© 2021 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Cuban Doctors Who Bolted Brazil Sue Pan-American Health Organization

Matias J. Ocner
Miami Herald
Cuban doctors Ramona Matos (left) and Tatiana Caraballo at press conference Friday in Doral announcing the suit against the Pan-American Health Organization.

Brazil’s president-elect is accusing the Cuban government of treating Cuban doctors who work in Brazil as “slave labor.” Cuban doctors who’ve fled Brazil said Friday they’re suing the hemispheric organization that brokered their contracts to work there.

More than 8,000 Cuban doctors work in Brazil to help fill a severe doctor shortage there. But Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro insists the Cuban government should not be allowed to take some 80 percent of what Brazil pays those doctors.

Bolsonaro says Cuba is essentially trafficking those doctors for profit. In Doral, a group called Cuban Doctors Human Rights Litigation said it’s suing on behalf of the Cuban doctors who have managed to escape the Brazilian program.

The target of the suit is the Pan-American Health Organization, or PAHO, based in Washington D.C. That’s because it was the PAHO that brokered the deal between Cuba and Brazil. And because, according to the suit, the PAHO itself takes a cut of the Cuban doctors’ pay.

The suit was filed in federal court in Miami. The PAHO denies the accusation. Cuba, meanwhile, says it intends to pull the Cuban doctors out of Brazil in retaliation against Bolsonaro’s comments.