Cuba awards 1,000 medical scholarships to honor Colombia-FARC peace deal

Latin America

Cuba awards 1,000 medical scholarships to honor Colombia-FARC peace deal

To recognize Colombia’s newfound peace with rebel group FARC, Cuba is giving 1,000 medical scholarships to residents of Colombia. Half will go to former rebels, half to those chosen by the government. 

CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports from Bogota.

Wilson Renteria has lived most of his life in the jungles of Colombia.  A member of FARC since he was 15-years-old, his knowledge of medicine came mostly from nature; his ingredients, found in the wild.

“I specialized in the subject of botany: working with plants. Healing the wounded and sick with plants,” according to Renteria . “I also know of drugs because in the armed conflict, sometimes we did not have doctors, and we did not have drugs, and that led me to study medicine.”

But now he will have the chance to formally study medicine in Cuba, thanks to a full scholarship provided by the Cuba government.

Jose Luis Ponce, Cuba’s ambassador to Colombia, says the awards will help with the implementation of the Colombia-FARC peace deal, which was signed in Havana more than a year ago.

Friday, a ceremony was held at the Cuban embassy in Bogota, congratulating and bidding farewell to the first 200 beneficiaries.

In what it says is the spirit of peace building, the Colombian government is awarding the scholarships to those who have either been victims of the armed conflict, or are from low-income families that lived in the conflict zones.

Pedro Quintero’s son, 21-year-old Julio, is one of those recipients. Quintero says his family always supported the FARC, and they are proud their son was part of the rebel militia.  

He is also proud, however, this his son will now be heading to Cuba to become a doctor.

“We cannot afford a career, and in Colombia the son of a poor man does not achieve his dreams,” Quintero says. “This scholarship must be for us, for the children of those who really want to change this country.”