The United States Department has rejected the visa applications of the Cuban delegation set to participate in the 57th Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) including the Minister of Health Jose Angel Portal Miranda.
According to a press release of the Cuban Ministry of Health of October 1, the US government unreasonably denied the visas for the Cuban delegation to participate in the most important meeting between health authorities throughout the region.
“We express our rejection of this arbitrary action and denounce that with the denial of their visas, the US government unreasonably violates its obligations as host country of an international organization,” the press release read.
The Cuban Health Ministry accused the government of the US for making another attempt to silence Cuba, as an effort that adds to the campaign that the US has been allegedly developing to hamper Cuba’s medical cooperation programs with other nations.
Yet, the Ministry claims they will continue to contribute to the “noble purpose of improving the health conditions and well-being of the countries that request it, faithful to its solidarity and internationalist vocation.”
A day before, the US State Department had announced it was imposing visa restrictions under the Immigration and Nationality on Cuban officials responsible for certain exploitative and coercive labor practices as part of Cuba’s overseas medical missions program.
“Profiting from the work of the Cuban doctors has been the decades-long practice of the Castros, and it continues today. These practices include requiring long work hours without rest, meager wages, unsafe housing, and restricted movement. The regime has also withheld passports and surveilled some doctors outside of work, ” it reads, accusing the Cuban government for compelling some Cuban doctors to use medical care as a political tool by providing care in exchange for pledges of loyalty.
According to State Department, any health program that coerces, endangers, and exploits its own practitioners is fundamentally flawed, further calling on governments that currently engage with Cuba’s overseas medical programs to ensure safeguards against labor abuse and exploitation.
Previously, the White House under Trump had accused Cuba of sending its medical staff to work abroad and making them pay back to the Cuban government 75% of their earnings. It is estimated that there are over 50,000 Cuban Health workers, working in more than 60 countries, generating major export earnings for the Cuban government.
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