The poor will die without Cuban doctors
Adriana Dias Lopes
With one tweet, President-elect Jair Bolsonaro has stripped thousands of Brazilians of access to health care, said Adriana Dias Lopes. The More Doctors program, launched under Dilma Rousseff’s administration in 2013, brought some 8,000 Cuban doctors to Brazil to work in poor, underserved communities. Brazil paid Cuba 11,800 reais, about $3,100, a month for each practitioner. The doctors—most of them black—kept only about a quarter. The clinics they worked in were often short of medicine, and when they ran out of supplies, they offered patients folk remedies such as tincture of eggplant. Bolsonaro, who takes office in January, tweeted last week that the Cubans would be allowed to stay only if they took medical exams and received their full salaries. In response, Cuba is immediately ending the program. Bolsonaro is right that the salaries were unfair and that makeshift Cuban medicine was often inadequate. But “it so happens that the difference between those simple measures and no treatment at all is stark: It saves lives.” Many poor Brazilians, most of them black or indigenous, had never seen a doctor until More Doctors brought them a Cuban M.D. Now what will they do? The scandal is not that Cuban care is bad—it is that Brazil can’t care for its own.