Front Page
February 2, 2007

The circumstances surrounding the non-renewal of a popular Cuban eye-surgeon’s contract read almost like a James Bond thriller as there are aspects of suspense, intrigue, high-level diplomacy and of course romance.

When Dr. Pedro Suarez’ contract as Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital came to an end last week, it was not renewed. This was confirmed by Minister of Health Dr. Douglas Slater.{{more}}

Dr. Slater explained that according to the terms of the technical assistance agreement signed between the Governments of Cuba and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, if any member of the Cuban technical assistance team assigned to St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not return to Cuba, he would be deemed to have defected. The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines agreed that should that happen, they would not employ the person, as this would be seen as a hostile diplomatic act.

Suarez, who is also a Searchlight columnist, recently wed Vincentian sweetheart Dr. Rowena Derrick, who confirmed to Searchlight that she and her husband would not be returning to Cuba as he “hopes to be at his wife’s side.” Derrick said that it would not be feasible for them to live in Cuba as it would be difficult for her to get a job there.

Slater said that the consequences of Suarez action were explained to him prior to the December 14, 2006 marriage. The health minister said that were the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to retain Suarez in their employ, they would run the risk that Cuba would withdraw its substantial technical assistance to this country. “We need to show respect for the agreement signed between the two nations,” said the Minister.

Dr. Slater explained that the Cuban government does not prohibit Cuban technical staff members from marrying Vincentians they meet while working here, but explained that there is a procedure that needs to be followed. “He should have returned to Cuba then applied for permission to migrate to St. Vincent.” This he said was done by a Cuban nurse who returned to Cuba, applied for permission, then subsequently married a Vincentian man. That couple lives in St. Vincent at present. She is employed with the Government as a nurse at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.

The Health Minister was however quick to point out that as a Vincentian, Dr. Suarez could open private practice here and stressed that “there is no bad blood between Dr. Suarez and the Government.” Speaking to Searchlight from their home, the new Mrs. Suarez confirmed this. “He is not angry with anyone. Right now, he is taking some vacation and relaxing for a while. He worked very hard over the last two years.”

Excitement still evident in her voice, Suarez’ bride revealed that the couple spent the first part of their honeymoon in London and declared that the honeymoon is “still on.”

Dr. Derrick, a Cuba-trained Anesthesiologist returned from Cuba in 2002, and since then has been employed at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, her husband’s former workplace.

Dr. Slater has given the assurance that active negotiations are ongoing to find a replacement ophthalmologist from Cuba, and one would soon be put in place at the hospital.