Brazilian far-right president-elect Jair Bolsonaro said there was no point maintaining diplomatic relations with Cuba because it trampled on human rights and there was no business to be done with the communist-run island.
In an interview published on Friday by Correio Braziliense newspaper, Bolsonaro criticized the Mais Medicos (More Doctors) program under which 11,420 Cuban doctors work in poor or remote parts of Brazil.
He said that 75 per cent of the doctors' salaries were paid to Cuba's government and their children were not allowed to join them in Brazil, citing the case of a doctor whose three young children had to stay in Cuba.
"That is just torture for a mother," Bolsonaro said. "Can we maintain diplomatic relations with a country that treats its people that way?"
Bolsonaro said the program, begun by leftist former president Dilma Rousseff to provide medical attention in areas where Brazilian doctors did not want to serve, could continue, but Cuban doctors would have to get their full pay and have their children with them.
Bolsonaro, who was elected last week, takes office on Jan. 1 and promises the biggest shift in Brazilian foreign policy in decades.
He will seek closer relations with the United States and confirmed on Thursday that he plans to follow U.S. President Donald Trump's lead and move Brazil's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
(With inputs from agencies.)