Three Cuban doctors have disappeared from Guyana: They had been deployed to the small, South American state to help improve the country’s health services, but it is now thought that they are attempting to reach the U.S.
One of the pillars of Cuban foreign policy, aside from being a thorn in Washington’s side, is exporting its healthcare workers to nations in need of medical personnel. If the aforementioned doctors did indeed flee to the U.S., they can be added to the ever-increasing list of Cuban professionals that have defected from the Castro regime.
The facts on Cuban doctors
One of the three missing doctors is a pathologist hired by the Guyanese Ministry of Health to work in a hospital in Georgetown, the country’s capital. The two others are a physiotherapist, who was also working in a Georgetown hospital, and general practitioner who worked in the Mahaicony Hospital. Currently 166 Cuban health professionals work in Guyana, including 74 doctors and 35 nurses, with the rest being an assortment of health technicians.
The online news agencyKaieteurnewsonline.comreports, “the absence of the pathologist, had in fact severely affected the completion of Post Mortem examinations at the hospital. […] the hospital’s administration was forced to put measures in place to ensure that post mortems were conducted in a timely manner.”
In other words, Guyanese health professionals must now fill the void left by the three missing doctors.
It’s important to note that the Georgetown-Havana medical exchange is a two-way street. Not only does Cuba send health professionals to Guyana, but the Guyanese government also sends its own healthcare workers to the Caribbean island for additional medical training. Guyana’s Health Minister, Bheri Ramsaran, has declared that the long-term goal is to rid the country of the need for foreign healthcare workers who take care of the country’s population–estimated at over 700 thousand.
This long-term plan may already be coming to fruition.
In April, Minister Ramsaran reported that the government will reduce from500 to 250 the number of scholarshipsfor Guyanese health professionals to study in Cuba. This program was started in 2001 via an agreement between Fidel Castro and then-President Bharrat Jagdeo, of Guyana. Minister Ramsaran has declared that “now we have ample amount of specialized doctors in the health sector so there is not a need for so many scholarships this year.”
If we are to believe Minister Ramsaran’s remarks about the state of his country’s rising crop of new professionals, the “ample amount” of Guyanese doctors, trained in Cuba, will (hopefully) be able to make up for the loss of the three Cuban doctors.
As for Cuba, if the three aforementioned doctors did in fact leave their posts in Guyana to flee to the U.S., they join an ever-growing list of Cuban defectors.
Naming every Cuban defector is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say there have been some noteworthy incidents recently. For example, earlier this year,seven dancers of the National Ballet of Cubadefected while visiting Puerto Rico for a performance. Another recent defection was that of Yasmani Tomas, a baseball player who played for the Cuban team Industriales.
Defectionshave been a staple of the Castro regime. With that said, Raúl Castro, has introduced important initiatives to (very) slowly liberalize the country’s economy, thus attracting increased international investment and fostering the growth of a Cuban middle class with an improved standard of living. Case in point: the government is promoting the development of an industrial sector, called the Mariel economic development zone, which has already attracted Brazilian investment (namely the expansion of a port).
However it seems that even economic progress and the relaxation of certain strict policies (such as travel restrictions) are not stopping Cuban professionals of various fields from defecting in search of an improved quality of life, higher wages, and more career opportunities. In June, the aforementioned ballet dancers talked to the U.S. media in Miami, explaining that they are in search of professional opportunities in the U.S. As for Yasmani Tomas, recent speculations suggest that when he does sign for a MLB team, he could get as much as $100 million USD. Certainly more than what he would earn playing for a Cuban team.
As for the three Cuban doctors that have disappeared from Guyana, it remains to be seen where they end up. One possibility is that they seek asylum in neighboring Brazil, given that there is aprecedent of Cuban doctorswho defected while working in the Portuguese-speaking giant.
Thanks to Cuban help, Guyana may now have the medical staff to make up for the loss of three foreign doctors, but Havana cannot endure its brain drain.