U.S. State Department Report Singles Out Cuba Medical Missions

Originally from Havana, Cuba, Dr. Jorge I. Dominguez was a longtime Harvard University faculty member who held responsibilities as professor and as vice provost for international affairs. With a strong focus on the social and political aspects of the island nation, Dr. Jorge I. Dominguez is author of books such as “US-Cuba Relations in the 1990s.”

A July 2021 Miami Herald article drew attention to the Biden administration’s stance to Cuba and the release of the State Department’s “2021 Trafficking in Persons Report.” The report provides a critique of Cuban government-coordinated medical missions. This is surprising, given that the previous Democratic administration under President Obama had a positive outlook on these medical missions. In 2014, as part of re-engagement with the nation, Secretary of State John Kerry vocalized support of Cuba’s medical missions for their effectiveness in combating Africa’s Ebola pandemic.

The more recent report reflects a shift from this stance, with Cuba described as having “capitalized on the pandemic” through what appears to be forced labor. Cuba has placed as many as 50,000 physicians in 60 countries. The U.S. government considers it exploitative because the Cuban government retains the vast majority of the physicians’ salaries, with doctors receiving only 5 to 25 percent of what they earn. As the report alleges it, this makes these activities a lucrative form of human trafficking that earns the Cuban government $8 billion annually.

While the Biden administration has made promises to reestablish travel to Cuba and once more allow family remittances, this work is moving slowly. One major concern is arrests by the dictatorship of artists and independent journalists. Another is the still-unresolved brain injuries suffered by US diplomats who had been serving in Havana,, and whether the Cuban government bears any responsibility for them.

Surge of US Migration Includes Dispossessed Venezuelans

Serving as Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico until his retirement, Dr. Jorge I. Dominguez was a member of the Harvard University faculty for more than three decades. Focused on international affairs, Dr. Jorge I. Dominguez continues to maintain a close watch on developments in Mexico.

As reported by NBC in June, migration to the US-Mexico border has increased significantly during the first half of 2021. While the majority of these migrants are still small farmers and low-wage earners from regions such as Central America, an increasing number come from Venezuela’s professionals ranks. They are engineers, physicians, and other highly educated individuals driven to seek out better opportunities amid the collapse of an economy integrally tied to the world’s largest oil reserves.

A material indicator of the trend is nearly 7,500 Venezuelans registered by U.S. Border Patrol agents at the border in June alone. This number is greater than that of the past 14 years combined, dating to when records started. In tandem with this, a large percentage of the estimated 17,000 Venezuelans who illegally crossed Mexico’s southern border in 2021 are part of a 6 million-strong exodus that has occurred since 2013, when Nicolas Maduro ascended to the presidency. Many had been living abroad for years before migrating northward.

Because of the political antagonism between the US and Venezuela, claiming asylum may be an option for migrating Venezuelans that is not available to other border crossers. In an echo of US policy to past refugees to the US from Cuba, the Biden Administration granted approximately 320,000 Venezuelans Temporary Protected Status in March 2021.