Pastors for Peace and Corvallis Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS) will host a Cuban lunch on Saturday, February 7, to celebrate victories in the struggle to normalize relations with Cuba. The lunch is also a fundraiser to assist Eduardo Jose Cervantes with expenses for the US Medical Licensing Examination. The exams are part of his final steps to becoming a physician after graduating from medical school in Havana. Cervantes is now living with relatives in Phoenix while studying for the medical board exams. The fees for the first exam, which he intends to take in March, are $800. The Corvallis CCDS group pledged to raise contributions to cover the cost of this exam.
Cervantes graduated from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM is the Spanish acronym) in Havana, Cuba in 2014. He benefitted from a program which provides free medical education to 1500 students each year from Latin American countries. Approximately 100 US citizens have graduated from the school and currently about 150 are enrolled. The Cuban government provides housing, food and a small stipend in addition to free tuition. Students are only asked to return to their home countries to work in medically underserved communities.
When ELAM was founded in 2000, the Cuban government did not anticipate admitting US students. However, in response to comments from visiting members of the Congressional Black Caucus about the lack of medical services in their districts, in 2001 Fidel Castro promised to make available 500 positions for students of color from the USA. Each year about a dozen US students enter the program.
Cervantes grew up in Sinaloa, Mexico and came to Salem for his last year of high school. His father, an immigrant agricultural worker, obtained legal residency through an amnesty program in 1986. Eduardo served 6 years in the US Navy and studied at Oregon State University with GI benefits. In 2006 he learned of the medical school opportunity in Cuba and began the application process through Pastors for Peace, the recruiting agent for US student applicants. He was admitted to the program in 2008. Cervantes is the first student from Corvallis, or Oregon, to complete an MD degree at ELAM.
Since 1996 the Corvallis CCDS group has worked with Pastors for Peace on annual Cuba friendship caravans to challenge the US imposed trade and travel ban, sending medical supplies and visitors to Cuba. Corvallis City Councilor Mike Beilstein has travelled to Cuba with the caravan 9 times since 2006. Corvallis CCDS has also taken great interest in the medical scholarship program and has assisted students with travel expenses and supplemental text books. Beilstein said, “The warming of relations with Cuba will present many challenges to the socialist system which has worked well for Cubans. However, it is clearly a victory for both Cuban and US citizens. The return of the last of the Cuban 5 is probably the most significant development for the Cuban people.”
The lunch invitation is open to all interested persons. It starts at noon on February 7, at 101 NW 23rd St (Westminster House).
There is no cost to attend, but donations to Pastors for Peace (Write checks to IFCO/Pastors for Peace.) are welcome.
The first $800 will go to Dr. Cervante’s exam expenses. Any further donations will go to general operations of Pastors for Peace.
The menu for the lunch will be traditional Cuban foods ropa vieja (shredded beef with vegetables) and arroz con frijoles (rice and beans).
Further information about Pastors for Peace and ELAM can be found at www.ifconews.org
. Information about CCDS can be found at www.cc-ds.org
. For details about the event please contact Mike Beilstein at 541 754 1858