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Cablegate: Cuban Doctors Fearful in Guyana

VZCZCXRO0728
RR RUEHGR
DE RUEHGE #0324/01 0892056
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 302056Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4984
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 GEORGETOWN 000324

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

CA/VO/F/P - PETE MARIGLIANO
DHS - DONNA PETREE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PHUM CVIS PREL SMIG CU GY
SUBJECT: Cuban Doctors Fearful in Guyana

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Post has interviewed six applicants for
significant public benefit parole (SPBP) under the Cuban Medical
Personnel program. Five came to Guyana as conscripted members of
the Cuban medical brigade. As they await a decision on their
applications, some of these doctors fear that Cuban Embassy
officials or Guyanese police will find them to deport them back to
Cuba. One is already experiencing repercussions and informed the
ConOff of recent changes to the medical brigade program as a direct
result of the SPBP program. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Embassy Georgetown Consular Officers have interviewed six
Cuban doctors who applied for significant public benefit parole
(SPBP) under the Cuban Medical Personnel program. Of the six
applicants, one doctor has been granted parole and departed for the
U.S. Two have legal status in Guyana (one married a Guyanese woman,
another came to Guyana independently). The three remaining
applicants completed the medical brigade program and remained in
Guyana without legal status. These "illegals" fear that Cuban
Embassy officials or Guyanese police will find them to deport them
back to Cuba.

3. (SBU) The most recent applicant speculates that someone must have
informed the Cuban authorities he visited the U.S. Embassy to
request parole. The Cuban Embassy assigned him to accompany an
"ill" Cuban doctor that had to return to Cuba. The applicant
refused to board the plane because of a hunch that he was being
tricked into repatriating himself. Subsequently, Cuban Embassy
authorities told him that his passport would be canceled
immediately. They also removed him from the medical brigade and
labeled him a deserter.

4. (SBU) The most recent applicant also informed ConOff of recent
changes to the medical brigade program as a direct result of the
SPBP program. He stated that the Cuban Medical Brigade program sent
a new manager to Guyana in December 2006 whose mandate is to crack
down on Cuban medical personnel that have intentions to request
parole or flee Guyana. Cuban medical personnel who apply for parole
are ostracized. Any Cuban medical professional who maintains
communication with parole applicants is at risk of losing his/her
legal status in Guyana and job with the medical brigade.

5. (SBU) The Cuban doctor who was approved for parole was hesitant
to travel because he feared for the safety of his female colleagues
whose applications are still pending. Three of the pending
applicants are in hiding, reporting that they cannot move freely for
fear that Guyanese police or Cuban embassy personnel may apprehend
them and repatriate them to Cuba. All of the parole applicants
expect their families in Cuba to be targeted for reprisals because
of their failure to return to Cuba after the completion of their
mission.

6. (SBU) During their interviews, three of the Cuban applicants
explained to the ConOff that upon arrival in Guyana, medical
personnel are forced to surrender their passports to the Cuban
Embassy. Their passports are returned to them just as they are
about to board the plane to return to Cuba after completing their
two years of service. The applicants that came to the Embassy with
their passports risked arrest by fleeing from the airport rather
than returning to Cuba. They reported that "official-looking"
people chased them as they ran to a taxi and drove away from the
airport. They went into hiding until they felt safe enough to come
to the U.S. Embassy to file an application for parole.
7. (U) Cuban medical personnel have meager funds available on which
to subsist. They receive very low wages compared to their Guyanese
counterparts, and their contracts require them to relinquish fifty
percent of any overtime pay to the Central Unit for Medical
Cooperation (UCCM) in Havana. The Cuban doctor's monthly salary is
equivalent to US$500 from which US$100 is deducted on a monthly
basis and contractually remitted back to the UCCM. Overtime is
accumulated at the rate of US$1.25 per hour, and doctors on the
overnight shift make US$2.50 per night. In comparison, Guyanese
doctors typically make US$1,500 per month. The final renewal of the
doctor's visas is done six months prior to the conclusion of their
medical mission so that the termination of their legal status will
coincide with their repatriation to Cuba.

8. (U) Applicants regularly call consular section for a status
update on their parole applications. Post is unable to offer them
much information other than that they must wait until DHS renders a
decision. Local charities can offer very little assistance to
political refugees. Moreover, every time the applicants have to
leave their hiding place to ask for assistance, they risk detention
and deportation because of their lack of status. Presently, they
rely on the assistance that some former colleagues are willing to
give them at much risk to their own status.

9. (SBU) COMMENT: Cuban applicants for SPBP tell us the only reason
Post does not receive many more parole applications is that

GEORGETOWN 00000324 002 OF 002


applicants are terrified of being seen entering the U.S. Embassy.
ConOffs sense that Cuban medical personnel are willing to take the
risk of requesting parole; however once they do, they are faced with
months of delay and uncertainty. Since many applicants are
requesting parole after they have completed the medical mission,
they are no longer legally employed and unable to subsist on their
meager savings while awaiting a decision from DHS that can take
months to process. END COMMENT.

ROBINSON

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