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End of Program for Resettlement in the US Causes Anxiety Among Cuban Doctors Who Have Fled Missions

End of Program for Resettlement in the US Causes Anxiety Among Cuban
Doctors Who Have Fled Missions / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 13 January 2017 — Thirty Cuban doctors
met Friday in Bogota to protest the ending of the Cuban Medical
Professional Parole (CMPP) program, which until yesterday allowed Cuban
medical personnel working in third countries to qualify for a visa to go
to the United States.

The CMPP was created by the administration of Republican George W. Bush
in 2006, to enable thousands of professionals to escape from Cuban
medical missions abroad.

Havana has long called for its repeal, which was announced by President
Barack Obama on Thursday, and had made it a condition for progress in
normalizing relations with Washington.

“We went to protest for them to keep that program that is vital for
Cuban doctors,” says Alberto López, a Cuban critical care specialist who
escaped from a medical mission in Venezuela.

In ten years, more than 8,000 Cuban professionals have benefitted from
this program, especially in countries like Venezuela and Brazil.

“We fear for what could happen to our colleagues. There are many people
who are on the way and we do not know what can happen now, because they
can neither return to the mission nor to take shelter under the parole
program,” explains Lopez.

Another of the protesters called for the granting of visas to all those
who have been waiting in Colombia for a response to their requests.

“We are working as waiters, in markets, in whatever we can. We hardly
have money to pay our expenses because we lost everything in our Cuban
bank accounts. We’ve been waiting for months, and now Obama comes out
with this. And I was counting on it,” he says.

The “healthcare cooperators,” as the Cuban government calls them, are
assigned a bank account on the island where each month some of their
wages are deposited in dollars. Those accounts, which remain frozen
until the end of the mission, are seized by the Government if the
doctors desert.

For Dr. Julio César Alfonso, president of Solidaridad sin Fronteras
(Solidarity Without Borders) a non-profit organization dedicated to
helping Cuban doctors who come to the United States, “it is very
regrettable that President Obama leaves such a sad legacy to the Cuban
community.”

Alfonso regrets that the new policy does not take into account that
Cuba’s healthcare personnel who are working in third countries have the
status of “modern slaves.”

“Cuban medical missions are considered one of the largest human
trafficking operations that has ever existed in history,” he says.

“Doctors have always tried to escape. What is going to happen now is
that it will end the organized ways of escaping from this reality. It is
very negative what is happening,” says the doctor, who estimates that
more than 3,000 professionals will be in migration limbo because they
have escaped the missions but no longer have the certainty they will be
accepted in the United States.

The Cuban health system has 495,609 workers, according to the most
recent data provided by the Government, of which more than 58,000 are
specialized doctors. Its cooperation programs, which are funded through
international organizations, extend to more than 90 countries in the
world, from Africa to Russia.

The discomfort extends among Cuban doctors “on mission” in several
countries.

“When health professionals leave Cuba we do it with an official
passport. The government appropriates most of our salary and if we
escape we are prevented from returning to Cuba for eight years,”
explains a doctor living in Brazil who claims to have completed all her
paperwork to receive the Parole. However, she asked that her identity
not be revealed,” just in case.”

“Yesterday I was very nervous all afternoon, suddenly we got that bucket
of cold water. I can only think of the other professionals that this
measure leaves without protection. There are hundreds who were waiting
for the opportunity to defect,” she explains.

Through the Mais Médicos (More Doctors) program, the Brazilian
Government, at that time under the presidency of the Workers’ Party and
allied with Cuba, hired more than 11,000 doctors through the Pan
American Health Organization. The agreement, which included a payment of
$ 3,300 per doctor per month, plus the payment of other fees for
accommodation, represented significant income for the island’s economy,
which in 2014 acknowledged that it received $ 8.2 billion in exchange
for “medical services.”

Of the salary agreed to with the Government, only a third is paid to the
Cuban professionals.

Since the beginning of the program in 2013, defections have been
routine. In 2016, 1,439 health professionals escaped to the United
States; another 1,600 took the exams to revalidate their titles in
Brazil and to obtain contracts to work their on their own. Marriage has
also been another way to escape the control of the Cuban
government. According to data provided by the Brazilian authorities,
more than 1,000 Cubans have marital ties with citizens of that country.

“I was able to submit my paperwork. Now I have to wait, but what will
happen to others who were thinking of fleeing?” asks a Cuban doctor who
was in Venezuela.

“At least before you had the security of knowing that if you jumped you
would have a place to fall. If you escape now you know you’re playing
outside the rules,” an X-Ray specialist, who works in the state of
Anzoátegui, said using the vocabulary of sports. “Venezuela is going
down the tubes like Cuba but now we have no choice but to stay here.”

Source: End of Program for Resettlement in the US Causes Anxiety Among
Cuban Doctors Who Have Fled Missions / 14ymedio, Mario Penton –
Translating Cuba –
translatingcuba.com/end-of-program-for-resettlement-in-the-us-causes-anxiety-among-cuban-doctors-who-have-fled-missions-14ymedio-mario-penton/

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