Al Jazeera America’s David Martin and Sheila MacVicar report (“Hoping to reach US, Cuban doctors and nurses sit in limbo in Colombia”) on Cuban medical workers who, after leaving Venezuela with the goal of getting to the United States, find themselves caught in Colombia as they wait to enter.
In a working-class section of the Colombian capital, a Cuban doctor, nurses and others spend their days languishing in a cramped apartment, checking their phones for word from the U.S. Embassy.
They’re hoping to hear they’ve been approved for U.S. visas under a program that was designed to undermine the Castro regime.
“It’s very hard,” said Dr. Yosmany Velasquez Silva, who has been waiting for a visa for more than four months after leaving his job in rural Venezuela.
Velasquez has applied for a visa under the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, which grants entry into the U.S. for Cuban medical professionals sent overseas by their government.
The United States enacted the program in 2006 because Cubans sent on these medical missions are considered “conscripted” labor. But now that Cuba and the United States are normalizing relations after 50 years of Cold War tensions, the Cuban health care workers in Bogota worry the visas are drying up.
Velasquez and the others were working in Venezuela when they decided to leave their jobs and cross the border into neighboring Colombia. In all, more than 700 Cuban medical professionals left their jobs in Venezuela and have been living in Bogota.
“I’m in limbo here. A migratory limbo,” said nurse Adriana Lopez Lara, who received an email denying her U.S. visa application with no explanation.