Cuban Protests Against Bahamas Intensify

PROTESTERS in the US have called for media access to see Cuban detainees being held at Her Majesty’s Prison, Fox Hill.

Ramon Sanchez, president of the Miami-based Cuban exile group Democracy Movement, said his organisation will immediately suspend protests if independent investigators or the media are allowed access to detainees whom they allege have been victims of abuse.

Mr Sanchez said the group is planning another protest for Monday to agitate for the release of the six Cuban detainees from Fox Hill.

Activists in Florida allege that Cubans detained on suspicion of illegal immigration have been beaten by guards, denied access to adequate food, water and medical care, and deprived of the ability to file asylum claims while held in Carmichael Detention Centre.

Protests have taken place since June at the Bahamian consulate in Miami and near the piers where cruise ships embark to the Bahamas, drawing support from members of the US Congress.

This week dozens of vehicles drove through downtown Miami with signs protesting about the alleged mistreatment.

Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell said last week: “Bahamians are quite fed up with this attack on our country, which in our view is unfair. We spend $1 billion in the Florida economy every year. What’s the point in trying to damage our economy?”

Mr Mitchell said the government had not received any specific, credible claims of abuse and no investigation was being conducted.

He said officials had looked into a video released by supporters of the detained Cubans allegedly showing men being struck by guards in the detention centre and determined it was “clearly a staged event.”

Six Cubans were moved from the detention centre to Fox Hill for “hostile behaviour,” which included sewing their mouths shut in protest of conditions.

Mr Mitchell said two of the men had legal US residence status and are believed to have been attempting to smuggle other Cubans when they were detained.

Mr Sanchez told The Tribune yesterday: “We have decided to downplay the protest because of signs that things are advancing in a positive way by the Bahamas.

“The video is factual, it’s real. We’re not going to stage something like that, even if we did not have any way to prove it happened, we would not do something like that.

“The next protest is also guided towards them releasing persons in high security in prison, they are hiding them from the press. Keeping them from sight because they’re bruised and injured and they will testify that what we say is true.”


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Keod Smith - Keod Smith

Keod Smith is a Barrister in The Bahamas practicing at Commercial Law Advocates, Trinity Place Nassau.

He served as a Member of Parliament for 2002 – 2007 and as Ambassador for the Environment and Chairman of the BEST Commission from 2002 to mid 2006.

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