Cuban Doctors Bound For US Detained In Venezuela

Posted Jan 6, 2010 by Christopher Szabo
Seven Cuban doctors seeking to fly to Miami from Venezuela have been detained and their passports seized by local authorities. It is feared that they will be deported to Cuba, where they could face reprisals.
Caracus  Venezuela
Caracas view from El Ávila
Guillermo Ramos Flamerich
A news alert from the Cuba Archive human rights group said the doctors were prevented from boarding the flight at the Caracas Maquetía Airport.
The alert said all held visas to enter America under the US ”Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program.” Cuba Archive said the doctors’ passports were seized and they were transferred to Immigration Headquarters in the Venezuelan capital.
Other medical professionals who recently arrived in the US said they feared the detained doctors would be repatriated to Cuba, where they would face reprisals. Cuba Archive released the names of three of the doctors: Dr. Jesús Badillo, Dr. Yesenia Martínez, Dr. Lorenzo Toriza. Cuba Archive has not been able to reach the three.
Venezuela and Cuba have upgraded their links recently. On December 14, 2009, Brunei FM reported that President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Cuba’s leader, Raul Castro, met for two days to review their ties and sign new co-operation agreements.
The Joint Statement quoted by Brunei FM indicated that Cuba provided medical aid to Venezuela in exchange for oil. The report said doctors consulted 290 million patients and saved tens of thousands of lives, as well as giving dental assistance.
The report also said Cuban eye care professionals had assisted more than one million Venezuelans who had recovered or preserved their sight.
In return, Venezuela had supplied Cuba with 178 million barrels of oil and oil products and had assisted in reactivating a refinery in Cienfuegos in central Cuba. The two countries are also working to expand the Hermanos Diaz oil refinery and aim to construct a petrochemical complex on Cuba.
The US State Department website describes the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program:
Cuban Medical Professionals are those health-care providers who are sent by the Castro regime to work or study in third countries. Under Cuban Resolution 54, these same Medical Professionals are often denied exit permission by the Cuban Government to come to the United States when they qualify under other established legal channels to migrate from Cuba.
According to Cuba Archive, doctors working in Third World countries often desert and seek visas to the US. From 2006 to 2009, 2,000 health professionals have obtained visas for the US. At least 500 doctors have managed to leave Venezuela in recent years.
It is understood the doctors are not able to travel freely. The human rights organisation describes them as “escaping” from Venezuela.