Brazil’s Most Controversial Government Program

A common characteristic of developing nations is the high rate of urbanization and subsequent disparate development between regions. Brazil being no exception to this rule, the effect is quite far-reaching in the healthcare industry. More than 90 percent of medical professionals are concentrated in areas that cover less than 10 percent of the country. A program launched by the federal government in 2011 to address this problem failed to attract but one third of the required number of doctors to address this problem. Consequently, it was replaced with a new program: Mais Médicos (more doctors). Overseen by the World Health Organization, this three-year program aims to alleviate the unequal geographical distribution of healthcare professionals by bringing them in from abroad. Fifteen thousand doctors from Cuba, Portugal, Argentina, and Spain were to work in these remote areas. Yet while government initiatives with such laudable goals generally tend to garner plenty of popular support among Brazilians, Mais Médicos has been shrouded in controversy from its inception. Industry representatives, students and the Ministry of Labor have taken aim at the program, A conservative magazine even went so far as to accuse Cuban doctors of being “communist spies” infiltrating the country. In a mere 12 months (Mais Médicos went into effect in July 2013) the program has become arguably the most controversial one implemented by the Dilma administration. While the Cuban healthcare system has a relatively good reputation the fact that a significant chunk of Brazilian tax money directly funds the communist Cuban state makes some feel quite uncomfortable. The Brazilian Medical Association and the Federal Council of Medicine have been encouraging healthcare professionals to voice their opposition in the form of protests and strikes. They even went to the Supreme Court last August in an attempt to roll back the program, stating foreign …

The Mariel Boatlift: Voting With Boats

It is said that freedom always wins when people are allowed to vote with their feet…they move from locations of high tyranny to places of relative freedom—always in very great numbers. 34 years ago today, on April 20, 1980, Fidel Castro announced that any Cubans who wanted to leave could do so without punishment from the port town of Mariel. In the clearest possible expression of their hatred of Castro’s rule, Cubans voted by boat. More than a hundred thousand took to rickety, makeshift vessels in what came to be known as the Mariel Boatlift. Americans in Miami grabbed whatever boats they could find to reunite with friends and relatives across the channel. Braving hurricane winds, exposure at sea, pirates and sharks, desperate refugees crowded aboard anything that floated, regardless of seaworthiness, because freedom seemed so worth it. At first the U.S. government of Jimmy Carter lived up to the ideals of the Statute of Liberty and embraced these refugees. The U.S. Coast Guard didn’t actually go to the port of Mariel to provide safe transportation for those eager to leave, but the U.S. armed services did a commendable job of rescuing many of those who became stranded on the high seas. After all, the U.S. had sanctioned Cuba for 20 years, condemning Castro’s regime for the brutality of his communist dictatorship, for the forced economic squalor and repression of free speech and civil liberties. The U.S. had even attempted to overthrow or assassinate Castro. So why wouldn’t Americans at least welcome those who tried to flee Cuba? Then the mood turned against refugees when it was rumored that Castro’s trick was to release “undesirables” from prisons and mental hospitals, sending them all to America. Jimmy Carter, in an election year, then agreed with Castro that they would both put …