HAVANA – A group of 224 Cuban doctors arrived in Havana on Saturday after their evacuation from crisis-ridden Bolivia amid allegations by Bolivia’s interim government that Cubans were instigating rebellion in the South American nation.
The Cuban doctors took off in a plane of Cubana de Aviacion from the city of Santa Cruz.
The rest of the 725 members of the Cuban medical mission were also ready to return home in the next few days after Bolivia’s interim Foreign Minister Karen Longaric announced on Friday that Cuba would fly back its doctors.
Cuban Vice President Roberto Morales Ojeda, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and Health Minister Jose Angel Portal received the doctors at the Jose Marti International Airport.
“We are pleased to receive the first group (…) after experiencing moments of uncertainty about the safety and integrity of our doctors. (...) You have been victims of manifestations caused by hate and unjustified harassment,” Portal said in his speech.
He described as “unfair and unacceptable the constant attacks” against Cuban doctors.
Several governments, including the United States and Brazil, accuse Cuban medical mission members of being undercover security agents. The Caribbean island nation, however, has always strongly denied the allegation.
Cuba said on Friday its doctors would fly home immediately for security reasons and demanded the release of four of the doctors arrested three days ago and accused of financing trouble in Bolivia, where at least 22 people died in clashes with security forces.
Havana denied that the members of its mission in Bolivia are encouraging or financing the protests by supporters of exiled former president Evo Morales and demanded evidence, the release of detainees and guarantees for the safety of all its personnel.
Cuban Foreign Minister Rodriguez said on Saturday that the diplomats of the island were maintaining permanent contact with the four detainees, who “have not been mistreated” and maintain “high morale and courage.”
Cuba and Bolivia shared close ties when Morales ruled the country.
The Cuban medical brigade worked for 13 years in Bolivia and has provided critical medical assistance to hundreds of thousands of people, according to official data.
For Cuba, international medical cooperation is one of the pillars of its foreign policy.
Health Services of the Caribbean nation are respected. Over 50,000 Cuban doctors are working in 67 countries.
The export of professional services – mainly doctors and teachers – is the main source of income for the island, battling a serious economic crisis.