14ymedio, Havana, November 15, 2019 — Cuban authorities announced this Friday the immediate departure for “security reasons” of 725 professionals fulfilling a mission in Bolivia, the majority of whom are medical personnel. Havana also demanded the release of four of these professionals detained for allegedly financing the protests organized by the supporters of the ex-president Evo Morales, who was obligated to resign last Sunday.
In an interview with the Bolivian newspaper El Deber, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Karen Longaric, said that she had spoken at length with the Cuban Minister, Bruno Rodríguez. “He told me that to avoid great friction Cuba will withdraw 725 workers fulfilling cooperation activities in the fields of medicine, communication, and others. They will withdraw their workers starting tomorrow (this Friday November 15) and will conclude the process on Wednesday.”
Are they leaving or being thrown out? “Cuba has understood that we must redirect diplomatic relations in a climate of mutual respect,” answered the minister, “but the Cuban minister asked for protection for the workers throughout the process.”
The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations “rejects the false accusations that these comrades encourage or finance protests, which are based on deliberate lies without any basis,” pointed out a statement distributed by the Ministry in which it demands that the bodily integrity of these professionals be guaranteed.
The Ministry described as a “slanderous allegation” the accusation against the four Cubans detained this Thursday in El Alto and who at the moment of their arrest were carrying 90,000 bolivianos (some $13,000) in the currency of that country. A figure that “coincided with the amount taken out regularly every month” and was meant to “pay for basic services and rentals for the 107 members of the Medical Brigade in that region.”
The official Cuban version contrasts with that published in the Bolivian press which gathered testimonies from residents of El Alto who assured that the Cubans, three men and one woman, paid demonstrators close to Evo Morales’s party, the Movement for Socialism (MAS), who were going in a protest to La Paz.
The collaborators detained in Bolivia are Amparo Lourdes García Buchaca, a graduate in electromedicine; Idalberto Delgado Baró, a graduate in economics; Ramón Emilio Álvarez Cepero, a specialist in intensive therapy and endocrinology; and Alexander Torres Enríquez, a specialist in comprehensive general medicine.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs insists that “permanent contact has been maintained with these Cuban voluntary aid workers, via the Cuban Embassy in La Paz and the leadership of the Medical Brigade.”
“It has been decided to return the Cuban collaborators to Cuba immediately,” stresses the note, which calls for “stopping the exacerbation of irresponsible anti-Cuban expressions and of hatred, defamations, and instigations to violence.”
Havana demands the immediate release of the detained workers and that Bolivian authorities guarantee the physical integrity of all the others.
The new interim government of Bolivia accused Cuba and Venezuela of being behind the violence in the country in support of Evo Morales. The Minister of Communication, Roxana Lizárraga, affirmed that the Cuban Ambassador to Bolivia, Carlos Rafael Zamora, is part of the Cuban intelligence that intervened in conflicts in Nicaragua and Ecuador.
After Morales’s exit from power, the official Cuban press assured that the 701 voluntary workers from the island in Bolivia were “safe.” “We will continue lending services in those places where they are required, as a demonstration of solidarity and an act of hope,” it said at that time.
Since February of 2006 Cuban doctors have been deployed in Bolivia performing services that were described as a “provision” of the agreements signed between Morales’s government and that of Havana. The doctors were staying, as is normal, in rural areas whose mayors’ offices provided lodging, food, and supplies.
The doctors would receive for their services around $1,000 monthly, according to the Bolivian press, so, according to the normal scheme of those bilateral agreements, the Cuban government was left with 75% of the salary of every one of those professionals, some $3,000.
Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera
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