Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Cuba’s greatest export? Medical diplomacy
Posted By Elias Groll Tuesday, May 7, 2013 – 7:00 PM Share

What can an impoverished island nation — one isolated by the United
States and lacking natural resources of its own — do to secure its
influence in the world and earn hard currency? In Cuba’s case, the
answer lies in its medical corps.

On Monday, Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota announced that
his country is in negotiations to hire some 6,000 Cuban doctors to come
work in rural areas of Brazil. The plan highlights what has become a
cornerstone of Cuban foreign policy and its export economy. Since the
Cuban revolution in 1959, the country has aggressively exported its
doctors around the world — sometimes for humanitarian reasons,
sometimes for cash — and has garnered a reputation as a provider of
health care to the world’s most needy countries.

Shortly after the revolution, for instance, Fidel Castro sent physicians
to Algeria as a sign of socialist solidarity and to Chile in the
aftermath of a devastating earthquake. Since then, Cuba has sent at
least 185,000 health workers to more than 100 different countries,
according to the New York Times.

But what began as a strategy for exporting revolution has in more recent
years turned into a means of ensuring the government’s survival. Cuba’s
largest medical mission is currently in Venezuela, which sends Havana
90,000 barrels of oil per day in exchange for 30,000 Cuban physicians.
It’s an elegant quid pro quo that secures legitimacy for the Venezuelan
government and keeps the Cuban economy afloat.

We hear a lot about Cuban cigars, but tobacco is far from Cuba’s most
important export. In 2006, 28 percent, or $2.3 billion, of Cuba’s total
export earnings came from medical services, according to a study by
Julie Feinsilver. As a rough measure of comparison, Cuba’s cigar exports
totaled $215 million in 2011.

So what might Cuba’s latest foray into medical diplomacy entail? In
return for physicians and other health workers, Brazil is expected to
fund infrastructure projects in Cuba and direct a $176 million loan
toward Cuban airports. Cuban medical personnel, meanwhile, will fan out
to rural areas of Brazil that are typically underserved by doctors.

It’s a bitter irony for U.S. policymakers that 50 years after the
imposition of the Cuban embargo, the communist regime is circumventing
efforts to isolate it by sending, of all things, doctors around the world.

Never mind that the motive isn’t always humanitarian.

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