Former FARC Combatants leave Bogota to Study Medicine in Cuba

August 27, 2017

Two hundred former combatants of the Revolutionary Army Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) chosen to be students at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Havana were given a farewell sendoff today at the Cuban Embassy in Colombia where they signed the code of ethics.

The young Colombians present at the Embassy were former insurgents and others from poor families associated with the guerrilla movement. At the event, many were accompanied by family members. A few hours later they would be leaving for the Caribbean island, where next month they will begin their course of study.

In the farewell ceremony for the future doctors, Pastor Alape, a member of the FARC-EP Secretariat, judged the group to be the First Contingent of Doctors for Peace who will be going to prepare themselves in Cuba. This was happening because of 1000 scholarships the island’s government was offering over the next five years to young people of the now demobilized movement.

The FARC commander who in recent years lived in Havana as part of the insurgent delegation to the peace talks told the students that in the Caribbean nation they will find a country very different from their own, one where they will discover what true international solidarity is.

For his part, Cuba’s ambassador in Colombia, José Luis Ponce, pointed out that this offer from his country represents a contribution to the peace process and to the post-conflict situation in this Andean nation after the relinquishing of arms by the FARC-EP and as it transfers into civilian life.

Cuba has created conditions for teaching and provided necessary materials, the Cuban diplomat said, “so that you can study and in the future, at the end of six years of study, can return to work as medical professionals in your country.”

The project known as ELAM forms part of the integrated health program with which Cuba extends medical collaboration in a spirit of solidarity to various countries. Ponce cited it as an example of what a nation with scarce economic resources but one that is rich in human resources and political determination can do.

He commented also that it resulted from the thinking of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro who can be thought of as the author of this solidarity project.

In recent weeks in this capital a process of academic selection and aptitude took place. Cuban health professionals with long work experience in teaching at ELAM were in charge of it.

Source: Cubadebate (translation by Tom Whitney)