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Cuba accuses the US of “blackmailing” PAHO to discredit its medical cooperation

Miguel Díaz-Canel speaks at the UN General Assembly, from Havana, on September 22.Presidency of Cuba / EFE

Washington has once again turned Cuba’s medical cooperation programs into a battlefield to harass the Government of Havana. While the island maintains 3,800 doctors, nurses and health technicians working in 39 countries in the face of the covid-19 pandemic, the Trump Administration has intensified its attacks against Cuban medical collaboration, under the accusation that it encourages “slave labor ”From your healthcare staff. Havana says that for some time the White House has intensified its “smear campaign” against these health programs, but now, it has taken a step further by “pressuring” the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in an “attack front against multilateralism ”.

The Cuban Foreign Ministry has not wanted to let go of what it considers a new “dishonest campaign” by Washington, and on Wednesday it formally accused the US in a statement of “blackmailing” PAHO “to discredit international medical cooperation of Cuba, put pressure on the governments that receive it and deprive the peoples of these health services.

According to the Cuban Foreign Ministry, the United States has threatened the international organization with “not disbursing the financial contribution” that it owes and corresponds to if “an external review of the role of PAHO in the More Doctors in Brazil program” is not carried out, while it has tried to veto the island’s membership in the Executive Committee of PAHO, something that it has not achieved.

The Cuban complaint indicates that the More Doctors program, articulated between the Governments of Cuba and Brazil between 2013 and 2018 with the support of PAHO, “has received previous audits with satisfactory results”, being “the object of the grossest smear campaign” by the US and the current government of Jair Bolsonaro, whom he describes as “servile.”

Havana assures that the Trump Administration tries to “link Cuba’s international medical cooperation with human trafficking”, and censors the statements of the director of Economy and Development of the United States Department of State, Kristen Pisani, in which it warns to PAHO that the election of Cuba would be offensive and could “undermine the principles of that Organization.” For the Government of Miguel Díaz-Canel, the latest actions by Washington constitute “a gross manipulation of PAHO for political purposes and an extension of the aggression against Cuba”, as well as a “frontal attack against multilateralism.”

“If Cuba had not been forced to withdraw its doctors from Brazil, they could have contributed to the control and confrontation of the covid-19 pandemic in that country, the second most affected worldwide,” recalls the Cuban Foreign Ministry, indicating that in the five years that the cooperation between Cuba and Brazil lasted, Cuban doctors treated 113 million Brazilian patients in 3,600 municipalities, providing medical coverage to 60 million people. At the end of 2018, after Bolsonaro came to power, the island decided to withdraw its doctors due to the “hostile” attitude of the new Brazilian government towards them.

The Trump Administration has asked the recipient countries of Cuban medical cooperation on several occasions to review their collaboration programs, as these are an important source of resources for the Government of Cuba. It is estimated that Havana obtains from the work of its medical brigades abroad – there are more than 40,000 health professionals working in 60 countries, most of the professionals in Venezuela – more than everything the country enters through tourism. , about $ 3 billion a year.

Since he arrived at the White House, Trump has made an effort to cut off the Cuban government’s sources of resources, arguing that Havana is the main supporter of Venezuela. Last week, the president of the United States announced new measures against Cuba, including a ban on all US citizens from staying in state-owned hotels, in addition to suspending imports of rum and tobacco. Before that, it ended cruise ship trips, established limits on the remittances that emigrants could send to their families, applied the Helms-Burton law to discourage foreign investment, and intensified the financial persecution against banks that carry out operations with Cuba. The attack on medical cooperation programs is, for Havana, part of the same effort by Washington to corner the island.