Cuban Doctors Granted Refugee Status By US

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

( has learned that two Cuban doctors who were abducted in the middle of the night and jailed in Zimbabwe after making a highly publicized appeal for asylum have been granted "refugee status" to come to the United States.

A source close to the case tells, the doctors will be traveling to Nairobi, Kenya "shortly" before they travel to the United States. It is not known when the doctors will be leaving for the United States or their exact destination.

Leonel Cordova Rodriguez, 31, and Noris Pena Martinez, 25, were abducted by Zimbabwe armed soldiers last week and nearly shipped back to Cuba after they requested political asylum at the Canadian embassy in Harare.

Zimbabwe authorities, for several days, denied they had detained the doctors. When they finally admitted to seizing the physicians, Zimbabwe officials also admitted they had tried and failed to return the doctors to Cuba.

Meanwhile, US immigration officials were en route to Zimbabwe to interview the Cuban doctors. Reports say the initiative came as criticism mounted on Capitol Hill over a report that American diplomats had turned the doctors away in Zimbabwe just days before their mysterious disappearance.

Earlier Friday, Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) had written a letter to the US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Tom McDonald, requesting political asylum for the doctors.

"I was very disappointed to hear that the United States embassy in Harare turned the asylum-seeking [pair] away and denied them an interview with US officials. I hearby respectfully request that these two Cuban physicians be granted political asylum; their return to Communist Cuba would subject their lives to grave danger," Diaz-Balart said.