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The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), the Americas subsidiary of the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), discouraged anti-communist protests in Cuba in a statement Wednesday, claiming they elevate the risk of spreading Chinese coronavirus.

PAHO’s statement appeared to contradict the W.H.O.’s active support of riots in the United States throughout summer 2020 in response to alleged racism in the country. At the time, W.H.O. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus responded to mass assemblies of people, many of them violent, by asserting that his agency “fully supports equality and the global movement against racism.”

Unlike in summer 2020, however, many countries of the world now have access to experimental vaccines, many of which have shown a significant ability to limit the spread of Chinese coronavirus. The Cuban communist regime claims to have two vaccine candidates in advanced development and began pediatric clinical trials for one of them, the “Abdala” experiment, on Thursday.

A woman stands next to a Cuban flag at a balcony in Havana, on July 14, 2021. One person has died in the anti-government protests across Cuba, according to officials, with activists saying at least 100 people have been arrested and scores remain in detention as demonstrations overseas in solidarity continued. (YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty)

PAHO is currently embroiled in legal litigation over its ties to the Castro regime. Cuban slave doctors forced to work in Brazil sued the agency in 2018 for signing onto an agreement between Cuba and the then-socialist government of Brazil to ship hundreds of doctors to the country. The doctors did not receive payments for their work, they alleged, and the Castro regime forced them to engage in espionage and communist agitation. PAHO signing onto the agreement prevented conservative lawmakers in Brazil from rejecting it and offered a shield to the Brazilian government should the United States take measures in response to Brazil enriching an enemy state.

Thousands of Cubans began taking the streets of the island nation’s biggest cities on Sunday, flooding as many as 60 municipalities across the country with peaceful marches demanding an end to the 62-year-old communist regime. Authorities responded to the protests with violent repression that included reports of opening fire on crowds of protesters, beating them publicly, and, later, door-to-door raids shooting people in their homes and dragging them out to unknown locations. Protests reportedly continued into Wednesday, but Cuban government officials cut off access to social media, making it difficult for citizens to share videos and other images of the protests and corresponding repression.

“The agglomeration of people in protests over political, religious, cultural, or sports reasons increase the risk of transmission and especially if, as in the case of Cuba, there is active transmission in many places around the country,” PAHO’s emergencies director Ciro Ugarte scolded on Wednesday. Ugarte noted that in Matanzas province, east of Havana, doctors claim to have identified the Indian variant of the virus known as “Delta,” which is allegedly fueling an “exponential” rise in cases. Matanzas has experienced some of the largest protests and most violent police response.

Ugarte’s tone differs from how the W.H.O. responded to the outburst of violent riots around the United States a year ago.

“WHO fully supports equality and the global movement against racism. We reject discrimination of all kinds,” W.H.O. chief Tedros said in June 2020. “We encourage all those protesting around the world to do so safely. Clean your hands, cover your cough and wear a mask if you attend a protest.”

Tedros’ statement occurred at a time when Cuba was still not experiencing any significant number of cases, but the Castro regime was nonetheless acting in ways that could facilitate the spread of the virus. The Cuban government began actively courting tourism in spring 2020 in response to much of the world locking down and restricting travel, hoping to take financial advantage of the diminution in competition for tourists. The first known cases of Chinese coronavirus in Cuba were documented in Italian tourists from Lombardy, at the time one of the regions with the highest rates of infection in the world.

PAHO’s discouragement of expressions against the Castro regime recalls its own questionable relationship with the communist government. In 2018, the Spanish online newspaper Diario de Cuba obtained government documents that revealed PAHO to be a party in the creation of Brazil’s “Mais Médicos” program, created by corrupt socialist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to import Cuban slave doctors and enrich the Castro regime. The documents showed that the Brazilian government agreed to pay salaries to the Cuban doctors – revealing the socialists’ claims that they were aware doctors would only receive meager academic “stipends” to be a lie – and that PAHO’s involvement allowed Lula to go forward with the plan without consulting the Brazilian Congress, which may have opposed it given the large number of native Brazilian doctors the country counts on.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who ended “Mais Médicos,” accused the Cuban government of using doctors to build espionage networks in countries that purchased them. Bolsonaro has offered political asylum to any Cuban doctor seeking to defect in recognition that the Cuban regime punishes defectors by banning them from coming home for at least eight years.

A group of doctors who escaped the slave program sued PAHO in U.S. court following the revelation of those documents. In November, a U.S. federal court rejected PAHO’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit; it remains ongoing today.

Experts estimate that the Castro regime makes about $11 billion a year selling slave doctors to allied countries.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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