To protest statements by the newly elected Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Cuba's Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) has decided to withdraw the Cuban doctors who were working in Brazil.
"It is not acceptable to question the dignity, professionalism and altruism of Cuban professionals who, with the support of their families, currently provide services in 67 countries," the official statement reads.
Though not yet in power, Bolsonaro stated that he would make Cuban participation in the Más Medicos program contingent upon each professional being duly certified in Brazil via examination, receiving full payment for their services, and being able to bring their families to the country.
The point in those statements that must have irked Havana most was the issue of salaries. Bolsonaro intends to overturn the conditions of neo-slavery designed for doctors. If they received payment in full, the Castroist elite would lose up to 75% of those salaries. In short, they would cease to benefit from a thriving scheme in Brazil that provides them with a hefty revenue source.
The MINSAP statement describes the economic conditions of these workers thus: "The collaborators have kept their jobs at all times, and 100% of their salaries in Cuba, with every labor and social guarantee, just like the rest of the workers of the National Health System."
It mentions salaries paid in Cuba, in Cuban pesos, but says nothing about the dollars earned and stolen in Brazil. It boasts of paying a Cuban salary, albeit paltry, to distract people from the regime's plundering of thousands of dollars a month, taken from these workers' pay abroad.
Havana seeks to present the world with the following dilemma: on one side, the Far Right leader oft-accused of being a fascist, Jair Bolsonaro; and, on the other, the "altruism" of the Cuban Revolution. While Bolsonaro addresses the fate of a group of Cuban professionals, Havana aspires to speak on behalf of the Brazilian people.
All this constitutes a game that has only just begun, one playing populism against populism. There have also been statements by Bolsonaro about the rupture of relations with the Cuban dictatorship, and relations between the two countries depend, for now, on the continuation or withdrawal of Cuban medical personnel.
The Brazilian president needs to follow through on his threats and promises, while the Cuban regime must maintain its display of "altruism" in a Latin America without guerrillas through which to operate, and with the Forum of San Pablo in a calamitous state.
That altruism, as hypocritical as the recently published MINSAP statement, is based on economically exploiting Cubans and violating their human rights, whether they are wearing white coats or not.