Palestinian students attend a welcome ceremony at the Simon Bolivar airport in Maiquetia, Venezuela Nov. 6, 2014. (AP/Ariana Cubillos)
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The Palestinian students were greeted like celebrities upon arrival in Caracas.The program to train young Palestinians as doctors was to be the latest addition to an array of international solidarity programs the late President Hugo Chavez established, the best known of which provides communist Cuba with cheap oil in exchange for the services of tens of thousands of health professionals.But eight months later, about a third of the Palestinians have dropped out, complaining the program lacks academic rigor, according to interviews the Associated Press conducted with students, teachers and government officials. The Palestinians who left the Yasser Arafat Scholarship Program, which included seven years of room and board at a state-run school staffed by Cuban doctors, said they weren't getting the training they needed to become recognized physicians. The students' decision to leave prompted Venezuela to freeze the scholarship program that was supposed to bring in hundreds more Palestinians to study in various fields, according to an official in the Palestinian Education Ministry in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. Chavez, who saw himself as a leader of the developing world, was a vocal proponent of the Palestinians' right to statehood, which he saw as part of a broader battle against colonialism and the West.
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