Castro equates H-1B program with high-tech labour piracy

Fidel Castro, Cuba’s ailing leader, this week warned in a written commentary that the migration of skilled IT workers and other professionals to the U.S. and other nations will hurt developing economies in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Castro’s commentary, published Wednesday by the Daily Granma, the Cuban Communist Party’s official news publication, was written to mark the graduation of the first class from the University of Information Sciences in Havana.

The school is graduating 1,334 computer science engineers, according to Castro, who wrote that all but 200 of the graduates have been assigned to government jobs in Cuba.

The remaining graduates will continue to live at the university and will serve as “a centralized reserve” of labor, Castro said.

Cuban high-tech workers can’t apply for H-1B visas that would let them work in the U.S., of course. But Castro views the H-1B program as a tool for importing highly skilled IT labor into the U.S.

He claimed in his commentary — titled “The Brain Drain” — that the goal of the program is to “encourage the entry into the United States of highly qualified immigrants who could occupy positions in the high-technology sector.”

Castro described the visa policies in the U.S. and other Western countries as a form of piracy.

“This relentless plundering of brains in South countries dismantles and weakens programs aimed at training human capital, a resource which is needed to rise from the depths of underdevelopment,” he wrote.

“It is not limited to the transfer of capital; it also entails the import of grey matter, which nips a country’s nascent intelligence and future at the bud.”

In addition, Castro took aim at — of all things — SeaCode Inc., a San Diego-based company that wants to develop code aboard a former cruise ship that it would dock in a U.S. port and staff with programmers recruited from India, eastern Europe and elsewhere.

SeaCode’s programmers wouldn’t need visas because they would be working under international maritime laws, and the company executives have said that the workers would be paid more than what they can earn in their home countries.

But Castro said that the coders would be “highly-qualified slaves,” working on “a software ship-factory.”

Castro’s comments about SeaCode indicated that the company’s shipboard operations are already active. But SeaCode, which detailed its plans two years ago, has yet to raise enough money to buy and launch a ship.

Meanwhile, Castro didn’t mention Cuba’s nascent efforts to win some IT outsourcing work. Earlier this year, Gartner Inc. included the Communist nation on its latest list of potential offshore providers, citing Cuba’s educational programs in math and computer science.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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