Pompeo criticises South Africa, Qatar for welcoming Cuban doctors during coronavirus outbreak

Pompeo criticises South Africa, Qatar for welcoming Cuban doctors during coronavirus outbreak
2 min read
30 April, 2020
US Secretary State Mike Pompeo has criticised Qatar for welcoming Cuban doctors deployed to help fight the country's Covid-19 outbreak.
The Trump administration has previously encouraged countries to refuse Cuba's help during the pandemic [Getty]
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday criticised Qatar for welcoming medical staff from Cuba to help combat the Gulf country's Covid-19 outbreak.

Earlier this month, Qatar's health ministry officials announced the country has welcomed Cuban health workers, which Cuba deployed at Doha's request.

Dr Abdullatif Al Khal, co-president of Qatar's national pandemic response team, praised the "excellent" doctors from "friendly" Cuba.

President Donald Trump's administration, which has reinforced a decades-old US trade embargo on Cuba, was none too pleased.

"We've noticed how the regime in Havana has taken advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to continue its exploitation of Cuban medical workers," said Pompeo during a press briefing.

"We applaud leaders in Brazil and in Ecuador and Bolivia and other countries which have refused to turn a blind eye to these abuses by the Cuban regime, and ask all countries to do the same, including places like South Africa and Qatar," he added.

Pompeo urged governments accepting Cuban doctors to pay the staff directly.

"Otherwise, when they pay the regime, they are helping the Cuban government turn a profit on human trafficking," he said.

Despite being among the world's poorest countries, Cuba is a leading country in the world for healthcare.

The Caribbean island has long been known for its medical internationalism - also dubbed "doctor diplomacy" - and sends more medical staff to the developing world than all the G8 countries combined.

The Trump administration has previously encouraged countries to refuse Cuba's help during the pandemic, accusing the island of using the programme to exploit its labour force and enrich an authoritarian elite.

Those calls have largely gone unheeded, as countries hard hit by the virus - such as China and Italy, as well as neighbours including Haiti and Barbados - have welcomed help from Cuban doctors during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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