Stop the Human Trafficking of Cuban Doctors
Stop the Human Trafficking of Cuban Doctors
The Cuban Government is trafficking its doctors. It uses the “Henry Reeve Medical Brigade” as the front for a money-making scheme, forcing thousands of doctors to work involuntarily in medical missions abroad. The Nobel Peace Prize Committee has recently nominated the Cuban government for the Henry Reeve Brigade, despite the government’s systemic exploitation of the Cuban doctors’ human rights.
This is why the Cuban Government (Henry Reeve Brigade) should not be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for the doctors’ work around the world amidst COVID-19. We have deep admiration and respect for the Cuban doctors and nurses who have and continue to provide care to the sick across the world, particularly through the worst epidemic of our time. However, the way the Cuban Government exploits doctors is modern-day slavery, and the Committee should remove the Cuban Government for consideration for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Nobel Committee has not shied away from nominating controversial candidates in the past, and we applaud its courage. However, giving this distinction to the Cuban government (Henry Reeve Brigade) would legitimize human trafficking, forced labor, and government exploitation of healers whose mission is to save lives and treat the ill. We petition the Nobel Committee to not consider this program for the Peace Prize.
Forced Labor Disguised as Humanitarian Relief. The Henry Reeve Brigade, and the Cuban Medical Missions program overall, is often cited as an internationalist humanitarian organization, but its proponents fail to be mention that it violates the rights of its citizens and engages in human trafficking.
The Cuban Government takes on average $6 billion for its forced labor services. Doctors are forced to participate, paid as little as 5% of what they’re sold for, and stripped of their basic human rights.
Thousands of former Cuban doctors have defected from the program and have partnered with allies, human rights advocates, NGOs, and academics to speak out about the nature of these so-called “missions.” Awarding the program itself would make a mockery of the Nobel Peace Prize and of all the Cuban people.
Violations of Human Rights. The Cuban government generates enough money from its medical missions program – its biggest source of revenue – to fund 60 percent of its budget through the abhorrent manipulation and forced work of more than 70,000 of its doctors. Once they arrive in their designated foreign city, Cuban officials seize their passports and demand power of attorney. The doctors are then given a nightly curfew, monitored 24 hours per day, and prohibited from engaging with friends[ or anyone outside of the Cuban mission.
In 2019, two special rapporteurs of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council examined the Henry Reeve Brigade and reported that the Cuban government retains 75 percent to 90 percent of doctors’ monthly salaries, and often the “salary paid to medical workers would not allow them to live in dignity… and the Government of Cuba would ‘freeze’ a part of the salary that the doctors would have access to only after their return to the country… many times they do not receive the entire amount that is due to them.”
U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken cited The U.S. Department of State’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) , calling Cuba’s medical missions program forced labor. The report stated that “...International observers and former participants reported government officials force or coerce individuals to participate and remain in the Cuban government’s labor export programs, particularly the foreign medical missions program, managed by the Unidad Central de Cooperacion Medica (UCCM), the [Cuba's] Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment.”
In June of 2021, the European Union’s (EU) parliament passed a resolution condemning the Cuban government’s human rights abuses of its people and recommending that the EU not enter the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement with Cuba. The resolution cites a number of human rights violations, including Cuba’s medical missions program, as evidence for the EU to not enter into this treaty, which would normalize relations with the Cuban government and provide it with access to $3 billion in foreign investment.
Thousands of Cuban Doctors Have Fled.
Not surprisingly, more than 10,000 doctors who were forced on these missions ultimately chose to defect from their country rather than continue to be exploited by their government. They defected while facing extreme penalties for attempted escape if they were caught. Because of this, the Cuban government calls them deserters and denies them the right to visit their country and be with their families. These practices violate every forced labor and trafficking indicator established by the International Labor Organization, which the committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1969.