February 9, 2000
Venezuela denies asylum to two Cuban doctors

                   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 not
                   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.