Tag Archives: Central America

COVID-19: Panama defends hiring Cuban doctors.

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The decision to bring Cuban doctors produced controversy in some sectors because in Panama, medical practice is restricted to local professionals.

Panama’s health minister on Monday defended the deployment of more than 200 Cuban doctors to help the Central American country battle the coronavirus, despite criticism of the island government’s human rights record at home.

“We are eternally grateful” to the Cuban doctors because “they came here to save the lives of Panamanians,” Luis Francisco Sucre said during an appearance before the National Assembly to answer questions about the management of the pandemic.

Several deputies criticized the Panamanian government’s decision to hire the 220 Cuban doctors, calling it “a violation of human rights.”

But Sucre defended the agreement between his ministry and its Cuban counterpart, which he said “complies with all due legal processes.”

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He said his government would not hesitate to “sign it again.”

“The same people who today criticize the agreement signed with the Cuban Health Ministry would have been criticizing if there were dead in the streets, or if people were dying in the corridors of hospitals because we had no doctors to treat them,” Sucre said.

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The Cubans arrived in Panama on December 24, at a time when Panama was facing a crisis that had completely overwhelmed its health system and exhausted local doctors.

The decision to bring Cuban doctors produced controversy in some sectors because in Panama, medical practice is restricted to local professionals.

The announcement also met with resistance from Washington.

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“Governments that hire Cuban medical workers must ensure their fair and humane treatment — in tark contrast to the Castro regime, which traffics in, and exploits, the workers’ bravery for its own gains,” tweeted Michael Kozak, Washington’s acting assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

“Make contracts transparent and pay workers directly,” he said.

Washington and some human rights organizations consider the sale of Cuban medical services a form of “forced labour” that “violates human rights” and only serves as propaganda for the Communist government of the island.

During his speech, Sucre said that in addition to Cuba, the Panamanian government also requested medical support from other countries, such as the United States, Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela, Italy, Israel, China and Russia, but had been unsuccessful.

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“The criticisms are easy, the difficult thing is to be here directing a pandemic that nobody asked for,” Sucre said.

Panama, with 4.2 million inhabitants, has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in Central America, with more than 327,000 cases and 5,506 deaths.

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Nicaragua Gov’t calls for end of search of ‘mine collapse’ victims

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An estimated 3,000 people work in Nicaragua’s unlicensed mines.

Authorities in Nicaragua called off the search for people trapped in the collapse of an unlicensed gold mine in the country’s south.

Two bodies had already been pulled from the debris, and up to 16 others had reportedly been trapped after the accident in the La Esperanza region, more than 200 kilometers (120 miles) southeast of the capital Managua.

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The two victims, identified as Israel Sequeira and Santos Herrera, were from the Rio San Juan department, local government official Johnny Gutierrez told official website 19 Digital.

“Despite the rescue work, no other fatalities have been found,” said the National System for the Prevention, Mitigation and Attention of Disasters, via 19 Digital, announcing that the search was over.

The agency made no mention of others reportedly trapped in the mine.

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“It will be the responsibility of the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the police to continue the necessary investigations into this type of accident,” it said.

Local media reported that anywhere from seven to 18 miners were trapped when the rain-soaked hillside collapsed.

Amaru Ruiz, director of the nonprofit Fundacion del Rio, said the rescuers “should have continued with the rescue work until they reached the floor where the miners were working.”

Ruiz said the hillside was honeycombed by mining tunnels dug over the years on private property.

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Months of rain — including the devastating passage last month of hurricanes Eta and Iota — had saturated and weakened the clay-like land, he added.

Landslides last month in northern Nicaragua claimed at least seven lives.

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#Newsworthy