Last summer, long before before Brazil was demolished 7-1 by Germany in the World Cup, the country faced a crisis of another sort. Millions of citizens marched in cities across the country to demand wholesale reforms to the country’s crippled public health care system, which faced huge shortages of doctors and a failing infrastructure.
That’s when the tiny island nation of Cuba stepped in to this neglected area of the world’s seventh-largest economy.
Under Brazil’s Mais Médicos (“More Doctors”) program, which pays foreign physicians to work in underserved areas of the country, Cuba sent 4,500 doctors to rural areas in the Amazon and to the underserved slums known as favelas in its booming cities. The move angered Brazil’s doctors’ unions, who protested outside hospitals, and the Brazilian Medical Association filed a lawsuit in the country’s Supreme Court questioning its existence. Protestors denounced the program as only a temporary solution to a systemic problem, saying the changes should come internally, not by importing doctors.