Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne is hoping a Bill calling for U.S. government punishment for Caribbean countries that request assistance from Cuba for medical personnel will die a natural death.
On June 17, three Senators introduced in the U.S. Senate, the “Cut Profits to the Cuban Regime Act”, which, if it is adopted, will penalise any government, worldwide, that contracts with the Cuban government for the provision of medical personnel.
“We’re hoping that this particular Bill that is being pursued … we’re hoping that it will not see the light of day,” Browne said.
Among the measures that the Bill seeks to impose are “a requirement that the Department of State publishes the list of countries that contract with the Government of Cuba for their medical missions program”, and that the contracts be considered “as a factor in considering that country’s ranking for Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report”.
“It is actually establishing a new definition for human trafficking and if we are cited for human trafficking as a consequence of engaging these Cuban professionals then you will see a downgrading of the categorization of Antigua and Barbuda from tier 2 to Tier 3,” Prime Minister Browne said.
“If you end up in Tier 3, then clearly it has consequences. We could have problems in terms of de-risking and other forms of sanctions, which clearly will be unjustifiable considering that the Cuban professions we have here are not engaged in any forced labour.
“And we noticed that they ramped up their efforts after we brought in the additional Cuban personnel to help us to buttress our COVID expertise,” Browne added.
The Cuban medics in Antigua were scheduled to leave the country on Monday.
The three Senators are all members of the Republican Party. Two of them represent Florida – Marco Rubio and Rick Scott – and the other, Ted Cruz, is a Senator from Texas.