February 10, 2000
Cuban doctors who sought Venezuela asylum want families to join them

                   CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Two Cuban doctors who sought political
                   asylum in Venezuela said Thursday they want their families to join them in the
                   South American nation.

                   A day earlier Venezuela rejected the doctors' request for political asylum,
                   saying the physicians wanted to emigrate for economic reasons and not
                   because of political persecution. But Venezuela also said it would allow them
                   to remain in Venezuela for a year for unspecified "humanitarian reasons."

                   The decision resolved a dilemma for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez,
                   who is close friends with Cuban leader Fidel Castro and often praises
                   Castro's four-decade-old communist revolution.

                   The doctors, Reinaldo Colebrook, 35, and Heberto Navarro, 38, went to
                   the foreign citizens office on Thursday to pick up the permits that will allow
                   them to stay in the country.

                   "The biggest dream of my life is to be able to bring my wife and my
                   daughter," Navarro told reporters.

                   Venezuelan officials had no immediate comment on whether the families also
                   would be allowed to emigrate.

                   The two doctors arrived in Venezuela in December as part of a team of
                   Cuban doctors who treated victims of landslides that left thousands of
                   people dead along Venezuela's northern Caribbean coast and in Caracas.
                   Most of the doctors have remained -- with the Cuban government's OK --
                   in order to provide medical assistance.

                   If the Chavez administration had granted the doctors political asylum, it
                   would in effect be confirming that there is political repression on the island.
                   But if it had rejected the request and returned the doctors to Cuba, they
                   might have faced harassment or prison since they publicly criticized the
                   Cuban government overseas.