Cuban doctor defects in Brazil over pay, plans to seek asylum

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 05, 2014 9:06 AM

BRASILIA (Reuters) - A Cuban doctor working in Brazil has sought political asylum in the office of a conservative party complaining that Cuba's communist government takes too big a slice of her pay, a party official said on Wednesday.

Ramona Rodriguez, 51, entered the office of the center-right Democratas party leadership in the lower chamber of Brazil's Congress on Tuesday afternoon and slept the night on a sofa, the official said.

Rodriguez is one of 7,400 Cubans in Brazil who work in a program that hires foreign doctors to attend the sick in slums and remote rural locations unattended by Brazilian physicians.

Under an agreement signed last year with Cuba through the Pan-American Health Organization, or PAHO, the Cubans get only one fifth of the 10,000 reais ($4,100) a month that Brazil pays each physician in the program. The rest goes to the Cuban state.

The Cubans get paid 800 reais in Brazil and 1,200 reais are deposited in an account in Cuba for their families who are not allowed to accompany them to Brazil.

Rodriguez arrived in Brazil in October and was working in Pacajá, in the Amazon state of Pará, until she took off on the weekend and made her way to the Brazilian capital. She told Brazilian media she felt cheated.

Lawmaker Ronaldo Caiado, leader of Democratas in the lower house, said Rodriguez could stay in his office in Congress until Brazil's leftist government agreed to grant her asylum.

Waving a copy of the PAHO contract in the air, Caiado accused President Dilma Rousseff's government of exploiting the Cuban doctors like "slave labor" in a speech to the chamber.

($1 = 2.42 reais)

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Stephen Powell)