Cuba's Ministry of Public Health announced Wednesday it is withdrawing from the Mais Medicos (More Doctors) cooperation program with Brazil, which functioned since August 2013 and ensured health coverage for over a hundred million Brazilians who had no prior access to healthcare.
Cuban health authorities also announced they had notified the Pan-American Health Organization and its Brazilian counterparts of the decision to end its participation in the program.
The decision comes after Brazil's far-right president-elect Jair Bolsonaro criticized the program, saying it was torture for Cuban mothers who were "not allowed" to go with their children and questioning diplomatic ties with the island.
"Can we maintain diplomatic relations with a country that treats its people that way?" Bolsonaro said in early November.
"The elected president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, with direct, derogatory and threatening references to the presence of our doctors, has declared and reiterated that he will modify the terms and conditions of the More Doctors Program, with disrespect to the Pan American Health Organization and to the agreement with Cuba," the statement reads.
"It is not acceptable to question the dignity, professionalism, and altruism of Cuban collaborators who, with the support of their families, currently provide services in 67 countries," the statement argues.
Cuba's Health Ministry particularly rejected statements by Bolsonaro questioning the preparation of Cuban doctors and conditioning their permanence in the program to the revalidation of their degrees and individual contracts.
On Bolsonaro's comments against paying 75 percent of doctors' salaries to the Cuban state, the ministry explained: "In the overwhelming majority of missions completed, the expenses have been covered by the Cuban government. Likewise, in Cuba, 35 thousand 613 health professionals from 138 countries have been trained for free, as an expression of our solidarity and internationalist vocation."
The statement also highlighted the program was widely respected and highly regarded, earning 95 percent acceptance according to the Federal University of Minas Gerais and urged the Brazilian people to recognize where the responsibility for the end of the program lies.
"The Brazilian people, who made the More Doctors Program a social conquest... will be able to understand who is responsible for this," the statement concluded.
Cuba's health mission has led the fight against Ebola in Africa, blindness in Latin America and the Caribbean, and cholera in Haiti. It is also internationally recognized for its 26 "Henry Reeve" brigades of physicians specialized in disasters and large epidemic that have assisted countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Venezuela.