How do Cuban doctors escape Venezuela?

Adriel Reyes in Martí News:

How do Cuban doctors escape Venezuela?

Doctors escape medical missions assigned by the Cuban government. These missions are not only to Venezuela, but to other parts of the world.

Part of the "Barrio Adentro", or Inside the Neighborhood program, two Cuban doctors talk in the Integral Diagnostic Center.

Despite the eight years in which they may not return to see family on the island, uncertain fates and the danger to which they are exposed, in 2013, eight Cuban doctors defected daily in Venezuela.

In two days, Cuban doctor Maria del Carmen Fundora would travel to the United States. They woke her at four o’clock in the morning, in the home she shared with her mission companions in Venezuela. She was still in pajamas, because they wouldn’t allow her to change clother. Despite the curfew imposed by the violence in that country, in the middle of the night, the attending head of mission and security personnel from Cuba and Venezuela went to take her away.

The evidence against her was irrefutable: emails sent to relatives in the United States and phone calls to the U.S. Embassy.  The last that was heard from her was that she was immediately deported to the island. Her belongings would be sent to her later.

Fernando Garcia, a doctor from Santiago de Cuba, ran better luck. He came to the U.S. after crossing the Colombian border, just days after the Fundora incident. He was accompanied by his wife, who is also a Cuban doctor. For over a month, they lived in a cheap motel in Caracas, awaiting visas granted through the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program.

Not to be deported to Venezuela, Garcia followed the recommendation to leave the mission before starting the paperwork to travel to the United States. He tried not to attract the attention of the authorities or take any medication or utensil, including his stethescope. Besides all that, it “is always advisable to take a little money with you in case you have to bribe someone on the road.”

He chose to take the risk of crossing the border through the Venezuelan state of Tachira to Cucuta, because once in Colombia “you are free.” He had previously heard of doctors who, like him,  with visa in hand, were stuck “in an office,” of Venezuelan airports “to jave money extracted.” Otherwise they were deported to Cuba.”

Crossing the border between Venezuela and Colombia “is not that complicated,” and although there are police checks, they usually do not stop the medium sized buses that transport passengers between the two countries, separated by only a bridge.

Garcia and his wife lived at the motel, almost completely hidden, and suffered firsthand the consequences of being in a “limbo or no man’s land.”

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