Dr. Luis Luarca, who ended his second hunger strike Sunday but is planning another one, responded to statements made by Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin that he was not interested in pursuing employment opportunities available to him.
Mr. McLaughlin said at a recent press briefing that the Department of Employment Relations had deemed there were employment opportunities available to Mr. Luarca, but that he only wanted a Government job because he felt it offered him more security.
‘If I accept that work, I’m accepting discrimination,’ Mr. Luarca said.
Mr. Luarca said he was presented with a list, a copy of which he showed the Caymanian Compass, of available jobs at various private sector establishments. Those positions included a bellman, a maintenance man, a hardware floor clerk, a banquet server, a customer service/warehouse man, a safety control supervisor and a tour operations supervisor.
‘I have never done any of that work before,’ he said.
Although he was a neurologist in Cuba – documentation of which was provided to the Caymanian Compass – Mr. Luarca has been unable to practice medicine in the Cayman Islands because of provisions in the Health Practitioners Law since he sought political refuge here in 1994.
Mr. Luarca has worked a number of different jobs here since, but most recently served as a security guard.
However, when he applied for a security guard job at the Cayman Islands Hospital, he was denied, a decision he believes was discriminatory.
Mr. Luarca has filed a formal complaint with the Cayman Islands Human Rights Committee in conjunction with that alleged discrimination.
Mr. McLaughlin has said the Committee will issue its report soon and that it will be made public afterwards.
Besides having no work experience in the jobs the Department of Employment Relations said were available to him, Mr. Luarca would prefer working for the Government because he said he hopes to pursue further education or other opportunities to better himself.
‘The private sector doesn’t pay well unless you have skills,’ he said. ‘You can’t progress. That’s why I left the communists.’
Mr. Luarca said a security guard only makes $1,300 – $1,400 per month in the private sector, but $1,900 per month plus benefits in the public sector.
‘How can you progress with $1,300?’ he asked. ‘What can you do with $1,300?’
Mr. Luarca believes that because of his medical background, he would have been the best candidate for the hospital security job, which was subsequently awarded to another expatriate he said.
‘If I’m security at a hospital, I’m sure I’ll be better security than anyone else because I know how a hospital operates,’ he said.
Mr. Luarca provided several letters of reference from past employers, which indicated he was a conscientious, principled and honest person.
In late January, Mr. Luarca started a hunger strike, which he conducted on the front lawn of the Glass House government administration building. That hunger strike lasted more than three weeks.
Because his concerns were not addressed, Mr. Luarca started another hunger strike last Monday from his home.
He ended that strike on Easter Sunday.
‘God was telling me to stop,’ he said.
Mr. Luarca, however, hopes to start another hunger strike next Monday or Tuesday. He has submitted an application to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Services to conduct the protest ‘anywhere around the Court House’ between the hours of 7am and 3pm.
‘I have to have some public awareness,’ he said.