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8 US Students Graduate Debt-Free From Cuban Medical School

Eight American students have graduated from a Cuban medical school after six years of studies fully funded by the Cuban government.

The Americans and their peers from at least 25 other countries graduated Tuesday from the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana. The Americans must now pass exams in the United States to get medical licenses.

The graduates told reporters that the scholarships they received will allow them to begin practicing medicine in the United States without debt. They say the same education in the U.S. would have cost at least $200,000.

But they say they know they will face prejudice when they return to the United States because of what they call the "political" situation between the U.S. and Cuba. They say the program taught them that medicine is not just a business.

The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961, two years after Cuban President Fidel Castro took power and steered Cuba toward communism.

The graduates' program was coordinated by the U.S.-based ministry organization, Pastors for Peace. The head of the organization, Reverend Lucius Walker, says about 100 other U.S. students are enrolled at the school, and 18 more are expected to enroll in August.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.