CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) -- Venezuela's pro-Castro government
denied two Cuban doctors asylum on Wednesday, arguing that the two
were economic exiles who were not suffering persecution in their home
However, the Foreign Ministry said it had awarded the two men one-year
work visas for what it called "humanitarian reasons."
The two men, identified by the Foreign Ministry as Heberto Navarro and
Leopoldo Colebrook, came to Venezuela in December as part of a large
Cuban relief team sent after killer floods and mudslides devastated a stretch
of Venezuela's Caribbean coast.
The men cited freedom of expression and job opportunities as the reasons
for seeking asylum from the Venezuelan government, which is one of the
closest allies of Cuba's communist leader, Fidel Castro.
In a press statement, the Foreign Ministry said the doctors' request did
fulfill the terms of asylum, which were political persecution or discrimination
because of race, religion and nationality.
The pair said Monday they would be stripped of their medical licenses and
punished if they returned to Cuba.
Copyright 2000 Reuters.