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Viewing cable 09CARACAS442, CUBAN MEDICAL PERSONNEL FLEE VENEZUELA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09CARACAS442 2009-04-06 21:09 2010-11-30 21:09 SECRET Embassy Caracas
VZCZCXRO0951
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV
DE RUEHCV #0442/01 0962149
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 062149Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2870
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 7971
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA PRIORITY 1045
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 CARACAS 000442 

SIPDIS 

HQSOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD 
EMBASSY BOGOTA FOR REF CORD (SHIGGINS) 
DEPARTMENT PASS TO AID/OTI (RPORTER) 
DEPARTMENT PASS TO G/TIP (BFLECK) 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/03/2034 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KTIP VE CU
SUBJECT: CUBAN MEDICAL PERSONNEL FLEE VENEZUELA 

CARACAS 00000442 001.2 OF 003 


Classified By: Political Counselor Francisco Fernandez, 
Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 

1. (C) Summary: Embassy Caracas notes a significant number 
of Cuban medical personnel applying to be paroled into the 
United States under the Significant Public Benefit Parole 
(SPBP) for Cuban Medical Professionals outside of Cuba 
(CMPP). During Consular Section interviews in March, Cuban 
Medical personnel affiliated with Chavez's Barrio Adentro 
program complained of poor working conditions, inadequate 
medical supplies, and of constantly being watched and 
monitored by coworkers. As result of the Government of the 
Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (GBRV) clamp down on Cubans 
attempting to flee the island through Venezuela, recent 
asylum seekers have complained of having difficulty in 
exiting Venezuela and being forced to pay exorbitant bribes 
to GBRV officials when attempting to leave the country 
en-route to Miami. End Summary. 


----------------------------- 
CUBANS DOCTORS FLEE VENEZUELA 
----------------------------- 

2. (S) The Consular Section at US Embassy Caracas began 
accepting applications for SPBP on August 18, 2006. To date, 
the Embassy has received paperwork and forwarded to the 
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) applications for 739 
Cuban asylum seekers, of which 69% or 510 were approved, 91 
were denied and 138 are pending. Since February of 2009, DHS 
has notified Post that 73 Cuban Medical Personnel Program 
(CMPP) applicants have been approved for parole through the 
CMPP. 

3. (S) In 2006 and 2007 Embassy Caracas facilitated travel 
to Miami for program applicants through the issuance of 
transportation letters authorizing Cubans to board US bound 
aircraft. By October 2007, Venezuelan immigration officials 
began refusing to board defecting Cubans on onward flights to 
Miami in an unpredictable and ad-hoc manner. To enhance 
fraud protection due to insecurity of the travel letter, (one 
letter was used by an imposture), Post sought and received CA 
approval to issue YY visa foils instead of transportation 
letters. Having a visa foil in their passports has 
facilitated the departure of most parolees. The Consular 
Section began issuing YY visa foils in February 2009 to 
approved Cuban Medical Parolees. Of the 73 approved CMPP 
applicants in 2009, 43 have been issued YY visa foils, 39 
have successfully passed through immigration and boarded 
their flight to Miami, and two have confirmed plans to travel 
in the near future. Thirty approved applicants have not yet 
confirmed travel plans because they currently are unable to 
travel, do not have the financial resources to leave 
Venezuela, or have been forced to return to Cuba. Two 
applicants were unsuccessful in their attempt to leave 
Venezuela from the Barcelona (Venezuela) airport. Note: Most 
CMPP applicants departing from the Caracas airport have been 
successful in boarding their flight to Miami. Following the 
approval of parole by DHS, CMPP applicants must enter the US 
within 60 days. End Note. 

------------------------------- 
CUBAN MEDICS CLAIM MISTREATMENT 
------------------------------- 

4. (C) The majority of the CMPP applicants interviewed by 
Post were originally conscripted to work in social programs 
such as Mission Barrio Adentro, a GBRV sponsored program that 
provides health care to city slums and rural communities, or 
similar GBRV poverty reduction programs in medicine, sports, 
and the arts. In its annual 2008 report, the Caracas based 
human rights NGO PROVEA estimated that 14,345 Cuban medical 
professionals were originally assigned to work in Venezuela 
following the inauguration of Barrio Adentro in December 
2003. Currently only about 8,500 Cubans are estimated to be 
employed in social programs across the country. While some 
CMPP applicants told Consular officials they volunteered to 
come to Venezuela, many others have complained of being 
forced (or directed) by Cuban authorities to work in 
Venezuela under President Chavez's social mission programs 
for a period of 1-3 years. 


CARACAS 00000442 002.2 OF 003 


5. (C) Many CMPP applicants have reported that upon arrival 
in Venezuela, Barrio Adentro Mission officials have 
confiscated the passports of program participants to prevent 
their fleeing the mission. According to one applicant who 
was interviewed on January 27, 2009, the coordinator of the 
Cuban medical mission (Barrio Adentro 2, Aragua state) had 
been holding his and his other colleagues' passports since 
April 2008, when another Cuban had abandoned the mission, as 
a "means of preventing other desertions." The applicant did 
not receive his passport back until he went on a scheduled 
vacation in September 2008 to Cuba. Upon his return to 
Venezuela in October 2008 he was not required by mission 
authorities to turn over his passport a second time. The 
CMPP applicant received Significant Public Benefit Parole on 
March 2, 2009, was issued a YY visa foil, successfully fled 
Venezuela, and arrived in Miami on March 16, 2009. 

6. (C) During Consular section interviews in March, Cuban 
medical personnel affiliated with Chavez's Barrio Adentro 
program complained of extremely poor working conditions, low 
pay, limited medical supplies, and of constantly being 
watched and monitored by co-workers. According to one doctor 
who successfully fled on March 10, "All the effort I put into 
my work is not recognized by anyone... I am not well paid and 
only make 715 BsF (332 USD) a month in Venezuela, I want to 
change my life." The doctor told Consular Officers that he 
is forced to attend to 250-300 patients a week and "can only 
use obsolete and inferior Cuban medicine". A rehabilitation 
therapist who successfully fled on March 16 opined, "I feel 
politically manipulated. The system is closing my chances 
and I want to be a better professional. I have a lack of 
equipment and medicine in my job. I want to be a free man. 
I want to be a surgeon specialist." On March 30 one CMPP 
applicant, who managed to escape his mission for several 
hours and was clearly anxious to return before his supervisor 
realized he was gone, told Poloff "They are always watching 
us, checking in with us at random times, asking what we are 
doing and calling us on our cell phones." While noting that 
he has not received any physical threats so far during his 
time in Venezuela, he commented "It is a psychological battle 
that we must endure every day." 

---------------------------------------- 
CORRUPTION, DESPERATION, GBRV CLAMP DOWN 
---------------------------------------- 

7. (S) The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of 
Venezuela (GBRV) began clamping down on Cubans attempting to 
flee the island via Venezuela in 2007. While many applicants 
have successfully fled Cuba through Venezuela, others have 
been detained upon attempting to depart and presumably 
deported to Cuba. Recent asylum seekers have complained of 
having to pay exorbitant bribes (usually around 1,000 USD) to 
Venezuelan customs officials when attempting to exit the 
country en-route to Miami. 

8. (S) As recently as March 24 a Cuban couple attempted to 
board a flight from Barcelona (Venezuela) to Miami after the 
US Embassy issued YY visa foils for their onward travel. The 
couple paid over 4,600 USD to "a contact" to assist them in 
clearing GBRV immigration. After their flight was delayed and 
a shift change occurred at the airport, the couple was 
questioned by Venezuelan immigration authorities who turned 
them over to the National Guard. The military later 
contacted Cuban officials. The couple was eventually moved 
to a hotel by Cuban "security" and told they would be 
deported to Cuba. The CMPP applicants later escaped their 
captors and fled to the US Embassy, where a local contact 
picked them up and reportedly took them into hiding. The 
traumatized couple told US Consular officers the Cuban 
"police" who detained them were also "Barrio Adentro Mission 
officials". According to the female CMPP applicant, the 
"Cuban police" threatened to rape her and beat up her 
boyfriend. Note: Recent CMPP applicants have reported to 
Consular Officers that after leaving Barrio Adentro, 
occasionally some Venezuelans are willing to help Cubans who 
are in hiding. Little is known about the individuals who 
assist Cuban medical personnel once they abandon Chavez's 
"missions." End Note. 

9. (S) Comment: Due to the risk CMPP applicants have of 
being stopped by GBRV authorities prior to boarding Miami 

CARACAS 00000442 003.2 OF 003 


bound aircraft, some Cuban parolees have considered (or are 
considering) undertaking a cross border overland trip to 
Bogota. While Post does not advise parolees on which route 
(if any) is less risky, the issuance of YY visa foils by Post 
has reduced the probability of GBRV immigration officials 
detecting a parolee prior to his or her departure. Post 
believes, however, that it is only a matter of time before 
GBRV immigration officials become alert to the YY visa foils 
and are able to further tighten the GBRV's clamp down on 
Cubans planning to abandon the social missions and flee the 
country. With the February approval of 73 applicants by DHS, 
(over 25 applicants have been issued YY visa foils in the 
past two weeks alone), and more cases pending approval, Post 
continues to meet the demand of Cuban medical personnel 
hoping to flee Venezuela rather than face the prospect of 
returning to Cuba. End Comment.