INSTITUTIONAL STATEMENT

REGARDING SLAVERY IN THE INTERNATIONALIZATION MISSIONS OF CUBA

TO FACE DISINFORMATION DRAWN BY THE CUBAN REGIME AFFECTING PRISONERS DEFENDERS, THE OAS, THE GOVERNMENT OF BRAZIL, THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND THE LEGAL PROCESSES UNDERWAY IN THE UNITED NATIONS AND THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT BY REGARDING SLAVERY IN CUBAN MISSIONS.

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Madrid, March 12, 2020. On November 21, 2018, 4 of the founders of Prisoners Defenders, Mr. Javier Larrondo, Mr. Blas Jesús Imbroda, Mr. Adolfo Fernandez Saiz and Mr. José Daniel Ferrer (through a video), exposed in a Press Conference in Madrid not only having found reliable evidence of crimes against humanity in the way that the so-called Internationalization Missions of Cuba are carried out abroad, but they announced that PD would file a complaint against the regime and its top leaders for this reason before the International Criminal Court and the United Nations, something unprecedented until then. [1]

In this Press Conference it was explained how «Cuba displaces masses of people to work in these countries in conditions that make them slaves.» According to what our President said, then «they do not let them take their family out from Cuba, they take away their passport and the title of Medicine. They take away most of their wages. If they leave the mission, they cannot return to Cuba in eight years. They lose their identity and their family», as covered by the Spanish national newspaper La Razón, among many other European and world press media as a result of the aforementioned Press Conference. [2]

After a 10-month systematic investigation by Prisoners Defenders, many results were obtained:

  1. The Cuban legal framework that supports these “missions” (two examples are Article 135 of the Penal Code and Law Resolution 168 of the Ministry of Foreign Trade),
  2. Agreements between Cuba and the host countries detailing the local legal and contractual framework for the missions (see example)
  3. Original contracts of many Cuban doctors in different countries (see example),
  4. A large set of pre-2018 final court judgments in work countries that define the employment status of doctors and other medical workers as “slavery”,
  5. Complemented with 110 signed testimonies, which helped to develop statistics on the human rights violations that are in practice.

These findings and this research work made the claims about this program, already announced in November 2018, become indisputable.

For this reason, on May 8, 2019, the Prisoners Defenders filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court, [3] a complaint that was received and remains under study and ongoing in said Court. [4]

On May 10, 2019, a complaint was also filed with the United Nations by Special Procedure. [5]

Although Prisoners Defenders was going to hold the Press Conference exposing these allegations in Madrid, conversations with an activist close to PD to whom the matter was discussed, coincidentally close to the Secretary General of the OAS, and who suggested informing him of the facts, allowed our President to request Mr. Luis Almagro to present the complaints to the public at the OAS offices, instead of doing it in Madrid, as the announcement would possibly achieve greater visibility. After forwarding the complaints to the OAS Secretary General’s office and being studied by his team, Mr. Luis Almagro and his team valued their evidentiary capacity, agreed that we could use their facilities, and the Secretary General wanted to support this cause in solidarity with that gesture, ensuring that he would be present. The press conference was on May 14, 2019 and was echoed worldwide by media such as Le Monde, Le Point, ABC, EFE, Europa Press, BBC, and hundreds of other international media. [6]

Therefore, it is clear that the OAS did not initiate a campaign against the missions either, but rather discovered from the hands of Prisoners Defenders the definitive evidence of something that had been denounced by numerous actors in Latin America for years and some Cuban doctors in particular, and it made a proper gesture, which corresponds to a regional organization focused on Human Rights, after analysing every detail of the demonstration material, finding out the barbarism that was proven in them.

From the same day, May 10, 2019, prior to the Press Conference, permanent contact, almost daily, was maintained with the United Nations, who carried out an intense internal investigation within the High Commissioner for Human Rights, for many months, contacting witnesses, analysing contracts, judgments and documentation, and verifying every step of the investigation carried out by Prisoners Defenders in an extremely meticulous, impartial and distanced manner.

As a result, on November 6, 2019 and to the surprise of Prisoners Defenders as we never knew the opinions of the evidentiary assessments until two months after that date, as required by law, the United Nations issued a strong condemnation of Cuba for slavery, treats of people and forced labour in the so-called “Missions”, in which he detailed: [7]the reported working conditions could rise to forced labour, according to the indicators of forced labour established by the International Labour Organization. Forced labour constitutes a contemporary form of slavery”, indicating that “between 2011 and 2015 professionals hired abroad would have contributed to Cuba an annual average of 11 billion[8] dollars”, a figure that coincides with both ONEI statistics on Cuba as with those of the World Trade Organization, and which the United Nations was able to contrast. The United Nations document also indicated how Cuban legislation has penalties of 8 years in prison against workers if they decide to change jobs or not return to Cuba, or how they are prevented from seeing relatives, how contracts are withheld, more than 75% of their income is confiscated, which “does not allow them to live with dignity“, how Cuba makes them work more than “64 hours a week (160% of the maximum authorized by the ILO), how they have restricted and supervised in their freedom of movement and the right to privacy or communications with nationals or foreigners, or how professionals reported receiving regular threats from Cuban state officials in destination countries and how female doctors have suffered sexual harassment, among many other violations that the United Nations issued as justified both by information submitted by Prisoners Defenders and by “first-hand” information.

REGARDING THE “MERCENARISM” OF PRISONERS DEFENDERS

We have to be very blunt about it. The filing of the narrated complaints was made by Prisoners Defenders with personal funds from our President, Mr. Larrondo, to the point that Prisoners Defenders did not even have a bank current account, because everything was paid by Mr. Larrondo from his personal bank account. Prior to the Press Conference in Washington on May 14, 2019, Mr. Larrondo’s passport then showed that his last trip to the United States occurred in 1992. He never received a single penny, euro or aid of any kind for the study, the trips and the complaints that had to be made. In the case of the trip of other members of the Board to Washington, each member of the Board of Directors and Advisory Council paid their expenses in solidarity. There is nothing to hide about it and it is widely verifiable by cost sources.

THE POSITION OF PRISONERS DEFENDERS

Prisoners Defenders has been demanding that the Cuban regime derogate the slave laws that give legal support to internationalization missions and sanctions once they have ended (such as the prohibition of returning to Cuba to see their relatives, children, spouses or parents during 8 years, which causes that many minors are orphans in Cuba and marriages and families separated by years), a withholding of wage taxes in accordance with the rational -and therefore much less than the 75%-90% confiscation that the Cuban regime practices today to professionals on mission-, and the freedom to be accompanied by their relatives abroad.

We have also proved that Cuba alters health statistics in destination countries, just as it does with its own in Cuba on infant mortality and other quality indicators, and that professionals were urged to indoctrinate and influence the electoral processes of host countries.

Prisoners Defenders does not advocate for the end of foreign work missions as a concept, at all, but for the fact that they are carried out as a system of slavery to obtain immense income where the right of use is exercised over professionals, unlimited right of profit and abuse, the 3 conditions of slavery, contravening the most basic laws of forced labor, human trafficking and slavery universally accepted. We also reject using them to alter health statistics or influence electoral processes, but we are aware that eliminating de facto slavery would eliminate those two perverse characteristics that can only occur through the current situation of radical servitude.

Given the dilemma of allowing slavery or eliminating forced labour missions, if Cuba does not agree to reform the entire framework of their rights, Prisoners Defenders is clearly against this slavery practice in any country in the world, and we will advocate for its reform in the aforementioned sense or, if this is not possible, its elimination.

We will continue fighting so that the State of Cuba, that is, those officials who are not part of the regime and who suffer against their most intimate will the same yoke of oppression to which the common citizen of the island and professionals on a foreign mission are subjected, rebel against the Cuban Regime (fundamentally the obscure State Security apparatus personally directed by Raúl Castro and a handful of politicians and military personnel he trusts), and therefore fight for the rights that, on the island and also in the missions of internationalization, they are radically violated.

We have also encouraged, and will encourage, people of media relevance who are “untouchable” for the regime, to raise their voices for a Cuba with a rational and rights-based future, as has been the case with singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, who recently stated Regarding the arrest of the artist Luis Manuel Alcántara: “I think that the country has enough problems with its destructive enemies and also other internal, malfunctioning ones, as for every 5 minutes being involved in a scandal about freedoms. There has to be a more sensible and intelligent way to deal with these matters than they are obviously being dealt with. There is no week in which there is not a show of this type. It is a constant mockery. And it’s embarrassing. I would put those who promote those policies in jail. They are discrediting the country.”

The historical responsibility of each Cuban, and much more that of these “untouchable” people for the regime, is evident. They cannot look the other way while the regime subjugates the population and the State itself, keeping Cuba as a wasteland in terms of liberties and progress, and exempt from any personal and social, individual and collective hope. We expect that each one understands their strength and their possibilities to exert pressure for the inclusive change that Cuba needs.

As we have stated, Prisoners Defenders is not focused, for obvious lack of resources, on making anyone pay past debts, but on the actions of today and tomorrow bringing human rights, freedom and prosperity. Our desire, we repeat, for obvious practicality sense and the absence of other resources, is to stop the violation of current and future human rights.

BRAZIL

The first government in the world to confront, headed-on, this situation of slavery in medical missions, from among the more than 100 countries that host or have hosted “missions”, or works of Cuban civil personnel in foreign territory through contracts with the Cuban regime or its companies in different specialties (medicine, teachers, technicians, musicians, athletes, artists, etc.), all of them subjected to article 135 of the Cuban Penal Code or to Resolution 168, an enslavement law, of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade (MINCEX), among which are European governments such as Portugal, Switzerland or Spain, it was the Brazilian government in the hands of Jair Bolsonaro, who explained that the Cuban medical mission in Brazil created by Dilma Rousseff had “enslaved“, textual words, the Cuban doctors and that, for its continuity, had communicated to Cuba that 3 characteristics that had to be fulfilled that had not been fulfilled until then:

  1. Allow Cuban doctors to collect 100% of the salary, as doctors of other nationalities did in said program, and not from the 9% to 24% that they had been receiving.
  2. Allow their relatives to visit them in Brazil with complete freedom, a fact that was forbidden to them.
  3. Legalize academic degrees, titles that they had been prohibited from taking off the island.

Given this logical and minimal requirement, given the crimes against humanity documented in the complaints, Cuba unilaterally decided to withdraw the doctors from Brazil, indicating that those were “unacceptable” conditions. [9]

More than 2,300 Cuban doctors stayed in Brazil at the offer of Jair Bolsonaro to welcome them, if they so freely chose so.

Today, the Brazilian government has repaired the slavery of said program in its entirety and has offered Cuban doctors to reintegrate into it, give them residence and a dignified legal status. Not everything has been done with the immediacy that Cuban doctors would have wished, but with a positive will and undeniable final effectiveness for most of these professionals.

Prisoners Defenders does not make political statements or support any government in the world, but it does support specific decisions that, being correct and of universal justice, promote and restore human rights.

Similarly, Prisoners Defenders does not have a global political opinion of the Government of Jair Bolsonaro, but we recognize that the measures adopted at this specific milestone have been a crucial step not only to restore the rights of Cuban doctors but to expose and repair a state of slavery that was intolerable. Subsequently, governments such as that of El Salvador, Honduras or Bolivia have followed this example of denouncing and eliminating this state of slavery, each with its own internal and sovereign political solutions. There are still more than 65 countries with Cuban medical missions in a state of slavery, and dozens of other missions from other professional fields (teachers, technicians, musicians, athletes or artists) in dozens of countries. The reading of the evidence presented in this document, as well as in the more than 350 pages of the complaints before the United Nations and before the International Criminal Court should not leave room for these countries to continue admitting labour slavery in their territory without doing anything in reparation.

THE USA ROLE, AND REACTION OF THE CUBAN REGIME TO THE ACTIONS IN PLACE BY PRISONERS DEFENDERS

The Government of Cuba repeats again and again that it is the Donald Trump Administration the one that has originated the campaign for human rights in medical missions. This is argued because Cuba urgently needs to turn this situation, again, into a scenario of the “foreign enemy”, in order to seek the solidarity of those who have a bad opinion, or even animosity, for the United States, or even to prevent from talks about the legal and evidentiary facts and so bring the matter to the political arena, a field that can always be manipulated infinitely more than the legal.

In this line of argument by the Cuban regime, the first public action that the regime itself argues in its writings denouncing this alleged “campaign” by the Donald Trump executive team is set forth in the article U.S. crusade against Cuban international medical cooperation, writing that «In June [2019], the State Department, in its 2019 Report on Trafficking in Persons, disparaged Cuba’s international medical cooperation and, a month later, imposed visa-restriction sanctions on Cuban officials linked to medical missions.» [10]

But this report dates from June 20, 2019, long after the events narrated and the complaints filed for slavery, forced labour, human trafficking, persecution and other inhumane acts both at the International Criminal Court and at the United Nations by Prisoners. Defenders. It was also years after numerous groups of deputies in Brazil denounced slave labour in the “Mais Médicos” program, and many years later of the first sentences of federal judges in Brazil in favour of Cuban doctors for “Slave labour” documented by Prisoners Defenders. [11]

But what is more, even the President of Prisoners Defenders himself submitted to the generic and public email of the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (tipreport@state.gov), long before said declaration of June 20, 2019, a previous report of 17 pages on the missions of Cuba, much less extensive than the complaints made at the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, which did have 350 pages full of evidence, but which did outline the situation, knowing that the public acceptance period had beginning in said department for the submission of information that helps it to deliberate for 2019’s report.

And likewise, PD sent to the State Department in May 2019, more than a month before June 20, 2019, all the complaints, and then yes with all its extension and fruit of the PD investigation work, which were made before the International Criminal Court and the United Nations. In other words, the United States Department of State reacted based on complaints and information from various sources that were already being published and even forwarded to it, and not on the initiative of Donald Trump’s political administration. PD also forwarded the complaints and information to numerous countries. To more than 50 countries, specifically. There were reactions in many of them to the barbarism that the missions supposed as they were being carried out.

The State Department reacted, to all the aforementioned, on June 20, 2019. Therefore, it is false that this matter, as the Cuban government affirms, is a political action of rivalry of the United States. The denunciations and actions of the United States are the result of numerous actions in defense of human rights by multiple NGOs, politicians from various countries, and Cuban doctors who have long been denouncing the serious situation.

But, in addition, the most serious actions regarding this matter are those referred to the United Nations reports in which the Trump Administration has had no participation, nor any political interest, statements of justice that Cuba evades and delays in its media communications, acknowledging that there is no legal and moral reason to be able to defend from them.

LAST ACTION BY THE GOVERNMENT OF CUBA

The Government of Cuba recently wanted to filter, to try to attack Prisoners Defenders and our international relations, that our President, Javier Larrondo, would be involved in denouncing the Government of Brazil for slavery in medical missions at the time of the Dilma Rouseff’s and Michel Temer’s governments. The objective is none other than generating confusion and trying to stop the actions of Prisoners Defenders, even at the cost of spreading nonsense affirmations.

We completely and emphatically discredit such falsehoods, spread with interest by the G2, the Cuban intelligence service. Nothing is further away from the intention or actions of Prisoners Defenders.

It is neither the first nor the last time that the regime will make disinformation movements when they cannot defend a flagrant violation of human rights at United Nations headquarters and in other forums.

As we have explained, and being as clear as we can, we believe that the current Government of Brazil has acted, in that specific particular, with courage in facing these problems inherited from the Workers’ Party of Brazil (PT), has welcomed Cuban doctors and has now restored their right to reintegration into the Brazilian Doctors Program, an action that is appreciated by the affected Cubans and, therefore, by Prisoners Defenders. It is not in our interest that the current Government of Brazil pays a political cost for an error that they have inherited and that they have amended with courage, respect and not without generosity, even though it may be possible or recommended to carry out actions for the future improvement of said amendment.

Prisoners Defenders acts to achieve the cessation of human rights violations and has no intention that human rights violations that have ceased and have been corrected, occupy even a single moment of our agenda, focused on an immense work for violations that still continue happening today.

We warn that any dissemination of similar disinformation between any organizations could be capable of requiring legal actions in our defense, as well as diplomatic actions and that, if necessary, we will carry out both with all the force they deserve.

ABOUT CUBAN PRISONERS DEFENDERS

Cuban Prisoners Defenders is an independent group of analysis, study and legal action, which counts on the collaboration of all dissident groups on the island and the relatives of political prisoners to gather information and promote the freedom of all political prisoners and rights Humans in Cuba. Cuban Prisoners Defenders is part of Prisoners Defenders International Network, a legally registered association based in Madrid, Spain, whose focus of action is the promotion and defense of human rights and democratic values, and whose Internet address is www.prisonersdefenders.org.

The works of Cuban Prisoners Defenders are adopted by numerous institutions and are sent, among others, to the United Nations Organization, Organization of American States, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Civil Rights Defenders. Freedom House, European Parliament, United States Congress and Senate FNCA, ASIC, UNPACU, Government of Spain, Spanish Transition Foundation, International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, FANTU, Party for Democracy Pedro Luis Boitel, College of Pedagogues Independent of Cuba and the Citizen Movement Reflection and Reconciliation, among many other institutions and organizations of equal relevance.REQUEST FOR REPORTS: Entities wishing to receive the work of Cuban Prisoners Defenders (list of political prisoners and of conscience, legal studies of political prisoners, legal studies on Cuba, studies on repression and prisons in Cuba, etc) please contact Cuban Prisoners Defenders at info@prisonersdefenders.org or by whatsapp or phone at +34 647564741. Disambiguation: Prisoners Defenders generates its contents and reports in Spanish, and then translates them into other languages with the sole purpose of facilitating reading, but in case of any need for nuance or disambiguation, it will be the reports generated in Spanish that prevail and are official, unless explicitly stated otherwise. Our website is www.prisonersdefenders.org and our facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/CubanDefenders. Our Twitter, in addition, is @CubanDefenders.


[1] TVE España: Prisoners Defenders y UNPACU denuncian al gobierno de Cuba ante la CPI: https://youtu.be/xGlpt9BsuYU

[2] Diario La Razón: «Sánchez avala a un dictador que masacra a los cubanos y persigue al franquismo, que ya no existe»: https://www.larazon.es/internacional/sanchez-avala-a-un-dictador-que-masacra-a-los-cubanos-y-persigue-al-franquismo-que-ya-no-existe-NG20625769/

[3] Texto íntegro de la denuncia ante la Corte Penal Internacional: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1G_FkhzQQLlHWP0uYTe92_Dj4AgCEtnbh

[4] Reporte de estado de la Corte Penal Internacional sobre la denuncia a Cuba por crímenes de lesa humanidad: https://drive.google.com/open?id=10-2VX83mtWx6yzMTgF1JkhH_fr2ikcBa

[5] “Misiones de Internacionalización” de Cuba – comunicación para inicio de Procedimiento Especial oficina de las Naciones Unidas en Ginebra: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1HmBKCqdeSv7gQA-i_M1YbrwJfXgU7gPs

[6] Press Clipping may 2019: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1RHk4CEUXpYVssXxsENfkkiy5dqlveCX9

[7] Public Report Statement by the United Nations: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=24868

[8] Simple typo of transcription in the Spanish document of the United Nations.

[9] Bolsonaro: Cuba withdraws from the “More Doctors” program in Brazil due to the conditions announced by the president-elect: https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-46213794

[10] Granma – U.S. crusade against Cuban international medical cooperation: http://en.granma.cu/cuba/2019-12-06/us-crusade-against-cuban-international-medical-cooperation

[11] Example of one of the documented sentences, among dozens, indicating that the situation of Cuban doctors defended by Cuba “would equate to a kind of slave labor, which, to all evidence, cannot be admitted” – Judgment of the Federal Judge Marcio Luiz Coelho de Freitas: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1hfRxEEQB-_3-fRGtkuo5XjYKdM971Ww6

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Author: Prisoners Defenders

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