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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

U.S. says Cuba not trying to halt migrants

Posted September 29, 2005 by mattlawrence in Cuba Politics.
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IMMIGRATIONCuba refuses to engage in dialogue over the 1995 migration accords, the U.S. State Department said, claiming the Castro regime uses the accords `for political gain.’

 

Posted on Thu, Sep. 29, 2005
 
 
BY OSCAR CORRAL
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At a time when interceptions of Cuban migrants have doubled, the United States has accused Cuba’s government of refusing to comply with 1995 migration accords designed to prevent another exodus to Florida.

Cuba doesn’t try to stop migrants on vessels while they are still in Cuban territorial waters, and it refuses to issue exit permits to many citizens who receive U.S. travel documents allowed by the accords, according to a recent U.S. State Department report.

More than 500 potential migrants awarded one of the 20,000 entry visas the U.S. grants each year haven’t been allowed out. Among them: 171 doctors.

Cuban officials, for their part, have accused Washington of dragging its feet on visas, trying to deliberately spark an exodus in an effort to topple the Castro government.

‘‘The Castro regime’s repeated allegations about purported U.S. designs to precipitate a mass migration crisis are patently false,’’ James C. Cason, the top U.S. diplomat in Havana, said in a statement earlier this month as he prepared to leave his post.

``Cubans who don’t have a choice to leave legally are risking their lives, in the greatest numbers we have seen since 1994, on dangerously inadequate watercraft.’‘

The State Department report comes at a time when the U.S. Coast Guard is seeing a major increase in the number of Cuban migrants trying to cross the Florida straits, a situation widely blamed on deteriorating economic conditions on the island.

Cuba, the State Department report said, ``has cynically chosen to manipulate [the accords] for political gain in an effort to continue to prevent the Cuban people’s desire to live in freedom.’‘

The report reveals Washington’s constant worry that another mass migration is a possibility.

‘The government of Cuba remains unwilling to move forward on a substantive agenda and instead characterizes the U.S. government action as a political maneuver for which there will be `very serious consequences,’ ‘’ the report warns.

U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez is calling for the United States to reevaluate its position regarding the accords, citing Cuba’s tendency to unleash mass migrations whenever the political situation on the island gets too hot.

‘‘The Castro regime continues to use the accords as a tool of continued oppression and has furthermore used it as an escape valve to send his operatives to the United States,’’ Martinez said in a written statement.

The 1995 accords were established by the Clinton administration in the wake of an exodus of an estimated 40,000 rafters and boaters from Cuba that overwhelmed the Coast Guard.

According to the document, Cuba’s biggest impediments to ‘‘safe, legal and orderly migration’’ include:

Its refusal to issue exit permits to qualified migrants; 533 were denied this year.

Its refusal to permit a new registration for the annual U.S. visa lottery, which allows as many as 20,000 Cubans to emigrate to the United States every year; the last signup for the lottery was in 1998;

Its refusal to accept the return of Cuban criminals deemed excludable from the United States.

The State Department has accused Cuba of these actions since at least 2003.

Calls and emails to Lazaro Herrera, the spokesman for the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, were not immediately returned.

The accords also established the controversial U.S. wet-foot, dry-foot policy, which generally allows Cubans who reach U.S. shores to stay, but repatriates most migrants picked up at sea.

Last week, 10 Cubans were stopped by U.S. authorities within sight of Miami-Dade’s Haulover Beach. Television crews broadcast the scene of Coast Guard and Customs agents hosing down the migrants and slamming their vessel, briefly knocking several of them into the water.

The United States has yet to decide the status of the 10.

Since Oct. 1, 2004, 2,617 Cubans have been intercepted before reaching U.S. soil. That’s more than double the number for the previous 12 months. The report blames the uptick on bad economic conditions in Cuba—as well as Cuba’s unwillingness to do much about migration.

Still, one Cuba expert, Unversity of Miami professor Jaime Suchlicki, doesn’t think a mass migration from Cuba like the 1980 Mariel boatlift will happen anytime soon.

‘‘A mass migration can only happen if the Cuban government looks the other way, and if the U.S. government doesn’t react,’’ Suchlicki said. ``Fidel is concerned about a crisis that would lead to military confrontation with the Bush administration.’‘

Cuban American congressional representatives condemned the wet-foot, dry-foot policy after last week’s drama and called on the Bush administration to tighten the U.S. embargo of Cuba.

The Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation on Monday sent letters to Cuban American legislators and to President Bush to ask that wet-foot, dry-foot be terminated.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said she was not surprised that Cuba is not complying with the migration accords.

‘‘This is a corrupt regime that lies, cheats, manipulates, obfuscates and is therefore not to be trusted to live up to its obligations,’’ Ros-Lehtinen said in a written statement.

Jan Edmonson, a State Department spokeswoman, said the department issues reports on Cuban migration twice a year, as required by law.

The United States and Cuba had regular migration talks until December 2003, when Washington canceled a scheduled meeting because it said Cuba was unwilling to cooperate. Since then, there has been little communication between Washington and Havana on the migration issue.

Herald staff writer Frances Robles contributed to this report

Member Comments

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On September 29, 2005, bernie wrote:

The 171 Cuban doctors who were granted entry visas to the
USA, and were not issued exit permits by the Cuban goverment.
  These doctors were educated in Cuba, education paid
  for by Cubans.  These doctors should repay the Cubans,
  for this education, before they are allowed to leave.
  Fair is Fair.