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Published: Tuesday April 1, 2014 MYT 9:15:02 AM
Updated: Tuesday April 1, 2014 MYT 9:16:06 AM

Cuban doctor in Brazilian program kills himself - official

BRASILIA (Reuters) - A Cuban doctor who worked in a Brazilian government program that hired thousands of foreign physicians committed suicide at a hotel in the country's capital, the health ministry said on Monday.

The 52-year-old male doctor was found dead in a hotel room in what the local police said was a suicide, a ministry spokesman said. The ministry did not release the name of the doctor or more details about the death.

He was one of more than 7,000 Cubans who are in Brazil as part of a program that hires foreign doctors to tend the sick in slums and remote rural locations where there are no Brazilian physicians.

Since its start last year the "More Doctors" program has been roiled with controversy as some Brazilian physicians tried to bar the entry of Cuban doctors who they said threaten to undermine the country's medical standards.

The defection of a Cuban doctor over low pay in February also raised complaints by some opposition politicians who said the physicians were being exploited.

Under an agreement signed with Cuba through the Pan-American Health Organization, or PAHO, the Cubans get only one-fifth of the 10,000 reais ($4,100) a month that Brazil pays each physician in the program. The rest goes to the Cuban state.

Still, most Brazilians living in poor slums that for years lacked the most basic healthcare have welcomed the Cuban doctors, bolstering the popularity of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, according to past polls.

An official with the Cuban embassy in Brasilia was not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Alonso Soto)

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