A group of people line up at Yander Zamora in front of the Mexican consulate in Havana
The Mexican Consulate in Havana and the State Department will implement a program of “exclusive” appointments starting this Friday to facilitate family reunification of Cubans who work in Mexico but have family in Cuba. The measure, exclusively for people of this nationality, comes at an ideal time in relations between the two countries and days after the visit of Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel to Mexico. Andrés Manuel López Obrador last weekend awarded him the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest decoration that can be bestowed on a foreign head of state, for the support his country, Mexico, has given during the Covid-19 pandemic.
This measure appeals in particular to Cuban doctors who have worked in the Mexican health system since López Obrador took office as president. According to the Mexican Institute for Social Security (IMSS), there are already 610 doctors spread across the different states of the republic. Both leaders met with some of them in Campeche at an IMSS headquarters. There, López Obrador told his counterpart that they would probably need more doctors from Cuba: “I hope they will help us with more doctors and specialists.” The president said he needs them to complete staffing at health centers and hospitals in Mexico ahead of the summer.
Four days after Díaz-Canel’s visit, the IMSS published a tender for room and board contracts for 43 Cuban doctors working in Michoacán, revealing the good harmony of relations between the two countries. You have access to accommodation, breakfast, lunch and dinner. The text of the IMSS, where the conditions are stated, informs that the accommodation will be in a double room. The doctors will be distributed across different locations in Michoacán as part of the working agreement between the two countries.
The news sparked complaints from Mexican doctors, who complain that they live and travel in far worse conditions every time they have to work outside of their place of residence. In an interview with EFE, surgeon and public health policy analyst Xavier Tello lamented the direction the government’s health policy was taking: “Mexico needs to inject resources, Mexican doctors should have higher salaries and better job vacancies, instead of continuing to pay little and they stigmatize because they don’t want to take low-paying jobs.”
Another front where the two economies are working together is the import of Rajón stones to build the Mayan train. At the end of December 2022, according to the Port Services Company, the shipment was waiting in a port in Cienfuegos, the city of Cuba, to be shipped to Mexico. Initially, a monthly supply of 90,000 tons of stone will begin, a figure which is planned to increase gradually to 200,000 tons per month. The stone is used as a “mattress” capable of absorbing the train’s vibrations over 500 kilometers of track.
The close relationship between López Obrador and Díaz-Canel, who have seen each other five times since coming to power, risks straining ties with the United States, which still maintains the historic economic embargo on the island, which it said more than a decade ago than 60 years have imposed . However, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard assured this Sunday that Mexico and the United States are allies but do not have “identical interests”. After bidding farewell to the Cuban president, Ebrard said the visit was “not an attempt to tease or create friction.” He wanted to “leave the past behind, lift the blockade” and lead a fraternal coexistence that “promotes stability in America.”
Relations between Mexico and its northern neighbor also showed signs of good health in early February. The State Department released a report on the drastic reduction in detentions of migrants from Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba and Nicaragua at the Mexico-US border. The data was presented by the State Department as a success of recent policies agreed between the two countries to reduce the flow of migrants north of the Rio Grande. The text points to a 97.5% reduction in Cuban arrivals and “near-zero influx of Haitians.”
Faced with increasing pressure from most Republican states in the southern United States, the first recipients of this migratory pressure, Joe Biden decided to expand the long-distance visa program he had already applied for to various nationalities. The new program aims to issue 30,000 concessions each month to migrants from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua who enter the country by plane. Those entering on foot and crossing the border illegally would be sanctioned and penalized by not being able to obtain that visa later. All with the approval of Mexico, which has seen migrant shelters saturated without additional support.
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