Hunger strike in Cuba
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    Miami group says Bahamas planned to return detainees to Cuba

    Posted on Friday, 08.16.13

    Miami group says Bahamas planned to return detainees to Cuba
    BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
    JTAMAYO@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM

    The Bahamas government Thursday started — then stopped — the
    repatriation of 24 undocumented Cuban migrants, including eight who have
    been offered asylum in Panama, according to a Miami group that has been
    supporting the Cubans.

    The 24 were told early Thursday that they were being returned to Cuba,
    handcuffed and put on buses at the Migrant Detention Center in Nassau,
    said Democracy Movement chief Ramón Saúl Sanchez, who on Monday called
    off a hunger strike in favor of the migrants.

    “We immediately contacted the U.S. and Panamanian government and others
    and just 15 minutes ago we learned the repatriation had been stopped and
    that the people are back in the center’s dining room,” he told El Nuevo
    Herald Thursday afternoon.

    “At least we stopped the repatriation for now, although we retain the
    option of renewing the hunger strike,” Sánchez said.

    But Sanchez said late Thursday that his group has been told the
    detainees will be repatriated on Friday.

    The Cubans’ status was scheduled be discussed Monday at a meeting of
    Bahamas Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell,
    Guillermo Cochez, former Panama ambassador to the Organization of
    American States, Miami lawyer Lorenzo Palomares and Miami banker Raymond
    Molina.

    Bahamian authorities are holding 50 undocumented Cubans at the migration
    center, some for as long as 11 months. Most were intercepted as they
    tried to make their way to the United States. At least three already
    lived in the United States and were suspected of people smuggling.

    Several have staged strident protests against conditions at the
    detention center and the possibility of repatriations. At least four
    sewed their lips together and several filmed a cell-phone video last
    month allegedly showing a center guard kicking at the detainees.
    Mitchell has said the video is fake.

    Eight of the Cubans involved in the video were among the 24 put on the
    buses, and Democracy Movement activists said they suspected that the
    attempted repatriation to Cuba was “an action deceitful and intended to
    hide the torture of human beings.”

    The 19 offered asylum by Panama were “the most abused” at the center,
    Sanchez said.

    Panama announced Monday that it had agreed to offer “territorial asylum”
    to the 19 as a humanitarian gesture to spare them from a return to Cuba.
    Bahamas at the same time announced that it would investigate the
    presumed abuses and improve conditions at the detention center.

    Detainees at the center — Haitians, Brazilians, Colombians, Chinese and
    others as well as Cubans — have long complained about conditions there.
    But the Democracy Movement had called for a tourist boycott of the
    Bahamas and staged several high-visibility protests.

    Sánchez and Jesús Alexis Gómez ended their hunger strikes on Monday,
    after 17 and 24 days respectively, at the monument to the dead at the
    Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, in the heart of Little Havana.

    Sanchez said that as soon as he heard about the planned repatriations
    Thursday — some of the detainees have smuggled cell phones — the
    Democracy Movement issued a public complaint and requested a permit to
    set up a protest tent in front of the Bahamian consulate in Miami.

    A statement issued later Thursday by the Bahamas’ Foreign Ministry said
    the U.S. Diplomatic Protection Service had informed the consulate of “a
    specific threat by a specific individual … which has necessitated
    additional layers of security at the consulate.”

    “Bahamians in Miami are further advised to exercise reasonable caution
    during this period in Miami,” the statement added.

    Source: “Miami group says Bahamas planned to return detainees to Cuba –
    Cuba – MiamiHerald.com” –
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/08/16/3565635/miami-group-says-bahamas-planned.html

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