Old news, but worth the mention (Cuban healthcare)

Posted: March 28, 2008 in Uncategorized

Hundreds of Cuban medical workers defecting to U.S. while overseas

By Tal Abbady | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

October 10, 2007

The Cuban government’s plan was for Beny Alfonso Rodriguez to help lead a group of 72 Cuban doctors on a medical mission in the town of Macarapana, Venezuela.

But Rodriguez, a former soldier, lasted four months. He joined the mission with one thing in mind: to flee Cuba.

“I was born into the revolution, but I didn’t choose it,” says Rodriguez, who arrived in Miami in April.

Rodriguez is among hundreds of Cuban medical personnel who have deserted their country’s overseas medical missions in recent months to apply for fast-track entry into the United States.

News of the U.S. government’s Cuban Medical Professional Parole program, launched in August 2006, quickly reached rural outposts in Venezuela and other countries. The policy allows Cuban doctors, nurses, administrators, lab technicians and other professionals working in humanitarian medical missions outside Cuba to apply at their host country’s U.S. embassy for entry into the United States. After undergoing a background check, most applicants are accepted, according to Ana Carbonell, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Miami.

“The Castro regime has used these medical professionals as a vehicle for its international propaganda,” Carbonell said.

Carbonell said 1,000 Cuban medical personnel have entered the United States under the new policy. But there are glitches. A group of Cuban doctors in Colombia was stranded there for months after applying.

Diaz-Balart’s office and South Florida Cuban exile groups have helped spread the word about the policy and answered e-mail and telephone inquiries from hundreds of Cuban doctors.

Cuban exile activists say dozens of Cuban medical personnel have defected in Venezuela. In exchange for cheap oil for Cuba, about 21,000 Cuban doctors staff President Hugo Chavez’s free health-care program for the poor, called Barrio Adentro (Inside the Barrio) — the backbone of the Venezuelan leader’s popular socialist reforms. (more…)

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