Cuban Doctors Abroad Helped to Defect by New U.S. Visa Policy

Cuban Doctors Abroad Helped to Defect by New U.S. Visa Policy

BOGOTÁ, Colombia -- When the Cuban government in 2005 selected Andres to treat the sick in Venezuela's barrios, the chance to help poor Venezuelans was less important for the Cuban doctor than the opportunity to escape his communist homeland.

"I didn't arrive in Venezuela to work, I arrived and deserted right away," he recalled in a recent interview in Bogotá while awaiting a hoped-for United States visa. Like other Cuban defectors, Andres asked that his full name not be used in order to prevent possible retaliation against relatives in Cuba.

Cuba, whose socialized medical system is admired by many, has a long tradition of sending doctors like Andres to treat the poor overseas, including in regions as distant as Africa and Asia. Cuba has about 30,000 doctors and nurses working outside the country, according to the Cuban government, most of them stationed in Venezuela.

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