Cuban Doctor Seeks Asylum in Brazil Claiming Unfair Paycheck

A Cuban doctor will seek asylum in Brazil today and eventually wants to go to the U.S., saying her government is taking an unfair share of her pay.

Ramona Matos Rodriguez, 51, has taken refuge in the offices of the opposition DEM party in Brazil’s Congress after leaving her post in the Amazon town of Pacaja, she said. Rodriguez was contracted under the government program called More Doctors, which brings mostly foreign medical professionals to work in under-served areas of Brazil.

“I feel cheated by the Cuban government, doing the same work as other foreign doctors and receiving only a fraction of their pay,” Rodriguez said in an interview in the DEM’s offices in the lower house. “I will only feel safe in the U.S. -- Brazil and Cuba are too close.”

With 7,400 Cuban doctors working in Brazil as part of the government drive to improve health care, Rodriguez’s request has the potential to damage President Dilma Rousseff’s campaign ahead of general elections in October, Andre Cesar, director of consulting firm Prospectiva, said by phone from Brasilia. Rousseff, who hasn’t announced her candidacy, repeatedly has cited More Doctors as a success in public appearances.

Cuban Account

Rodriguez receives $400 per month in Brazil and $600 per month in a Cuban account from her government, according to a copy of her contract with a Havana-based company representing the Cuban Health Ministry. Through an agreement with the Pan American Health Organization, Brazil pays 10,000 reais ($4,164) per Cuban doctor, the same amount 1,258 doctors of other nationalities earn in the program, according to a press officer at the Health Ministry who can’t be named because of internal rules.

Rodriguez, breaking into tears twice during a 15-minute interview, said other Cubans had kept tabs on her whereabouts in the town of Pacaja, where she treated 30 to 40 clients per day.

“The Rousseff administration is complicit with a scheme that is denigrating to people like Rodriguez,” said Jose Mendonca Filho, DEM leader in the lower house. He said once the party’s lawyers filed her petition later today, she would be free to move about in Brazil until her case was judged.

Brazil’s Health Ministry declined to comment on Rodriguez’s case when contacted by phone and e-mail.

Rousseff said last month in Havana that Brazil wants to be a top economic ally of Cuba and inaugurated Mariel port, whose construction it helped finance with $682 million.

Brazil’s federal police had been looking for Rodriguez and contacted her friends in Brazil, she said. The federal police did not return a phone call or e-mail requesting comment.

Over a million people protested in Brazil’s streets in June over rising costs of living and inadequate public services, particularly health and education.

To contact the reporter on this story: Raymond Colitt in Brasilia Newsroom at rcolitt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andre Soliani at asoliani@bloomberg.net

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