Cuba is open to resuming medical brigades to Bolivia, senior diplomat Danilo Sanchez said, after abruptly withdrawing them under previous president Jeanine Anez, whose right-wing government suspended relations with the communist island.
“We are open to listen to proposals, requests; I believe that we can and have many possibilities to cooperate in many areas: science, education, health, indeed we are very interested in cooperation in the commercial sector, in the investment sector,” the charge d’affaires said on Monday.
Sanchez was asked by the local press about the return of the medical brigades following his meeting in La Paz with the head of the Chamber of Deputies, Freddy Mamani.
The medical teams were abruptly withdrawn in January after Anez came to power.
Bolivia’s former leftist president Evo Morales redirected his country’s previous close relations with the United States, towards Cuba, Venezuela and Iran.
Under his administration, brigades of Cuban doctors and teachers arrived in the country.
But under the interim government of Anez, following Morales’ resignation last year, 700 doctors left Bolivia amid complaints from Havana of “harassment and mistreatment.”
Anez had complained that during Morales’ 14-year rule, Bolivia spent about $147 million to finance a Cuban medical brigade, but “less than a third” of it was made up of professional doctors.
Since Morale’s heir Luis Arce assumed the presidency in November, Cuba is once again exploring possibilities for cooperation.
“There are never enough doctors,” said Sanchez. “We will collaborate in a humble and friendly way in all the places where we have been and continue to be,” he said.
His comments, however, aroused the ire of local doctors.
“We are not going to allow any Cuban doctor to take away our professionals’ work. There are thousands of unemployed professionals in the country who need a source of employment,” said Fernando Romero, leader of the Union of Related Medical Branches.
Cuba’s “white coat diplomacy” was introduced under late ruler Fidel Castro and used to be worth $10 billion a year to the impoverished country, although that figure has dropped considerably due to the economic crisis in Venezuela, which employs thousands of Cuban doctors.