Once Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro ended his predecessor’s slave trade deal with Cuba’s Castro dictatorship, the number of Cuban doctors seeking asylum in Brazil has nearly tripled. Given a choice between freedom and life as a slave to the Castro regime, a large number of these doctors are choosing freedom.
Cubans Seeking Asylum in Brazil Nearly Triple After Leaving Mais Médicos
“I can’t go back to Cuba. I won’t be accepted there.” Karel Enrique Sanchez Fuentes, a 35-year-old physician, is one of 2,209 Cubans who applied for asylum in Brazil between November 2018, when the Caribbean country’s Mais Médicos agreement was terminated, and April 2019.
The figure is nearly three times what it was a year earlier. From November 2017 to April 2018, when the agreement was in full force, there were 880 requests. As a result, from an average of 4.86 applications per day, the rate climbed to 12.62 after Cuba’s withdrawal from the program. The data are from the National Committee for Refugees (CONARE).
Cuban requests for asylum had been growing since the beginning of 2013 when Mais Médicos commenced. In November 2018, however, there has been an unprecedented increase that persists through February 2019.
In November, Cuba announced that it would abandon the program, quoting statements by newly-elected president Jair Bolsonaro, who had promised during his campaign to expel Cuban doctors and demand they sit for an examination: the National Examination for the Revalidation of Medical Diplomas Issued by Foreign Institutions of Higher Education (Revalida).
Nevertheless, Bolsonaro also promised to grant asylum to any Cuban who requested it — a different title from that of refugee, but one that also allows foreigners to remain legally in the country.
“We must grant asylum to those who want it. We cannot continue to threaten them as they were threatened in the previous government. […] If I am president, any Cuban wanting to seek asylum here will have it,” said the elected president soon after Cuba decided to abandon the Mais Médicos program.
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