A US senator introduced a new bill on June 17 targeting countries that hire Cuban doctors through the island country’s “medical missions,” less than one month after Algeria publicized its involvement in the practice.
The bill, titled “Cut Profits to the Cuban Regime Act,” requires the US State Department to publicize the list of countries that benefit from Cuba’s medical missions. An estimated 50,000 Cuban healthcare workers are contracted in 67 countries around the world.
Deeming the medical missions a form of “modern-day human trafficking,” the bill calls upon the State Department to consider a country’s use of Cuban doctors as a factor in their annual “Trafficking in Persons Report” ranking.
The Republican senators leading the effort — Rick Scott (Florida), Marco Rubio (Florida), and Ted Cruz (Texas) — argue that the Cuban government participates “in the human trafficking of doctors” and “any country that requests medical assistance from Cuba is aiding their human trafficking efforts.”
“The international community must stand against the use of forced labor and the Cuban regime’s exploitation of this crisis,” said Senator Scott.
The senators also believe the Cuban government has been trying to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the island itself needing medicine, equipment, and doctors, Cuba has sent more than 1,400 doctors and nurses to over 20 countries to treat coronavirus patients.
The island nation has categorically denied such accusations, insisting the missions are displays of cooperation and solidarity.
While the country has earned praise for its medical missions, Cuban doctors have reported infringements of their civil and human rights.
“This program is one of the Cuban regime’s largest source of revenue, yet they rarely, if ever, pay a living wage to the medical professionals they force to work in other countries, confiscating their passports and subjecting them to poor living conditions and surveillance,” the senators stated.
Only countries that pay the Cuban health care workers directly, ensure the safety of their travel documents and wages, and make all agreements public and transparent will be exempt from a harsher human trafficking evaluation from the State Department. The host countries must also allow Cuban healthcare workers to bring their families with them and ensure Cuba is not receiving any additional compensation from the professionals’ work.
Senator Cruz, who is of Cuban descent, said the bill “will send a strong warning that the United States will not turn a blind eye to the trafficking of Cuban doctors.”
The “Cut Profits to the Cuban Regime Act” adds to Senator Scott’s efforts to urge the Trump Administration “to continue to take concrete steps to hold the Cuban regime accountable.”