Skip to comments.Five Cuban asylum-seekers taken to US military base at Guantanamo
Posted on 08/02/2003 1:29:16 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
MIAMI (AFP) - At least five Cubans, among a growing number trying to enter the United States illegally, were being interviewed at the Guantanamo US military base in Cuba after requesting political asylum, officials said.
The Cubans were taken to Guantanamo following pressure from Cuban-American lawmakers who said the group, intercepted at sea during a bid to flee Cuba, included dissidents who risked severe punishment if sent home.
Guantanamo is a US base on the southeastern tip of Cuba.
While in the past rafters caught at sea often have been taken to the base pending a decision on their case, the sprawling military complex also gained notoriety as a detention center for people captured by US forces during the 2001 Afghan campaign.
The Cubans, aboard a boat carrying 19 people, were intercepted on Monday, and were likely to remain at the base while officials decide whether they should be granted political asylum in the United States.
Cuban-American lawmaker Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and fellow Cuban-American Republican Lincoln Diaz-Balart have pressed US authorities to grant asylum to the "freedom-seekers," who they say include known dissidents.
"These rafters fear for their lives if they are returned to Cuba," Ros-Lehtinen said in a letter to US President George W. Bush.
She pointed to heavy prison sentences recently meted out to 75 dissidents and to the summary judgment and subsequent execution of three men who hijacked a ferry in a bid to flee the communist-run island.
In a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powel, the Cuban-American lawmakers said the group intercepted on Monday apparently included relatives of Enrique Copello Castillo, one of the men executed.
They stressed that "no one faces greater risk of persecution by being returned to Cuba than political opponents of the regime."
The lawmakers said they were told that five of the Cubans were taken to Guantanamo, but Cuban groups in Miami said there was some confusion over the figure, and that the fate of the others on the boat was not immediately clear.
Meanwhile, immigration officials were interviewing a group of about 50 Cubans who arrived in Florida Thursday.
Under the so-called "wet-foot, dry-foot" US policy, Cubans leaving their country who are intercepted at sea are sent back home, but those who set foot on US soil are allowed to remain, obtain residency and work. Cubans are the only people accorded such treatment after illegal arrival in the United States.
Cuba argues that the policy encourages risky illegal emigration attempts, and has pressed unsuccesfully to get the United States to end it.
Dozens of Cubans have tried to reach US shores in recent weeks, including one group who made a daring dash in a truck mounted on oil drums, only to be caught by the US Coast Guard and sent back.
Another group was sent home last month after allegedly hijacking a boat.
The US decision to send the group back drew sharp criticism from the Cuban-American community, and even from Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a brother of the president, who is usually a staunch supporter of the US administration.
"Given the environment in Cuba, it's just not right," the governor said in an interview with The Miami Herald published Friday.
"I believe we are going to see a further increase in the number of desperate attempts to leave Cuba," said Mariela Ferretti, of the Cuban American National Foundation, a Miami-based lobby group that staunchly opposes the government of Cuban President Fidel Castro.
So far this year, the US Coast Guard has intercepted 886 Cubans at sea, as compared with 931 for the whole of last year.
Former Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega (R), Cuban boy Elian Gonzales and Reverend Lucius Walker of the U.S. sit together during a political rally at the former Moncada military barracks in Santiago de Cuba, July 26, 2003. Today is the 50th anniversary of the assault on the military compound led by Fidel Castro (news - web sites) that launched the revolution. REUTERS/Claudia Daut
Elian's pose tells it all.
Cuban President Fidel Castro looks up to the sky as it starts raining before a political rally at the former Moncada military barracks in Santiago de Cuba, July 26, 2003. Today is the 50th anniversary of the assault on the military compound that launched the revolution. REUTERS/Claudia Daut
Republicans get voters from Castro's prison.
I hope the plastic cuffs are tight and cutting!!!!!!!!!!