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Cablegate: Another Cuban Doctor Attempts to Flee

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS CARACAS 000548

SIPDIS


NSC FOR CBARTON
USCINCSO ALSO FOR POLAD
USAID DCHA/OTI FOR RPORTER
DRL FOR JDAVIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREF VE
SUBJECT: ANOTHER CUBAN DOCTOR ATTEMPTS TO FLEE

REF: 2003 CARACAS 3429

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SUMMARY
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1. ON FEBRUARY 4, NATIONAL GUARDSMEN ARRESTED ULISES BERNAL
PEREZ, A CUBAN DOCTOR ASSIGNED TO THE "BARRIO ADENTRO" (INTO
THE SLUMS) PROGRAM, AFTER HE ALLEGEDLY TRIED TO DEFECT BY
FORCING TWO JOURNALISTS TO DRIVE HIM TO THE COLOMBIAN BORDER,
ACCORDING TO PRESS REPORTS. BERNAL PEREZ REPORTEDLY BELIEVED
THE PROGRAM TO PROVIDE MEDICAL SERVICES TO THE POOR WAS
MAKING FRAUDULENT CLAIMS ABOUT THE NUMBER OF PATIENTS TREATED
IN THE PROGRAM AND ALSO THAT HIS LIFE WAS IN DANGER.
NATIONAL GUARD COMMANDER VIVIAN DURAN TOLD REPORTERS THAT THE
PUBLIC PROSECUTOR WILL DECIDE WHETHER TO TRY BERNAL PEREZ ON
POSSIBLE KIDNAPPING CHARGES OR TO DEPORT HIM. END SUMMARY.

2. ON FEBRUARY 4, NATIONAL GUARDSMEN ARRESTED ULISES BERNAL
PEREZ, A CUBAN DOCTOR ASSIGNED TO THE INTO THE SLUMS PROGRAM,
AFTER HE ALLEGEDLY TRIED TO DEFECT BY FORCING TWO JOURNALISTS
TO DRIVE HIM TO THE COLOMBIAN BORDER, ACCORDING TO PRESS
REPORTS. NATIONAL GUARD COMMANDER VIVIAN DURAN TOLD
REPORTERS THAT BERNAL PEREZ ARRANGED TO MEET TV REPORTER
ROBERT PRIETO AND CAMERAMAN LUIS VIVAS IN SAN FELIPE, TACHIRA
STATE, SUPPOSEDLY TO EXPLAIN HIS REASONS FOR ABANDONING THE
INTO THE SLUMS PROGRAM. HE THEN TOLD THE JOURNALISTS HE HAD
A GUN AND WOULD KILL THEM UNLESS THEY DROVE HIM TO THE
COLOMBIAN BORDER. UPON ARRIVAL IN SAN CRISTOBAL NEAR THE
BORDER, DURAN SAID, PRIETO ASKED TO USE THE BATHROOM AT A
SERVICE STATION. HE THEN SLIPPED AWAY AND ALERTED THE
NATIONAL GUARD, WHICH SENT SOLDIERS TO ARREST BERNAL PEREZ.
REPORTEDLY, NO GUN WAS FOUND AMONG HIS POSSESSIONS.

3. BERNAL PEREZ HAD BEEN WORKING IN BARQUISIMETO, LARA STATE,
ACCORDING TO CARACAS DAILY EL UNIVERSAL, AND HE REPORTEDLY
BELIEVED THE INTO THE SLUMS PROGRAM WAS MISREPRESENTING THE
NUMBER OF PATIENTS CUBAN DOCTORS WERE ACTUALLY TREATING. HE
ALSO CLAIMED TO FEAR FOR HIS LIFE. ALLEGEDLY, THE REPORT
SAID, HE LEFT HIS POST JUST OVER A WEEK EARLIER AFTER
ANNOUNCING HIS PLAN TO HIDE SOMEWHERE IN THE CENTRAL WESTERN
PORTION OF THE COUNTRY AND THEN SEEK POLITICAL ASYLUM. THE
PRO-GOV WEBSITE VHEADLINE.COM REPORTED THE SAME SERIES OF
EVENTS FEBRUARY 5 AS A "RUSE STAGED BY AN INCREASINGLY
DISORIENTED POLITICAL OPPOSITION" WITH THE COMPLICITY OF THE
TWO JOURNALISTS. IN ANOTHER NEWS REPORT, AN UNNAMED CUBAN
DIPLOMAT IS QUOTED AS SAYING THAT BERNAL PEREZ "LENT HIMSELF
TO THE MEDIA CAMPAIGN AGAINST PRESIDENT CHAVEZ AND THE INTO
THE SLUMS PROGRAM."

4. BERNAL PEREZ' DEFENSE ATTORNEY, CARLOS MACERO, SAID IN A
FEBRUARY 11 PRESS INTERVIEW THAT HIS CLIENT IS SHOWING SIGNS
OF SCHIZOPHRENIA AND PARANOIA AND HAD ATTEMPTED TO COMMIT
SUICIDE. ON FEBRUARY 7, MACERO ASKED THE PRESIDING JUDGE TO
PERMIT BERNAL PEREZ TO UNDERGO A PSYCHIATRIC EXAMINATION AS
SOON AS POSSIBLE.

5. NATIONAL GUARD COMMANDER DURAN TOLD REPORTERS THAT BERNAL
PEREZ HAS BEEN PLACED AT THE DISPOSAL OF THE PUBLIC
PROSECUTOR, WHICH IS RESPONSIBLE FOR KEEPING THE CUBAN
EMBASSY INFORMED ON THE MATTER. THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR WILL
DECIDE WHETHER TO TRY BERNAL PEREZ ON POSSIBLE KIDNAPPING
CHARGES OR TO DEPORT HIM.

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COMMENT
-------

6. WHILE THE IDEA OF A CUBAN TRYING TO FLEE ELICITS NO
SURPRISE, THE NOTION THAT HE WAS BRIBED TO DO SO BY THE
OPPOSITION AND THEN TURNED IN TO THE AUTHORITIES IS DIFFICULT
TO SWALLOW. A SUCCESSFUL ESCAPE ACROSS THE BORDER WOULD HAVE
BEEN A LARGER PUBLIC RELATIONS PROBLEM FOR THE GOV.
SHAPIRO

NNNN
2004CARACA00548 - UNCLASSIFIED

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