some of the health workers said they had planned to abandon their posts, others said they felt they had no choice.

Annie Rodriguez, a 29-year-old rehabilitation specialist, was sent to the Venezuelan town of Ospino, about 240 miles southwest of the capital. There, she shared a room with three other doctors. They put up a cardboard wall for privacy from their male roommates.

“The house had a dirt floor, there wasn’t a kitchen or a bathroom,” she said. “When it flooded we’d have to put our luggage on the bed.”

In April 2014, she discovered she was pregnant — a violation of her contract. It meant she would be sent back to the island and stripped of the salary that had been deposited for her there.

She borrowed money from her mother and finally made it to the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá seven months pregnant. On Dec. 9, however, her asylum request was rejected. She said the shock of the news sent her into labor.

“Ever since then I’ve stayed here in Colombia because I don’t have any options,” she said, as she held her 8-month-old daughter, Wilbelys Antonella. “I can’t go back to Venezuela or Cuba.”

She’s been relying on friends and family to help pay her monthly $180 rent.

Pérez, who had done tours of Venezuela in 2004 and 2011, said he was also “forced to abandon” his post.

Internacionalistas are given modest stipends but the bulk of their salary is held in Cuba. When they’re sent home early — as Pérez himself was being threatened with — they’re denied even those modest savings. Without that money, there was nothing to go home to, he said.

Why the U.S. government is dragging its feet on approving their visas to go stateside is not really properly explained. If official U.S. complicity with human trafficking is what the Obama Détente amounts to, though, it will hang like a shroud of shame over this president forever and a day.

21 thoughts on “Cuban Doctors in Indentured Servant Limbo in Colombia

  1. It’s a bit early to blame Obama for this. Cubans still encounter highly-favourable immigration laws in the U.S., laws not available to, say, Haitians. There are also specific enticements for Cuban doctors from the Barrio Adentro programme in place in U.S. Practice. Given that the U.S. has no particular duty to absorb every doctor who wants to go there, we might equally wonder why Canada, Spain, or France cannot take up the slack.

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    • Spain and Canada already got all the best trained doctors and oil engineers that fled Venezuela at the start of the exodus. Those were all the Venezuelan doctors that trained in USA, and Europe. Real and well trained Doctors. I am sorry to say it but these are really not doctors but, at best, more like nurses based on stories that I have heard on the ground. This is the reason Spain and Canada don’t want them.

      I am sorry for the hardships these Cubans are going through but it is nothing compared to what Venezuelans are having to endure at the moment.

      Sorry, Cuba is not my priority. They are getting along well at the moment with the American detente and their parasitic leeching of Venezuela.

      Liked by 2 people

    • In all honesty, these Cuban “doctors” hold only credentials that qualify them as physicians in Cuba, or any number of third world nations willing to take them on and call them “doctors”. Most only have the remedial training that a four year nursing student (BAN, BSN in the United States) would have. Some less. They would not be “doctors” in the US. They might get jobs as surgical assistants, providing they pass the exams.

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      • Isn’t about rescue those slaves Maria. It is about the “values” of freedom and liberty for which we stand as a Nation (the U.S. Nation of course)

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        • The amount of people applying for asylum every single year in the United States is in enormous. Most of them have worse stories than these people, with their whole families being slaughtered. The system is so overloaded with requests, bogus and legitimate, that it is common practice to come up with the most tragic and terrible story possible when filing for asylum.

          A colleague of mine is married to a woman who processes applications, and the stories she relates are all almost unimaginably sad. Part of the problem of their job is trying to determine which stories are true and which are not.

          From what I gather, many of these ‘doctors’ went to Venezuela willingly.

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    • Since there’s a law enforcing their incorporation into the usonian society by granting them political assylum. So simple, the law empire. The same as the wet-feet/dry-feet one.

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  2. Well said Francisco.
    The new kind of slavery and human trafficking is openly practiced in Cuba and the Obama’s administration choose to look the other way, just to fulfill an Obama’s legacy

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      • Look, the Obama Administration is at a very delicate point right now with Cuba. People are watching. People are looking to infer exactly what it is that the Cubans pressed for and got in terms of concessions when the deal to re-establish embassies was made. It’s natural for the Obama Admin to be under extra scrutiny on its Cuba policy right now. It’s natural and it’s right.

        Leaving Cuban doctors stranded penniless and without immigration status in Bogota even though there’s a law in the books in the U.S. specifically designed to ease their passage into the country sends a message. A troubling friggin’ message. Especially at this time.

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        • A true ‘thanks Obama’ moment. Let’s not forget, literally speaking these people are fugitives who reneged on their, legally binding, word to return to Cuba. People making the journey on rafts get turned back a few miles away from US shores. I don’t condone these actions but it’s painfully obvious as to why they exist.

          Hard as it may be to believe there is a lot more to the US government than the executive. Just last week the Obama administration made it very clear any change in relations are merely aesthetic. Progress will come excruciatingly slow.

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  3. I always understood that the so called Cuban doctors were a temporary measure while Venezuelans trained their own. Very few people with actual skills and qualifications would do this work under present conditions. From any place. The notion that there is a surplus of thousands of Cuban Che Guevarras on hand ready to lay hands on the impoverished overseas is a ridiculous premise for a system of primary care. I wonder frankly how many people this medical system has killed.

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    • Those “Cuban doctors” are no doctors! They are nicknamed “witchdoctors” here in Brazil. They are totally out of touch with the latest and best practices in medicine. They prescribe medicine and treatments that have not been used for decades of years! Doctors say that most of them are not even ready to be nurses!

      Brazilian doctors even created a site to show their grotesque errors:

      http://maismedicos.tumblr.com/

      It’s true that in a recent past, poor people living in remote areas would not be contemplated with good medical care, but the city halls, state governments and even the local people themselves would find a way to take those in need to the bigger cities to receive proper medical care from real doctors once, or twice a year, but now that the witchdoctors are there, that doesn’t happen anymore. And the medical errors are pilling up. So, we have empirical evidence showing that if you have to choose between a fake doctor and no doctor, definitely choose the latter. Because eventually they may find a real doctor that will save them, whereas a bad doctor will either kill you, or leave your body permanently damaged (if you are lucky).

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  4. If official U.S. complicity with human trafficking is what the Obama Détente amounts to, though, it will hang like a shroud of shame over this president forever and a day.

    What nonsense, unless you have any evidence to back this up. Do you realize how many people apply to asylum every single year for the United States, many with way worse situations than these poor folks? In some cases you have to show physical scars to help your case.

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  5. 18th Century Indentured servitude, right under the “United Nations” modern eyes.

    And everyone loves Cuba today.

    Prehistoric, barbaric Neanderthals is what we are.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This tale is true but incomplete.

    Effectively a lot of cuban sanitary workers are taking profit of the Misión scheme in Venezuela to scape from the prison island thru the long and loose controlled colombo-venezuelan frontier. That’s why the cuban government drawback most of their medics and enforced harder conditions to the personal coming to Venezuela about 2006.

    Since the starting of Barrio Adentro and the cuban Misión scheme, in Venezuela have been operating some ONG’s whose work is just that, allowing cubans from the Misión scheme to escape to the US via Colombia. It have been working reasonably well (for the ones who manage to get Cúcuta) until the colombian government started to control the cubans moving into their country, rejecting assylum petitions to the cubans arriving at El Dorado, and detaining and deporting (to Cuba not Venezuela) the cubans who were catched in the countryside.

    Cases of this are happening since late 2013, maybe it has a correlation to the peace tasks between the colombian government and the FARC guerrilla at Cuba, as a condition imposed by the Castro regimme to participate and facilitate the meetings at La Habana.

    As i know, to apply for the benefits of the usonian law concerning the cuban sanitary personal, they have to prove they are cubans (the reason why the slavekeepers at the Misión scheme keep themselves the passports of every cuban in Venezuela) and to prove they have been working in any kind of sanitary tasks (which i suppose is/was granted by the ONG sponsorship thru a letter and a profile).

    Well, the thing is Colombia used to deliver these people a temporal passport that allow them to proof their cuban nacionality and access the benefit at the US embassy at Bogotá, now as Colombia doesn’t make such passport, they have to wait for the US embassy to check they are cubans or ask in Colombia, Ecuador or Panamá for assylum.

    Some of these people are trying to reach the States thru Centroamérica and México as the colombian government and the ecuadorian government aren’t aproving the assylum petitions.

    You can check the informations in the colombian newspapers and media.

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  7. By other hand, the Misión scheme is truly a sort of slavery of the XXIth century. And this is how it works:

    Cuban government received abour 2000 USD/month from the Venezuelan government per each medic or sanitary worker. Cuban government pays to the family of the workers about 50 USD/month, which is a lot of money having in mind a cuban medic earns about 28 CUC = 32 USD a month (1 CUC is 1,1 USD because of the 10% tax imposed to the usonian currency in the island).

    The cubans are granted their expenses in Venezuela, so they don’t receive money, they used to receive money in a first stage, but the problem with the cuban having money and fleeing to Colombia detonates three measures: a) getting back the best cuban personal to Cuba, b) eliminating the management of money for the cuban medic/sanitary personal by themselves (now their expenses are controlled by the coordinadores) and c) restrict tightly their freedom of movement in Venezuela (not only keeping passports but having them checked or accompained by cuban comunist party workers).

    When a cuban in the Misión scheme flee they are treated as traitors, their diploms get banned and their families got watched closed as possible traitors too. If they are caught and returned back to Cuba they cannot work in their proffessions anymore.

    The Misión scheme used to be a 2-3 year period the best personal in the island could apply to come Venezuela, a nice reward (as the freedom of being outside Cuba) and aid for the families (for the payment). Now i guess is much more restricted to only very very selected personal.

    At the end it is sad, that people fleeing from such a slavery have to stand the colombian government as a cuban ally in this hunting too.

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  8. We ve written before about many cases (some witnessed by close kin of mine) where the cuban medics credentials or professional performance has been seriously called into question by Venezuelan physicians . Apparently at least some of the medics sent here are not true phisicians but upgraded paramedical staff who are officially appointed doctors but really are not. The head of the Salvador Allende barrio adentro centre in Chuao suffered an illness which supposedly should have been treated by the cuban staff under her supervision , instead she made clandestine appointment with a private specialist who treated her in his private clinic . She evidently didnt trust her own cuban medics to treat her illness even if the purportedly had the credentials and equipment to do so. The Hospital MIlitar main barrio adentro Hospital for the whole of the system will not accept scans (radiografias and the like) made by cuban medics but insist on requiring their patients to bring radiografias made at private clinics , the cuban medics are terrible at doing them and dont know how to mark the scans to show the areas which must be examined most carefully.

    This kin of mine (a phisician working at an public health centre ) once was ordered to march in an official parade together with her colleagues behind the cuban medics ( who where given a much more comfortable and better equiped place in which to work and were allowed holidays which the local phisicians were not) wearing govt provided red sweat shirts and caps but FORBIDDEN from wearing the white coats they used in their daily routine . These where to be worn only by the cuban medics parading in front of them . The young mothers in this place ( a small town surrounded by a cluster of barrios ) would make long queues to have their children seen by the venezuelan phisicians at the official health facilities rather than at the barrio adentro cuban staffed centre , they were chavistas all but they didnt trust their children to the latter , sometimes they would go to the centre and then have the medical recipes given by the cuban medics checked by the Venezuelan phisicians to make sure they were ok. Sometimes the recipes would contain errors such as providing for a small child to be given an adults dossage , something that could seriously affect the childs health. Once a young man had a seizure which he cuban medics couldnt cure so when the young man was in critical condition they had him rushed to the venezuelan phisicians so that if he died he wouldnt appear in their roster. of patients. Much of the barrio adentro mission was an outrageous fraud .!!

    Had a chance of talking to quite of few scaped cuban medics in the US, they were sometimes housed in the most dangerous places in not always comfortable conditions . they had to keep themselves within the confines of the place where they worked and if they wanted to go any where else they had to ask for special permission from their bosses. On arrival they were given cellular phones and told to carry them at all times , so when they planned their scapes ( with the help of locals already known to other medics who had already scaped) the first thing they did was to drop their cell phones in a street trash can so they couldnt be located .

    Had another relative who tried to make friendly with them in an humane gesture , some people treated them with open hostility and scorn so they were grateful for any friendly gesture . My kin told me that they were really very simple people , sort of low spirited , not at all concerned with politics and instead dreaming of how to buy a nice polo sports shirt or a Fria ( fridge) which they were soemtimes able to send back to Cuba on military planes .to send back home when their turn ended (using cuban military air transport planes)
    Understand their numbers are now much reduced .

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