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Fate of fleeing Cuban doctors not part of negotiations with island – U.S. State Dept

U.S. State Dept: Fate of fleeing Cuban doctors not part of negotiations
with island
BY JIM WYSS
jwyss@MiamiHerald.com

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA
The U.S. State Department on Thursday said a controversial program that
gives defecting Cuban medical professionals legal status in the United
States is not on the negotiating table, as the two nations begin
restoring ties.

The question came as the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and other media
have been reporting on hundreds of Cuban doctors, dentists and nurses
who are stuck in Colombia after fleeing medical missions in Venezuela.

Some of them have been waiting for almost a year to be granted passage
to the U.S. under the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program. Asked
if those delays were being driven by talks with Cuba, agency spokesman
John Kirby said “absolutely not.”

“It is not at all related to our new policy with respect to Cuba,” he
said. “There’s no tie, no connection.”

The program has always been a bone of contention for the island. Cuba
provides free education to its doctors and sends many of them on
missions around the world. The communist government says U.S. efforts
that encourage them to defect are tantamount to stealing and promote
brain-drain.

Asked about the issue, Kirby said Cuban diplomats “have regularly voiced
concern about the program.” However, it didn’t come up during the
inauguration of the U.S. Embassy in Havana last Friday, he said.

Kirby referred other questions about the program to the U.S. Citizenship
and Immigration Service. The Miami Herald began seeking comment from the
agency on Monday, but on Thursday officials said they needed additional
time to respond to a list of questions.

Cuban medical professionals in Colombia’s capital say they fled
Venezuela believing they could enter the U.S. parole program within
weeks. Many have run out of money and are living in cramped conditions.
On Saturday, hundreds of the doctors are expected to hold a rally in the
southern part of the city to raise awareness about their plight.

Source: U.S. State Dept: Fate of fleeing Cuban doctors not part of
negotiations with island | Miami Herald –
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article31674917.html

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