Officials in the Trump administration have been enticing Cuban doctors working overseas to defect, paying journalists to write negative stories, sanctioning Cubans in charge of the program, and pushing countries to expel Cuban doctors or not accept their offer of help.

The administration has been successful in convincing the right-wing governments that came to power in Bolivia, Brazil, and Ecuador since 2018 to send about 9,000 Cubans packing. In a tragic twist, these same countries are now overwhelmed with coronavirus and lamenting the loss of experienced professionals. 

The crux of the attack has been to paint the program as a form of modern slavery because the doctors only receive about a quarter of the money the countries pay for their services. But Cuban health professionals volunteer for these assignments — they want the experience, they earn much more than they would back home, and they know the rest of the money goes to support Cuba’s national health care and education systems.