Cuba has said it will pull thousands of its doctors from Brazil, indicating a sharp downturn in relations between the nations after the election of far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro last month.

The communist state announced it would stop the “Mas Medicos” or “More Doctors” scheme shortly after Mr Bolsonaro said he would impose new conditions on the doctors when he takes office on 1 January.

For the programme to continue, the 11,420 Cuban doctors must receive their salaries directly from Brazil and be able to bring their families with them during their assignments, he said.

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Under the terms of the current agreement with Cuba, which is overseen by the World Health Organisation​, Havana receives the bulk of the doctors’ wages.

Critics say the restrictions on the doctors bringing their families with them was designed to prevent them from emigrating.

Mr Bolsonaro has also questioned the qualifications of the Cuban doctors, saying they would have to renew their licences in Brazil.

Cuba’s health ministry rejected Bolsonaro’s comments as “contemptuous and threatening” in a statement announcing its withdrawal from the programme.

“These unacceptable conditions make it impossible to maintain the presence of Cuban professionals in the programme,” the ministry said.

Cuba generates billions of dollars through charging fees for doctors working abroad, which help to keep the Communist nation’s healthcare system free to access.

Mas Medicos started five years ago under leftist President Dilma Roussef and serves as a crucial link from the cash-strapped island to South America’s largest economy

Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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