[Marxism] COLOMBIA: Cuban Doctors Awaiting U.S. Response

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sun Feb 4 09:46:34 MST 2007

Washington has made a special effort to sabotage the Cuban medical 
aid programs by encouraging the doctors to defect if this story in 
today's Guardian is accurate, they have succeeded with three dozen 
out of the twenty THOUSAND Cubans working in Venezuela. Colombia 
may be Washington's closest ally in Latin America - competing with
El Salvador perhaps, but Colombia has more or less normal relations 
with Cuba, so it would be difficult for the Colombian government to 
be to open about assisting this group of Cuban defectors.

An idea of how frightened are those who think medical care should be 
a privilege available to those who have money, rather than a right 
available to human beings just because they are human beings see:

Though there are a wide array of programs in place to support and 
encourage the defectors when they get to the U.S., one which no other 
immigrants from anywhere else get, some STILL have difficulty making 
the adjustment to capitalist-style freedom:

Cuban Doctors Awaiting U.S. Response
Saturday February 3, 2007 1:16 AM
Associated Press Writer

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - At least 38 Cuban doctors who defected from a
mission in Venezuela have been stranded for months in Colombia, where
they have been refused refugee status as they await word on possible
asylum in the United States, according to a relief organization.

The doctors find themselves here despite a shift in U.S. policy,
announced in August, that allowed Cuban medical personnel working
abroad to come to the United States once they passed routine
background checks.

Most of the defecting doctors who fled to Colombia have been waiting
as long as six months for a response, according to an advocacy group
in Miami and several doctors who spoke to The Associated Press. At
least two have been rejected by U.S. officials.

Jorge Toledo, a 39-year-old physician, and his wife, ophthalmologist
Leticia Viamonte, were told in a Dec. 27 letter that their request to
enter the United States under the Cuban Medical Professional Parole
program was denied. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the
letter. The decision cannot be appealed.

Joanna Gonzalez, a Homeland Security spokeswoman in Washington,
declined to comment on the Cuban doctors. But she said that any
applicants under the program ``must pass a background check,'' like
others seeking to enter the United States. The U.S. Embassy in Bogota
declined commeting on specific asylum cases.

Colombia's Foreign Ministry said the government has not decided
whether to grant refugee status to Cuban doctors who have applied for
asylum here in recent years. The ministry said there were 45 such

Julio Cesar Alfonso, president of the Miami-based relief organization
Solidarity Without Borders, said his three-year-old organization has
provided economic and legal assistance to 38 Cuban doctors trying to
leave Colombia. He estimates the overall number of doctors who have
defected and are living here could exceed 100.

``There's no explanation for the delay - these applications should've
taken a maximum two or three months,'' said Alfonso, a Cuban-trained
physician who immigrated to the United States seven years ago.

Cuban officials last year said they had 31,000 doctors serving in
humanitarian missions in 68 countries around the world - a major
point of pride for the communist nation.

They said more than 20,000 are on loan to Venezuela and another 1,700
are based in Bolivia, whose leftist President Evo Morales is a
frequent visitor to Havana.

More than 500 doctors are believed to have fled the two missions in
recent years, most in Venezuela, Alfonso said.

Like Toledo and Viamonte, most asylum-seeking Cuban doctors are just
scraping by because they are unable to work in Colombia without
refugee status.

The couple said they applied for refugee status at the U.S. Embassy
on Aug. 11, the same day the new program was announced in Washington.
Only one of the seven other doctors who applied that same day has so
far been granted entry to the U.S., they said.

Toledo and Viamonte said they sneaked into Colombia in December 2005.
Cuban authorities assigned them to Venezuela in mid-2003.

Like other Cuban doctors here, Toledo and Viamonte live in fear of
being deported to Cuba.

So far, Alfonso said, Colombia's government - Washington's closest
ally in Latin America - has granted Cuban doctors who defect
safe-conduct passes that are renewable every three months.

Toledo fought back tears and anger as he described his disappointment
at being rejected from the refugee program.

``We didn't ask for this law - we thought it was a miracle when this
program was announced because it was so explicit and clear,'' he
said. ``Not even for a second did we think we or anyone else would be
turned back.''

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