The Cuban Ambassador to Botswana Juan Carlos Arencibia Corrales has refuted allegations that some Cuban medical volunteers to Botswana were disgruntled and were hence rendering below par service to the community. Speaking in an interview with The Patriot on Sunday on the side-lines of the 39th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Botswana and Cuba, Corrales said the deployment of Cuban medical personnel to Botswana was purely out of the candidate’s own will. He refuted reports that some candidates might have been forced to come render their service by the Cuban government and that there were also not happy with the meagre allowance they are offered during the term of their service in Botswana.
“It is part of our bilateral cooperation agreements with the government of Botswana and has been going on for about 30 years now and I must say we have not received any complaints since the commencement of this arrangement,” Corrales said. He accused some individuals of manipulating the issue for political purposes. According to Corrales, the presence of Cuba in Botswana was purely non-profit making and was geared at assisting where it can without expecting anything in return. He explained that even after showing interest in signing up for the volunteer program and recruitment, one was at liberty to change their minds if any unforeseen factor emerged.
During the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearings last year MP for Maun East, Kosta Markus expressed concern over the remuneration of Cuban doctors in Botswana. According to Markus there is an understanding that Cuban doctors are unhappy with Botswana’s working conditions. Ministry of Health officials told the PAC that Cuban doctors were entitled to meagre allowances ranging from $600-$800 (P5878.00- P7838.00) depending on their area of speciality. The Cuban doctors are also only transported to and from work, and government does not provide them with personal vehicles. Meanwhile when addressing guests during the celebrations, Corrales said that there are 87 Cuban health professionals working in Botswana currently, and another group which is expected to bring the total number to 102 will arrive in the near future.
According to the Ambassador, in the education sector, along the years Botswana has also received scholarships for different careers including medicine. “Currently more than 30 Batswana students are studying in Cuba and several of others have already graduated from Cuban universities,” he said. Corrales also noted that Cuban sport coaches have also been rendering their services in Botswana as per a bilateral agreement that exist between the Botswana National Sports Council and the Cuban National Institute for Sport and Recreation. He further said that the 39th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Botswana and Cuba is a very important moment that will give the two countries a possibility not only of celebrating and review what they have done and achieved in more than three decades of mutual support and cooperation, but also will allow the two to realise the great potentiality of both sides for consolidation of bilateral ties.
“I wish to reiterate the best disposition, political will and commitment of my government in strengthening and further promoting the traditional bonds of friendship and links of cooperation existing between our governments and people in different fields,” said Corrales.