MIL-OSI USA: Menendez Delivers Floor Remarks Calling for Accountability for the Pan American Health Organization’s Role in Facilitating Human Trafficking of Cuban Doctors

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US Senate News:

Source: United States Senator for New Jersey Bob Menendez

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today took to the Senate Floor to raise concerns about the Biden administration’s decision to file an amicus brief in the case of Ramona Matos Rodriguez, et al., v. Pan American Health Organization, which involves serious allegations that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) facilitated human trafficking.  

 

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“The Pan American Health Organization’s participation in the Cuban dictatorship’s human trafficking programs cannot be overlooked and accountability is urgently needed,” Chairman Menendez said, condemning the Pan American Health Organization’s facilitation of a program that subjected more than 10,000 Cuban medical professionals to forced labor conditions in Brazil. “The Biden administration squandered an opportunity with this brief – an opportunity to support Cuban trafficking victims and an opportunity to advance our extraordinary American leadership in combatting all forms of human trafficking and modern slavery. It is a major disappointment, and I urge the President and the Secretary of State to redouble efforts to pressure Cuba to end this medical trafficking program and the many other abuses it perpetrates against the Cuban people.”

 

Find a copy of Senator Menendez’s remarks as delivered below.

 

“Mr. President, I rise today to express significant concern about the Biden administration’s decision to file an amicus brief in the case of Ramona Matos Rodriguez, et al., v. Pan American Health Organization. This case involves serious allegations that the Pan American Health Organization facilitated human trafficking, and regrettably places the Administration in a position in which it is undercutting efforts by the victims of the Cuban dictatorship’s forced labor schemes.
 
Let me be clear, I am strong advocate for the Pan American Health Organization and its mission strengthening health systems across Latin America and the Caribbean. Given the significant impact of COVID-19 on the region, PAHO’s efforts are needed now more than ever, and I have fought to ensure that the Pan American Health Organization has the resources it needs to carry out its life-saving work during the pandemic and throughout a good period of time of my congressional career.
 
However, I also firmly believe that Pan American Health Organization must be held accountable for its past transgressions, including the unacceptable role that it played facilitating a program that subjected more than 10,000 Cuban medical professionals to forced labor conditions in Brazil. From 2013-2019, the Pan American Health Organization profited from its participation in Brazil’s Mais Médicos program—an initiative that allowed Cuba’s dictatorship to earn income from trafficking Cuban doctors.
 
The Cuban regime’s so-called foreign medical missions are nothing more than human trafficking. In November 2019, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons raised concerns that the Cuban regime’s trafficking of medical professionals constitutes forced labor and modern slavery.
 
In fact, the Department of State’s last Trafficking in Persons Report found the Cuban regime garnishes the wages of its medical professionals that serve overseas, surveils them, confiscates their passports – so they can’t leave – and retaliates against their family members in Cuba if they leave the program. So if you send me abroad, don’t pay me, get money from the country that you send me from, take away my passport, and retaliate against my family, that’s the ultimate forced labor.
 
Cuba’s dictatorship generated more than $6 billion in profit from its forced labor schemes in 2018 alone as it trafficked tens of thousands of Cuban medical professionals to some 60 countries.
 
The Pan American Health Organization’s participation in the Cuban dictatorship’s human trafficking programs cannot be overlooked and accountability is urgently needed.
 
It is against this backdrop that I have reviewed the Biden administration’s amicus brief in Rodriguez v. Pan American Health Organization. While the brief addresses some of the technical aspects of the case, it effectively does nothing to condemn Cuba’s dictatorship for human trafficking or the Pan American Health Organization’s participation in those programs that were human trafficking.
 
For over two decades, the United States has led the international community in combatting human trafficking. In 2000, the United States enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act – something I was involved with in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – which has set a standard for countries around the world to strengthen efforts to prosecute traffickers, increase protections for victims and expand foreign assistant programs. We have built a range of financial tools to combat the human trafficking industry and its illicit profits. We have spearheaded efforts to ensure slavery-free supply chains that respect workers’ rights and prevent against forced labor conditions around the world become more and more a reality.
 
The Biden administration squandered an opportunity with this brief – an opportunity to support Cuban trafficking victims and an opportunity to advance our extraordinary American leadership in combatting all forms of human trafficking and modern slavery. It is a major disappointment, and I urge the President and the Secretary of State to redouble efforts to pressure Cuba to end this medical trafficking program and the many other abuses it perpetrates against the Cuban people.”

 

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