By ALAN MacDERMID July 24 2006
A SCOTS surgeon has been banned from visiting Cuba after falling foul of the US government's tightening sanctions against the island.
Stephen MacLeod, a graduate of Aberdeen and Dundee University and an examiner at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, was told by the US Treasury that he had violated the terms of its travel licence last time he had visited Cuba.
He and colleagues from the University of Minnesota, where he specialises in jaw-repairing surgery, had taken medicine to pass on to the Jewish community in Havana.
They also met students and academics at Havana University, and gave some lectures.
He has been invited back more than once, but cannot take up the offers, and is bemused to think his visit, a few months ago, is a threat to the stability of the region.
He said: "We went out on a humanitarian aid visa and on the back of that we did lectures and met students. Someone must have been monitoring us.
"As far as I knew, we kept the terms of the travel licence, but Big Brother was watching us, and we were told we had exceeded the terms of the visa.
"I have had a couple of invitations to lecture in Cuba, but I can't go. The issue is not going to Cuba, it is getting back into the US.
"I find it frustrating to see talented and capable surgeons whom I could learn from as well as teach, yet they are cut off from us."
The embargo against Fidel Castro's regime was imposed by President Kennedy in 1961. Travel and trade restrictions have been tightened further by President George W Bush.
Mr MacLeod was born in New York but was brought up in Scotland from the age of 12, graduating in dentistry from Dundee and medicine from Aberdeen (both degrees are necessary for maxillo-facial surgery).