Money Woes Led to Defection, Couple Say

Associated Press

An American couple granted political asylum in the Soviet Union said in an interview released Friday that they emigrated because a series of financial setbacks showed they had no security in the United States.

The Foreign Ministry announced Jan. 19 that Theodore and Cheryl Branch of Erie, Pa., had been been granted asylum.

Ministry spokesman Gennady I. Gerasimov said the couple made a tourist trip to the Soviet Union in December and asked officials to stay.

"There is no protection for the average person," Tass quoted Branch, 43, as saying. "In the United States, 5% of the people have 90% of the wealth. Now, that's not democracy. A government acting in the interests of a minority rather than a majority--is this a democracy?"

The Branches told Tass that they left their jobs at a radio station in Mount Dora, Fla., because of a conflict with the management, and despite a court order, could not force the owner to pay back wages.

They then tried to sell a piece of real estate, but learned they could not do so because the land was in a flood plain and could not be built upon, Tass said.

"How can one feel secure in such a country where you can't even depend on collecting your own paycheck? Imagine you are in a difficulty and have been trying to get money for seven months. All this time you have property you hope to sell, but then, very suddenly, without proper notice, all the rights are taken from your property," Cheryl Branch, 40, was quoted as telling Tass.

It quoted Branch as saying that many Americans believe in socialist principles but do not consider themselves socialists.

Branch's father, Clarence, said that the couple left the United States against his advice and the advice of many friends.

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