The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines says it will facilitate the return of its students from Venezuela after their final exams.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said on Boom FM on Tuesday that after the summer break, the students can then decide if they want to return to the South American nation or continue their studies elsewhere.
Gonsalves’ comments came days after a number of Vincentian students were robbed at gunpoint on the weekend in the South American nations, which is in the throes of a political and economic crisis.
A Vincentian student in Venezuela told iWitness News on Monday that food is their biggest problem there, adding that there is also a severe shortage of basic medicine in the South American nation.
The Prime Minister said that he, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the acting Chief Personnel Officer have discussed the issue.
“I think that of the 28 students which are there, 12 of them are having their final exams by the end of June and others are having final exams of one kind or the other,” Gonsalves said, adding that he is anticipating that after the final exams all of the students will come home.
“Certainly, we will facilitate that. And then the 12 of them, hopefully, they all pass their exams and they graduate. The others, if they want to go back to Venezuela, that’s their choice, if they want to use the credits from there to go somewhere else–“ Gonsalves said.
“But I have received reports out of Venezuela from students and I have received from our ambassador… I am in touch with the ambassador here, I am in touch with the government of Venezuela,” he said.
The Prime Minister said students who were studying medicine in Venezuela had reached a particular stage and wanted to become full-fledged doctors with all the international accreditation instead of paramedic and left “quite quietly” for Cuba.
“They are in Cuba at the moment. We did that in a normal way. It’s not everything you do you announce,” Gonsalves said.
But the student who spoke to iWitness News on Monday said that the medicine programme in Venezuela was being watered down because the country needed doctors in a hurry, therefore, some elements of the curriculum were being omitted.
The student further told iWitness News that the medicine degrees granted in Venezuela were not being recognised elsewhere.
On Monday, Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace commented on the plight of the students.
He told listeners to his weekly radio programme on NICE Radio that he wanted to hear how the government would deal with the situation.
“This is a very serious matter. It is also very reflective of the financial situation, economic situation in Venezuela and it brings into question the safety of our Vincentian students living in that country and I expect, before the day is out, to hear some action on the part of the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines with regard to this matter,” he said.
He said the political, financial and economic difficulties in Venezuela are well known, adding that there are reports that people have been resorting to eating domestic animals.
“But what we know for sure is that the finances and the economy of the country is in deep trouble, so is its politics.
“But those of us who have families there, especially, those who we hear were robbed, we should be very concerned and insist that immediate government action in relation to their plight.
“This is probably going to affect them in very serious ways, both psychologically and in a practical way as to whether they can stay on.”
He said the government must deal with the situation promptly.
“We don’t want them to be exposed to any more risk than they have been exposed already. And I am looking forward to hear what is bring proposed to deal with this situation within hours from now,” Eustace said.