[Marxism] Medical students flee Cuba in fear of new U.S. rules

Mike Friedman mikedf at mail.amnh.org
Mon Jul 5 08:09:57 MDT 2004

Medical students flee Cuba in fear of new U.S. rules

Tracey Eaton Dallas Morning News Jul. 5, 2004 12:00 AM

HAVANA - American medical students in Cuba have rushed back to the United 
States, missing their final exams, over fears that U.S. authorities will 
jail them, fine them thousands of dollars, or revoke their citizenship for 
studying medicine on the island.

Bush administration measures that took effect Wednesday severely restrict 
Americans' presence on the island.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control, an arm of the Treasury Department, 
issued a letter June 25 saying the students could stay until Aug. 1. But 
many students didn't get the word in time.

James Cason, the top U.S. diplomat in Cuba, said he was not aware that 
American students were cutting their education short.

"It wasn't our intention," he said. "We'll have to get word to them somehow."

Before the frenzied departures, there were nearly 80 American medical 
students in the country. Few remain, perhaps half a dozen, American 
students say.

Inspiration for the program goes back to 1999 when Rep. Benny Thompson, 
D-Miss., told Cuban President Fidel Castro that there were few doctors in 
his district in the Mississippi Delta.

In September 2000, Castro told a crowd at Riverside Church in New York City 
that he would give scholarships to underprivileged Americans who could not 
afford medical school.

The Cuban government would pay the costs of the six-year program, Castro 
said. The only catch: After the students graduated, they would have to 
practice medicine - at least for a time - in their own needy neighborhoods.

Hundreds of Americans applied for the program. At least a dozen of those 
who initially arrived dropped out because they could not stand the 
conditions at Havana's Latin America School for Medical Sciences.

Eight to 14 students are packed into each dorm room, sleeping in bunk beds. 
The food isn't always edible. There's no air-conditioning, and the toilets 
have no seats, students say.

One student, Naketa Thomas, 26, of New York, said she doesn't mind the 
conditions. She is grateful for the chance to get a medical degree and not 
pay the $100,000 to $200,000 it can cost at home.

"Now they're telling us to leave. What are we supposed to do?" she asked. 
"I think it's unfair. We're all here because we could not pay the tuition 
they charge in the United States."

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