This week, Cuban doctors in exile and human rights organizations said that the socialist country of Venezuela arrested at least 17 Cuban slave doctors when they tried to leave their medical team. According to the doctors, on May 10, their colleagues were detained in western Táchira state as they attempted to enter Colombia.

On Tuesday, the arrest was announced by members of the Gremio Médico Cubano Libre (GMLC), an advocacy organization working to protect Cuban doctors and their families all over the world. On behalf of the GMLC, Spanish police arrested seven Cuban doctors on April 16, and Emilio Arteaga Pérez, a Cuban doctor based in Spain, posted warnings about their arrest on social media.

“There are 17 medical collaborators imprisoned by the Cuban government and the Venezuelan state’s security organs in Táchira who planned to go to Colombia after leaving the Venezuela “medical mission,” read the post by Miguel Angel Ruano Sanchez, another Cuban doctor, who now resides in Colombia.

At least six of the 17 doctors have already been deported back to Havana, according to a phone interview given to Colombian newspaper La Opinion on Tuesday as per  Ruano. The practitioners who tried to flee reportedly served in the Venezuelan states of Carabobo and Anzoategui. They attempted to enter Colombia via official paths, since they didn’t have enough money to pay for safe passage along trochas, one of the many illicit and hazardous routes that exist between both nations.

According to an unnamed source advised by Cubanet, the detainees will be sent to Cuba under “Code Red” which implies that they will be detained, their medical titles will be revoked, and they will have to reimburse all of their travel costs back to the communist state, including passport fees, accommodation, medical attention, and transportation.

Though the majority of these violations pertain to doctors who were on a mission in Venezuela, they nonetheless indicated that the Cuban authorities who control the medical team in Venezuela seized the passports of all remaining physicians as a retaliatory measure. This is meant to serve as a restrictive action to prevent future doctors from fleeing by curbing their personal identification.

The 17 doctors will be among the first to face justice under Cuba’s new penal code, which provides for a prison sentence of up to 20 years and hefty fines if they so much as protest, criticize, or leave the Communist Party. According to the yet-to-be-published new penal code, Article 176.1 has it that any Cuban public official or employee who refuses to return or leaves a foreign delegation will face up to eight years in prison. Those who successfully defect are prohibited from visiting Cuba for the same amount of time, often meaning they miss out on meeting their families. 

By 2020, over 22,000 Cuban slave doctors were believed to be working in Venezuela. In contrast, the Venezuelan Medical Federation said that by 2021, more than 40,000 Venezuelan doctors had left their nation as a result of low pay, harsh labour conditions, and an economic and political crisis induced by the socialist collapse in Venezuela.

Cuban doctors who have successfully escaped the communist regime’s medical slave trade have shed light on the system, while the Cuban government exports slave medical labour across the world and receives praise from leftists for it. Doctors have slammed the fact that they were compelled to fabricate false patient accounts and prescriptions in order to enhance program performance statistics.

In March 2022, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) must face a lawsuit filed by a group of Cuban doctors who claim that the organization made profits totalling more than $75 million through its involvement in the Mais Médicos (“More Doctors”) agreement.

Mexican senators have accused the government of Mexico of giving more than 255 million Mexican pesos ($12,940,689.00) to the Cuban regime for the services of 585 Cuban slave doctors in the midst of China’s Coronavirus outbreak.

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