December 2, 2013
Anthony Boadle – Reuters, 12/01/2013
They were heckled and called slaves of a communist state when they first landed, but in the poorest corners of Brazil the arrival of 5,400 Cuban doctors is being welcomed as a godsend.
The program to fill gaps in the national health system with foreign doctors, mainly from Cuba, could become a big vote-winner for President Dilma Rousseff as she eyes a second term in next year’s election despite fierce opposition from Brazil’s medical class.
The move to tap Cuba’s doctors-for-export program begun by former leader Fidel Castro became a priority for Rousseff after massive protests against corruption and shoddy public transport, education and healthcare services rocked Brazil in June.
October 2, 2013
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR, 10/02/2013
Call it “Castrocare.” Cuba’s former leader Fidel Castro sent doctors abroad for decades to work throughout Latin America and as far away as Africa.
In some cases, like Haiti, the medical missions were seen as purely humanitarian. In other places, like Venezuela, it was a form of barter that provided Cuba with subsidized oil imports.
Cuba has long boasted of its program, which has generally been well-received. So now Cuba is sending thousands of doctors to Brazil, which badly needs the physicians in poor, rural areas and has the money to pay for them. However, the program is meeting resistance in Brazil — not from patients but from the medical establishment.
September 30, 2013
Carlos Alberto Montaner -The Miami Herald
President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil canceled her visit to President Obama. She was offended because the United States was peeking into her electronic mail. You don’t do that to a friendly country. The information, probably reliable, was provided by Edward Snowden from his refuge in Moscow.
Intrigued, I asked a former U.S. ambassador, “Why did they do it?” His explanation was starkly frank:
“From Washington’s perspective, the Brazilian government is not exactly friendly. By definition and history, Brazil is a friendly country that sided with us during World War II and Korea, but its present government is not.”
September 4, 2013
Tim Padgett – Time Magazine, 09/04/2013
A Brazilian prosecutor is investigating whether President Dilma Rousseff’s government violated federal labor laws by recruiting 4,000 Cuban physicians this month to work in remote areas like the Amazon. That’s just the latest wrinkle in Brazil’s acrimonious Cuban-doctors controversy, which has everyone from Brazilian physicians in Brasília to Cuban-American politicians in Washington, D.C., up in arms.
But there is a much larger problem involved here than Marxist medics — and it’s one that plagues not just Brazil but most of Latin America. Whether or not Brazilian judges eventually let the Cuban physicians stay or order them to leave, it won’t solve Brazil’s doctor shortage, especially in the medically deprived rural and favela (slum) zones the Cubans are headed to.
If you’re wondering why Brazil was the site of sometimes violent street protests this summer, this latest dustup offers one useful clue. Brazil is now the world’s sixth largest economy and considers itself on the doorstep of the developed world. Yet, as Brazilian demonstrators are all too aware, its education system is widely regarded as abysmal, especially science preparation. Brazilian physicians aren’t bad practitioners, though Rousseff has a point when she says many are too elitist to practice in the boonies. But while the medical community may share much of the blame, critics say Brazil’s notoriously corrupt and indifferent officialdom has done little to provide the infrastructure needed to create and support enough doctors to serve the nation’s 200 million people.
July 9, 2013
Voice of America, 07/09/2013
Brazil has launched a program to lure thousands of foreign doctors to fill vacancies in its public health system.
President Dilma Rousseff said Monday “we will look for good doctors wherever they are.”
The initiative is aimed at addressing the lack of doctors in rural communities and the poor outskirts of Brazilian cities. President Rousseff said “every Brazilian must have access to a doctor.”
The government said the three-year posts with a monthly pay of $4,500 will be offered to both Brazilian physicians and their foreign counterparts. Officials say recruitment efforts will focus mainly on Spain and Portugal.
February 22, 2013
Vinod Sreeharsha – McClatchy, 02/21/2013
Yoani Sanchez may be the world’s best known Cuban dissident. Her blog and Twitter feed criticizing the Cuban government have won her followers and plaudits throughout the United States and Europe, and her first trip outside of Cuba was widely anticipated after the government of Raul Castro liberalized travel rules.
What perhaps wasn’t anticipated was just how controversial that trip would become.
When she arrived at airports in the Brazilian cities of Recife and Salvador earlier this week, she was jeered by leftists carrying signs accusing her of being “financed by the CIA” and being an “anti-Cuban mercenary.”
January 23, 2013
Eduardo J. Gomez – America’s Quarterly, 01/18/2013
Brazil is once again seeking to enhance its international profile. But this time, rather than engaging in close partnerships with its fellow BRICS club members—Russia, India, China, and South Africa—Brazil is collaborating with a smaller nation: Cuba.
Since assuming office in 2011, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has worked closely with Cuban President Raúl Castro to strengthen their partnership in the hopes of further bolstering Brazil’s economic advantages and regional influence. She is achieving this by providing financial and technical assistance to help restructure Cuba’s economy while at the same time advancing Brazil’s economic interests through strategic investments in port infrastructure. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’ quickly deteriorating health has created incentives for Dilma to fortify her ties with Castro, gradually replacing Venezuela—Cuba’s biggest benefactor—as Cuba’s most important ally in the region.
But instead of bullying Cuba into following Brazil’s lead, Dilma is also gaining something in return for her citizens: technical assistance from Cuba to address educational illiteracy, a long-time developmental challenge for Brazil. In so doing, Cuba benefits by displaying its impressive success in education reform, while highlighting its potential to be an amicable partner in hemispheric affairs.
April 16, 2012
Leaders of the Americas pose for the 2012 Summit of the Americas official photo (AFP, Eitan Abramovich)
Leaders attending the Americas summit here Sunday will not issue a final statement because of disagreement over whether Cuba should be included in future summits, a Brazilian diplomat said.
“It is what happened at the previous summit in Trinidad in 2009. There will be a final statement signed only by the president of Colombia (the host country),” said the diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.
US President Barack Obama was under intense Latin American pressure at the summit in this northern Colombian city to let Cuba attend future hemispheric meetings.
February 1, 2012
Jeff Franks – Reuters, 02/01/2012
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff met with Fidel Castro, the revolutionary hero of her youth, and held talks with his younger brother, President Raul Castro, on Tuesday in a visit to strengthen financial ties with communist-led Cuba.
She toured the port of Mariel near Havana where a Brazilian company is leading a massive renovation and chided the United States for its controversial military prison at Guantanamo Bay.
Cuba released few details about the visit and did not allow coverage by the international media, but state-run television said the two governments signed agreements on Cuban food purchases from Brazil, the Mariel project and Cuba’s biotechnology and pharmaceuticals industry.
February 1, 2012
John Lyons and Jose de Cordoba – WSJ, 01/31/2012
Cuban President Raúl Castro, left, and his Brazilian counterpart, Dilma Rousseff, review the honor guard at Revolution Palace in Havana on Tuesday. Press Pool
President Dilma Rousseff offered closer economic cooperation to Cuba during a visit to the communist island on Tuesday, marking Brazil’s highest-profile bid to transform its growing economic might into diplomatic leadership in Latin America.
Brazil’s state development bank is financing a $680 million rehabilitation of Cuba’s port at Mariel. Work on the port is being managed by the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht SA, which may also provide support for Cuba’s sugar industry, Brazilian officials have said.
Ms. Rousseff’s closer engagement of Cuba—she is visiting the island before a trip to the White House— is the latest example of Brazil’s strategy to expand its regional influence by offering subsidized loans to poorer nations. In recent years, Brazil has disbursed tens of billions of dollars around Latin America, and as far away as Africa.