Friday, May 19, 2017

Cuban Professionals Are Afraid In Venezuela

Cuban Professionals Are Afraid In Venezuela

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 18 May 2017 — Seen from the Venezuelan
opposition as an army of occupation and from the Venezuelan government
as soldiers of socialism, tens of thousands of Cuban professionals live
a situation that is complicated day after day in convulsive
Venezuela. The Cuban government has asked them to stay "until the last
moment," but misery, fear and violence are overwhelming athletes,
doctors and engineers.

"We are not soldiers and we did not come to Venezuela to put a rifle on
our shoulders," says a Cuban doctor from the state of Anzoátegui who
asked for anonymity for fear of reprisals.

According to the physician, who has been working for two years in the
country, Havana has asked them to remain "with honor until the last
moment," in a clear allusion to the possible fall of the Venezuelan

"We are working under a lot of pressure because the Medical Mission is
adept at continuing to insist that services not be closed and that we
maintain our position here in spite of everything," he adds.

In Venezuela there are about 28,000 health workers and thousands of
others who are sports instructors, engineers, agricultural technicians
and even electricians. The model of paying for Cuban professional
services through the export of oil to Cuba has never been clearly
exposed by the Venezuelan government.

According to Nicolás Maduro, since Chavez came to power, more than
250 billion dollars have been invested in the so-called "missions." The
former Minister of Economy of the Island, José Luis Rodríguez, published
last April that Cuba received 11.5 billion dollars a year in payment for
professional services rendered abroad, most of which comes from
Venezuela. Other sources consider, however, that this is a very inflated
number, although Havana's profits are undoubtedly very high.

"We are afraid every day about what could happens to us. Sometimes they
throw stones at us at the CDI [Centro de Diagnóstico Integral, doctor's
offices] or they yell all kinds of insults at us. Every day there are
demonstrations in front of the medical unit and nobody protects us,"
explains the doctor.

"So far they only attack us with words. They shout at us to get out of
here, that they do not want to see themselves like us and other
atrocities," he adds.

The doctor, however, assures that those who work in the missions also do
not want to be in that situation, but they are forced by the Cuban
Government, that exerts pressure through diverse mechanisms.

"If we leave, we lose the frozen accounts maintained for us in Cuba.
Also, if you leave the mission you are frowned upon in the health system
and you have no possibility of being promoted," he explains.

The Cuban government deposits $200 a month in a frozen account that at
the end of the three years the mission lasts in Venezuela, totals
$7,200. If the professional maintained "proper conduct and did their
duty," they can withdraw that money upon their return to the island. If
they return before the established period or their participation in the
mission is revoked (among other reasons for attempting to escape) they
lose all that money.

In Cuba 250 dollars a month are deposited that can be withdrawn when the
professional on the mission visits the Island once a year. Meanwhile, in
Venezuela, they receive 27,000 bolivars, less than 10 dollars a month.

In the case of health technicians, Cuba pays them 180 dollars in a
current account and another 180 dollars a month in an account frozen
until the end of the mission.

A Cuban radiologist who is in the Venezuelan state of Zulia explains
that for months they have no "Mercal," a bag of food delivered by the
Government of Venezuela.

"We live in overcrowded conditions with several colleagues and we do not
even have potable water," he adds.

"Thanks to some patients we can eat, but they are having a very bad
time. We are repeating something like the Special Period that we
experienced in Cuba," he says.

Although he fears for his life because of the situation in the country,
he says he is determined not to return to the island. "We have to endure
until the end. It is not fair to lose everything after so much
sacrifice," he says.

Following the outbreak of the protests in Venezuela, Cuban aid workers
have been directed not to leave their homes and have experienced reduced
communications with their families in Cuba.

"The internet is very bad, you can not even communicate. We have been
forbidden to go out after six o'clock in the afternoon, as if we were
slave labor, and on television they broadcast news that has nothing to
do with what we are living through," he explains.

Julio César Alfonso, president of Solidarity Without Borders, a
Miami-based nonprofit organization that helps Cuban health personnel
integrate into the US system, says the exodus of professionals has
increased in recent weeks.

"Even without the US Medical Professional Parole Program, which allowed
doctors to obtain refuge in the United States, they continue to escape
because of the situation in Venezuela," said the physician.

Alfonso added that his organization is lobbying to re-establish the
Parole Program, eliminated by former President Barack Obama in January,
and allowing more than 8,000 Cuban professionals to enter the United States.

Eddy Gómez is an critical care doctor who worked in the state of Cojedes
in western Venezuela. He decided to escape because he was afraid of the
difficult conditions in which he was forced to work.

"We had to work in dirty places, without air conditioning, exposed to
the fact that even the patients insulted us because we nothing to treat
them with," recalls the doctor who now lives in Bogota and acts as
spokesperson for dozens of other professionals who escaped medical missions.

"After the end of Medical Parole program people have continued to escape
and come to Colombia. There are more than 50 professionals who left
Venezuela after President Obama's decision to eliminate it. We hope that
Trump will admit doctors again," says Gómez.

To escape Venezuela, the Cubans have to pay the coyotes about $650 to
take them to Colombia. The path, full of dangers, includes a bribe to
Venezuela's Bolivarian National Guard that protects the borders, and to
whom they must be careful not to show their official passports issued to
them by the Cuban government because they would immediately be deported
to the Island.

"There are many Cubans who have died violently in Venezuela, but the
Cuban government does not tell the truth to their families, nor does it
pay them compensation," explains the doctor.

"We left Cuba looking for a better life, but in Venezuela we discovered
a real hell."

Source: Cuban Professionals Are Afraid In Venezuela – Translating Cuba -

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