Trinidad’s prime minister left for Cuba yesterday for a medical checkup related to heart surgery he underwent four years ago, officials said.
Prime Minister Patrick Manning had valve replacement surgery in 1998 in Havana to repair damage that resulted from rheumatic fever. He was opposition leader at the time.
Manning will return to Trinidad Saturday. Manning’s spokesman Alfred Aguiton said he may meet briefly with Cuban President Fidel Castro while there, but he had no details.
Manning chose to have the operation in Cuba partly to avoid questions of blame that could arise if something were to go wrong during an operation in Trinidad, Aguiton said. Trinidad’s doctors union has often been at odds with Manning’s government, striking twice last year.
Manning, 57 and who also served as prime minister from 1991-1995, has praised Cuba’s health system and sought assistance from the Cuban Government on health issues.
Last year, the two countries agreed to allow 80 doctors and nurses from Cuba to work in Trinidad for three years.
Trinidad and Tobago, a two-island nation of 1.3 million residents, faces a shortage of hundreds of doctors and nurses. The United Nations has also provided the country with 100 doctors from a wide range of countries who will work for three years, as well.
Minister of Culture Joan Yuille-Williams will be acting prime minister while Manning is away.