Saturday, January 9th 2010 – 5:30 am UTC
Almost 500 Cuban doctors defected to the US while serving in Venezuela
Around 500 Cuban doctors have defected to the United States while
serving on aid missions in Venezuela, according to members of Cuban
exile groups in Miami. The latest case occurred this week when seven
Cuban physicians managed to leave Caracas' Maiquetia International
Airport, after being held there for several hours and after paying
hundreds of dollars each to officials.
Bribes to board in Caracas main airport range from 300 to 2.000 US
dollars Bribes to board in Caracas main airport range from 300 to 2.000
"The Venezuelan and Cuban officials at Maiquetia systematically subject
the doctors who want to leave to psychological pressure until finally
they pay bribes," Cuban doctor Keiler Moreno, who left Caracas five
months ago, according to a report from the Spanish news agency Efe.
The bribes can range from 300 to as much as 2,000 US dollars.
Moreno helped several of his colleagues who left Caracas and he waited
for them at the Miami airport while they went through legal procedures
with U.S. immigration authorities.
"We're from the same class that graduated in medicine in 2007 and we
help each other out," he added.
Several Catholic associations and the Miami-based organization
Solidaridad Sin Fronteras (Solidarity Without Borders) will also provide
assistance to the four Cuban men and three women who arrived this week.
Sources with Miami's massive Cuban exile community say that around 2,000
physicians and other health care personnel have defected since 2006 and
requested visas to come to the United States.
Of that number, 500 came through Venezuela and just in the last year,
about 200 arrived in Miami.
"I was in Venezuela for eight months and five months ago I arrived in
Miami. To be able to leave you have to request an entry visa to the
United States at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas. The problem is that the
Venezuelan officials don't give permission to leave. Finally, everything
gets resolved with a bribe," Moreno said.
The 27-year-old physician emphasized that the Cuban and Venezuelan
officials put the doctors who want to leave through "psychological
torture that can cause panic crises."
"They're seeking, specifically, repentance, but if one resists a bit,
the bribe does the rest," he said.
About 45,000 Cuban doctors and other health care workers are
participating in Venezuela in the "Barrio Adentro" public health program
designed to try and make up for the lack of such personnel in Venezuela.
Although the Cuban doctors who arrive in the United States cannot
practice medicine until they get the proper licenses, Dr. Moreno said
that they prefer to confront that situation rather than remain in a
system plagued by corruption.
The seven Cuban physicians who arrived this week in Miami will remain
for several days in the custody of US Immigration and Customs
Enforcement until they receive their permits to stay in the country,
which will allow them to go through the procedure to acquire residence.
Almost 500 Cuban doctors defected to the US while serving in Venezuela —
MercoPress (9 January 2010)