US must ‘hold Mexico responsible’: Gonzalez
Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, gives his take on tackling the border crisis after the expiration of Title 42 on "Your World."
MEXICO CITY — Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been accused of coming to the aid of the Cuban dictatorship by importing doctors and paying the communist regime for their services.
The move not only infuriated many in the Mexican health industry, but it’s also seen as another example of how Lopez Obrador is thumbing his nose at Washington.
“I think this is something that is of most concern for U.S. national security. These medical missions have proven already to violate labor standards, to violate human rights and also to be used as operations for intelligence missions and potentially military missions,” Joseph Humire, executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society, told Fox News Digital.
Using Lopez Obrador’s nickname, Humire said, “AMLO never admitted this, but it is pretty clear that if his political party, Morena, had won the midterms in Mexico, they would have tried to make reforms to the constitution, they would have tried to extend his presidency to another term, but since he was not able to achieve that, it seems that his focus has been on accelerating his strategic alliances with authoritarian actors both regional in Latin America and the Caribbean and extra-regional through China, Russia and Iran.”
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Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, right, and his Mexican counterpart, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, raise their hands before signing bilateral agreements at the Revolution Palace in Havana on May 8, 2022. (Yamil Lage/AFP via Getty Images)
Recently, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., sent a letter to Samantha Tate, division chief for United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) monitoring and enforcement, calling for an investigation into possible violations of the USMCA by Mexico due to their use of foreign medical personnel from Cuba. For years, the regime in Havana has forced Cuban doctors and nurses to work overseas, for pennies on the dollar, to enhance the regime’s propaganda that it has world-class health care.
According to an investigation by Prisoners Defenders, some of those who call themselves “Cuban doctors” are members of the Cuban military and intelligence service. They have no medical specialty.
Former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro planned and executed the medical missions as a way to spread socialism in the Americas. He managed to get his ideas adopted by two of his most faithful followers, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil, with whom he created the Sao Paulo Forum to push left-wing ideology on the entire hemisphere.
Miguel Diaz-Canel, president of Cuba, and his wife, Lis Cuesta Peraza, pose with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, president of Mexico, and his wife, Beatriz Gutierrez Muller, during a state visit to Mexico on Oct. 17, 2019, at the National Palace in Mexico City. (Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
The Mexican president justified his latest decision by noting in a press conference last week that “there is a shortage of specialists. … We thank the people and the Cuban government that is helping us because there are already 700 specialists from Cuba who are working in hospitals in Mexico, and we continue to call more. There is work for all doctors and specialists who want to work in the health sector,” he added.
A State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital, “While we recognize the importance of ensuring access to health care for all Mexicans, we remain concerned that the government of Cuba continues to profit from the exploitation and forced labor of its workers, including medical professionals.”
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Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been accused of coming to the aid of the Cuban dictatorship by importing doctors and paying the communist regime for their services. (Lionel Chamoiseau/AFP via Getty Images)
The spokesperson said the U.S. was aware of the goal of the missions: “The Cuban government uses coercive measures to deploy and exploit government-affiliated workers, including Cuban medical professionals, abroad. According to credible sources, the government pays workers only a portion of their salaries, restricts their freedom of movement, penalizes individuals for leaving the program by preventing their return to Cuba, and in some cases withholds their travel and identification documents to prevent them from leaving.”
The spokesperson added, “We continue to address these serious allegations and urge national and local authorities to ensure the program complies with international human rights obligations and commitments and upholds international labor standards.”
Recently, the Fundación Internacional para la Libertad (FIL), Prisoners Defenders International, Outreach Aid to the Americas and Latin America Watch, denounced the working conditions of the Cuban doctors, saying a statement that the conditions are akin to that of “modern slavery … because 80% of the resources that are paid to the medical brigades are for the regime, not for the doctors who live in misery.”
Javier Larrondo, president of the Prisoners Defenders organization and a speaker at the Cuban Medical Missions conference, accused the Mexican government of being accomplices by saying, “The government of Mexico is sponsoring slavery.”
As Cuba continues to suffer economically, the dictatorship uses and enslaves Cuban doctors, whom it sends on different “missions” around the world. Critics say this form of “slavery” persists because there are complicit governments that play along with the dictatorship and that they receive such medical missions to justify their financing of the regime, as is the case some claim with AMLO’s government.
Fidel Castro, who died in 2016, led Cuba for nearly 50 years after maintaining an iron grip on Cuban politics for nearly 50 years. Castro planned and executed the medical missions as a way of spreading socialism. (Getty Images)
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At the same conference Dita Charanzova, vice president of the European Parliament, said the medical brigades represent the largest source of income for the Cuban government through practices of persecution, modern slavery and threats, noting that the contracting systems violate international labor law.
In a complaint published by the human rights organizations, there were more than 1,000 testimonies, with 75% of the participants claiming that they did not go voluntarily to the missions, 87% assured that economic factors influenced their decision, and 41% suffered some type of sexual harassment by Cuban officials, known as the heads of missions, that accompany them in their “work.”
A major Mexican health union protested the government decision, stating that Mexico has trained doctors but who are unemployed or in precarious working conditions.
“They have been unfairly relegated, favoring foreign doctors, also ignoring the academic capacity of our universities,” they said in a statement in which they complained about the low salaries and the lack of security in the areas to which they are sent.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, right, and President Joe Biden shake hands at the National Palace in Mexico City on Jan. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano/File)
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“There is a huge deficit in salaries and benefits for young medical graduates in Mexico,” Felipe Fernando Macias Olvera, federal deputy and president of the Justice Commission’s lower house, told Fox News Digital.
“The government should invest to improve the health system. They must invest and bet on the talent of young doctors in Mexico and in the entire health system that is facing its worst moment. Bringing in Cuban doctors is nothing more than the government doing political favors to the Cuban dictatorship, far from being a public policy that benefits Mexicans,” he said.
Armando Regil reports on México and Latin America for Fox News Digital. Armando has contributed articles to El Economista, Forbes México, Geopolitical Intelligence Services, El País, Expansión, PanAm Post and Diario de las Américas. You can follow Armando on Twitter @armando_regil.