Squandering the Cuban vote
*** U.S. officials negotiating prison sentences with Havana was scandalous enough that President Bush's own brother - Florida Gov. Jeb Bush - took the shocking step of publicly criticizing the administration. In an interview with the Miami Herald two days ago, Gov. Bush said, "That is an oppressive regime, and given the environment in Cuba, it's just not right. There's an expectation that I'm going to be in lock step with the administration, but from time to time I have to disagree, and this is one of them." Florida's three Cuban-American congressmen - Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart - wrote the administration imploring consideration of the most recent asylum claims. With another election next year, the Bush White House should welcome the freedom-seekers - for its own future as well as the Cubans'.***
Five Cuban asylum-seekers taken to US military base at Guantanamo
***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. ***
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