Eight Cuban doctors are suing Venezuela and Cuba for what they call conditions of “slavery.” The doctors – who were brought to Venezuela to work in the Barrio Adentro public health projects of the Venezuelan government – say they were forced to work 24-hour shifts and see up to 80 patients per day.
“They kept us under constant supervision, they didn’t let us go out, not even to a restaurant or to have friendships. They even deprived me of food,” said Frank Vargas, a 33-year-old General Practitioner and Havana native.
Vargas said he arrived to Venezuela in April of 2008. After working for three months in communities in the Zulia state, he fled to Colombia in July of that year because he couldn’t stand the extreme work conditions. He arrived to Miami in August of 2009.
(Apparently no one informed the good doctor that you’re supposed to flee away from Colombia.)
The article in the Miami Herald doesn’t specify, but I assume the Cubans are bringing civil suit under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which is often used to sue entities who commit human rights violations outside the U.S. In this case, the entity would be the Venezuelan government and its oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PdVSA), which holds substantial assets in the U.S., including the Citgo chain of gas stations and refineries.
Should the Cubans manage to prove their case, they might have a shot at getting some of the $450 million they’re requesting. In 2008, a judge ordered the Curacao Drydock Company to pay former Cuban workers $80 million after the workers claimed they had been sent to do slave labor for the company in payment of a debt owed it by the Cuban government.
(h/t The Devil’s Excrement.)