Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cuban Doctors defecting to US via Venezuela

Three reports below, no major wire reports yet that I could find.

After bribing Venezuelan and Cuban staff who work as immigration officers at Maiquetía airport (16 miles north of Caracas), seven Cuban doctors serving on aid mission Barrio Adentro arrived Wednesday in Miami.

The defectors, who were seeking to fly to Miami, were briefly detained at the airport, and paid USD 5,200 to have their passports stamped and be allowed to board a flight bound to the United States. "We collected money among the seven doctors who were detained and we finally managed to travel," Jesús Peralta, 26, one of the defectors, told El Nuevo Herald newspaper.

The group of three women and four men were held by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), while they regularize their situation. The other defectors, besides Peralta, are physicians Lorenzo Toriza, Yessenia Martínez and Jesús Badillo.
MIAMI – Around 500 Cuban doctors have defected to the United States while serving on aid missions in Venezuela, according to members of Cuban exile groups in Miami.

The latest case occurred on Wednesday when seven Cuban physicians managed to leave Caracas’ Maiquetia International Airport, after being held there for several hours and after paying hundreds of dollars each to officials.

“The Venezuelan and Cuban officials at Maiquetia systematically subject the doctors who want to leave to psychological pressure until finally they pay bribes,” Cuban doctor Keiler Moreno, who left Caracas five months ago, told Efe.

The bribes can range from $300 to as much as $2,000.
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.

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.