Over 3,000 Cuban doctors defected from Venezuela in 2013

Most Cuban doctors defecting to the US over the last 12 months came from Venezuela

A patient is admitted to a Barrio Adentro neighborhood clinic (RONY VARGAS)
Saturday December 28, 2013  12:00 AM
Over the last 12 months some 3,000 Cubans, mostly doctors, have arrived in the United States after deserting one of the Venezuelan government's social programs they staff. This accounts for a 60% increase as compared with 2012.

In 2012 there were about 5,000 refugee Cuban doctors and nurses in the United States coming from all over the world. Through December 1, 2013 this figure had surged to 8,000, 98% of them came from Venezuela.

These are estimates by Dr. Julio Cesar Alfonso, head of the South Florida group Solidarity Without Borders Inc. (SWB), which helps Cuban medical professionals who try to desert the medical programs Havana sells worldwide as "exports of services."

Venezuela hosts the largest contingent of Cuban medical professionals under the cooperation agreement signed by Caracas and Havana in 2003.

By 2012, 44,804 Cubans staffed the seven social programs starting in 2003, according to the last official data released.

"In 2012 we had 5,000 refugee medical professionals in the United States under federal assistance, but that figure has surged so far in 2013 reaching 8,000 doctors, 98% of whom defected from Venezuela because of continuously worsening conditions in that country," Alfonso says.

"Most Cubans who have defected complain about low salaries, late payment, increased workload in the Barrio Adentro neighborhood clinics and CDIs (Comprehensive Diagnostic Centers) across Venezuela, which to some critics amounts to modern-day slavery," Alfonso says.

"Cuban doctors only get USD 300 a month, but the Venezuelan government pays the Castro regime around USD 6,000 per doctor, so individual doctors are paid less than 10% of what Cuba collects," Alfonso says.

Since 2006, Cuban doctors and some other health workers who are serving their government overseas are allowed to request a United States visa under the Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) Program.

After requesting assistance from the US Embassy in Caracas, most doctors defect to the United States via Colombia, but Brazil is also being used as an alternative transit route to freedom.

Cuban medical professionals are required to produce numerous patient records for the purposes of drafting reports, many of which contain patient data that have been tampered with.

"This is done so that Cuba can show positive reports to the Venezuelan government," Alfonso says.

Translated by Sancho Araujo