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Report: Obama Order Has Cuban Medical Missionaries Stuck in Limbo in Colombia

Image: Report: Obama Order Has Cuban Medical Missionaries Stuck in Limbo in Colombia

Cuban doctors in Bogota, Colombia, take part in a 2015 protest to draw attention to their plight to get U.S. visas. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

Monday, 20 Feb 2017 09:21 PM

Over a dozen Cuban health professionals who deserted from medical missions in Venezuela to apply for U.S. visas under a now-defunct program are stranded in Colombia – hoping the Trump administration will relent, NBC News reported.

The medical professionals were in transit to the U.S. embassy in Bogotá when the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program – ended in an executive order by President Barack Obama – abruptly stopped Jan. 12, NBC News reported.

According to NBC News, the professionals say they cannot go back to Cuba, and face deportation if they remain in Colombia – and the only reason they risked deserting their medical posts was to apply for the CMPP program.

"I was in shock," Marisleidy Boza Varona, a 26 year-old dentist from Camaguey, told NBC News. "Everything came crashing to the ground . . . I know people who have returned to Cuba, and they lose everything. They lose their diploma. They send you to work in the mountains as punishment.

"We all have faith that the U.S. government will realize the situation we are in."

According to NBC News, the doctors and other medical professionals were on "misiones internacionalistas" – an important source of revenue for the communist island that totaled $8 billion in 2014.

But the healthcare workers charges the "missions" are equivalent to indentured servitude, saying they are pressured to meet a quota of patients per day, their accommodations are meager, and they are paid a small fraction of what the Cuban government receives for their services.

The parole program was their only way out, they told NBC News.

"I was wasting my money to subsist in a foreign country — you spend months working hard and you don't see the results," Yenniffer Santiesteban, a 25 year-old doctor from Holguin, told NBC News.

She arrived in Bogotá on Jan. 13, when a friend who had defected earlier, took her in and explained the CMPP had been terminated the day before.

"I was disappointed, desolate, depressed, and enraged," she told NBC News, which reported she is now staying in a two-bedroom apartment with six other Cubans hoping the Trump administration reinstates the program.

"The administration is reviewing all aspects of the U.S.-Cuba policy, we do not have any further information to offer other than that at this time," the White House told NBC News in an email.

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Over a dozen Cuban health professionals who deserted from medical missions in Venezuela to apply for U.S. visas under a now-defunct program are stranded in Colombia – hoping the Trump administration will relent, NBC News reported.
Cuban, medical, missionaries, Colombia
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2017-21-20
Monday, 20 Feb 2017 09:21 PM
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