Cuba is urging scholarship recipients, including those from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, not to leave Cuba amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said on radio that Cuba had communicated with his government, “urging the students not to leave because the question of how — they will not complete their year.
“Because they are opening back the universities and go down to July,” the prime minister said.
“… it’s very important with their exam and if they don’t pass the exams, if they’re not there to write the exams, they would have to repeat that year but they can’t guarantee that the scholarship will continue,” Gonsalves said.
“So it is in the interest of those students, it seems to me, but I have to ask Ambassador John today, but on the face of it, it might be in their interest to remain there. But, that again, I have to further explore,” he further stated.
On Tuesday, SVG Ambassador to Cuba Ellsworth John wrote a commentary saying that given its proximity to the United States, Caribbean nationals have “an acquired taste” for US produced goods that are not available in Cuba because of the embargo.
John said it is not true that SVG does not care because it did not send “care packages” to its students like Guyana has done.
He said that Kingstown is willing to facilitate parents who are interested and are able to arrange for their children to receive the items that usually accompany them when they travel to Cuba.
“It shows that parents are willing to make a financial sacrifice at a time when the government in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is maintaining measures to protect Vincentians while minimising the economic downturn.
“However, we just have to be careful that at a time when the government of Cuba is providing three meals a day to the student population that numbers over 2,000 foreign students, we don’t flaunt excesses that the Cuban counterparts don’t have access to,” the diplomat said.
Meanwhile, regarding the students in Jamaica who are hoping to return home, Gonsalves said:
“Now, the question of the students in Jamaica that’s still a work in progress.”
LIAT has quoted a price of US$75,000 for a charter flight to bring 55 students from Jamaica to SVG.
This translates to US$1,339 per student.