Cuban physicians stuck in Columbia await help from the U.S.

A protest made up of roughly 100 Cuban doctors took place in Colombia on Saturday.  The protest aimed at drawing attention to their difficulty in entering the United States due to President Obama’s attempt to normalize relations with Cuba and disband a 2006 program that sought to bring doctors away from the island nation.  The doctors were fleeing from Venezuela in the hopes of coming to the U.S.  

The doctors described harsh conditions and mistreatment in Venezuela which has led many to contemplate illegally crossing the border into the United States.  Ailen Garcia, a pregnant 25-year-old dentist, has been waiting for a response on a U.S. visa for six months.  She and her husband have been renting a small room in a working-class neighborhood for $200 a month.  

Since the 1960s, Cuba has sent health care professionals around the world as part of this international outreach program. There are currently 50,000 Cuban health care workers practicing medicine around the world.  The idea of this program is to boost international revenue.

In 2006, the U.S. created a program that intended to cut off the communist government from much of its foreign revenue.  It is believed that a majority of the money the Cuban government collects from the nations it serves goes straight back to the Cuban government, as opposed to the medical professionals.

The U.S. State Department has claimed that the U.S.’s recent attempt to normalize relations has had no correlation with the 2006 program’s receding influence.

The sign used as the backdrop for press briefings at the U.S. Department of State is seen before a press conference at the State Department Thursday, Aug. 10, 2006 in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
The sign used as the backdrop for press briefings at the U.S. Department of State is seen before a press conference at the State Department Thursday, Aug. 10, 2006 in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)