Qatar is once again accused of violating human rights. In this case, of doctors participating in Cuba’s so-called ‘internationalisation missions’. The small emirate is one of the three countries – along with Italy and Mexico – that Prisoners Defenders has included in the extension of the complaint filed with the United Nations (UN) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the exploitation of health professionals who are hired through the communist regime.
As we have been reporting in Libertad Digital, the Caribbean dictatorship has set up a business of stratospheric proportions at the expense of between 50,000 and 100,000 Cubans working abroad in slave-like conditions. The contingent earns an annual income of around 8.5 billion dollars, almost three times what it earns from tourism. The secret: it appropriates most of their wages (up to 90% in the case of Qatar).
Third medical brigade sent to Qatar during the pandemic.
The first of these missions left the Caribbean island for Algeria on 23 May 1963. The expedition was sold as a disinterested and unprecedented humanitarian aid shipment, but it had little – if anything – to do with the reality experienced by the Cubans who took part in that and subsequent missions, as doctors Aliocha Batista and Yamilka Izquierdo reported in Libertad Digital a few months ago.
Once it proved that it worked, Cuba exported the model to different parts of the world. To date, these missions have reached 163 countries, according to data from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO). The president of Prisoners Defenders, Javier Larrondo, affirms – in declarations to this newspaper – that at the moment “Mexico is serving as a spearhead” in this “colonisation of Latin American countries, as it did during the Chávez era”.
The specific case of Qatar, permanently in the eye of the storm for the systematic violation of human rights in the country and the restriction of freedoms to which it subjects its citizens, deserves a separate chapter now that it is also in the media spotlight for the organisation of the last World Cup, which – in addition to being conflictive – holds the dubious honour of being the most expensive in history. However, it should be noted that the NGO has been denouncing the exploitation of Cuban workers in the Persian Gulf country for years.
The Qatari scam
The collaboration with Qatar began in 1999 with the aim of materialising the construction of the Dukhan Cuban Hospital, which was inaugurated on 10 January 2012. As explained – in 2019 – by the Cuban Ministry of Health on its website, what began as “part of an intergovernmental agreement, devised between Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro and the Emir of Qatar (Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani)” has become “one of the most consolidated Cuban medical missions abroad”.
This – translated – means that it is a very important source of income for the communist regime. The figures provided by Larrondo speak for themselves. According to the organisation’s calculations based on testimonies gathered during its research, Cuba receives between 5,000 and 13,000 dollars per month per worker. It pays them between 750 and 1,200 dollars. In other words, in many cases it is less than 10%. “We are talking about a slavery scheme”, which has been going on for the last decade.
The secret pact
Nothing has changed despite the small scandal that the information published in 2019 by The Guardian on the subject. The British newspaper then claimed that all of the 475 doctors working in the hospital at the time were Cubans and that the two countries had reached a “secret” agreement so that the Caribbean dictatorship would keep 90% of their salaries.
That the pact came to light does not seem to have been a problem for the two countries, as they continue to collaborate on the same terms. According to Prisoners Defenders, which has recent testimonies, “the situation of the workers remains the same, both in terms of wages and conditions“. “Slave labour is carried out with astonishing ease in Qatar”, Larrondo said.
Missions in pandemic
According to the NGO, Cuba has sent a total of three medical brigades to the Persian Gulf country during the Covid_19 pandemic. The first left on 15 April 2020, with 229 aid workers. The second – made up of 170 members – arrived in the emirate on 24 June of the same year. And the last arrived on 19 March 2021, bringing another 156 Cuban health workers.
These professionals joined those who made up the permanent mission that was in the country in 2020. All of them were sent – by the communist regime – to work abroad for the rich people of Qatar, while in Cuba there were no doctors – nor the means – to attend to its citizens, who were dying in the corridors and at the doors of completely overcrowded medical centres.