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Newspaper: Cuba Jails Asylum-Seekers from Spanish Embassy

May 12, 1991

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ Three of the Cubans who sought asylum last summer in the Spanish Embassy in Havana have been jailed despite a Cuban pledge guaranteeing no reprisals, a Spanish newspaper reported Saturday.

The three men include Gilberto Sanchez, who was arrested in late April and has been imprisoned at a Cuban ″correctional farm,″ according to the conservative ABC daily.

Spanish Ambassador to Havana Gumersindo Rico formally protested the arrests to Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Alcidiades Alvarez in a meeting last week.

Eighteen asylum-seekers entered the Spanish Embassy in Havana last summer demanding permission to leave the Communist island nation.

Cuba accused Spain of seeking to destabilize its hard-line Communist government by allowing them to stay in the embassy.

The charge provoked angry protests from Madrid, which suspended $2.5 million in aid to Cuba. The funds remain blocked.

By early September the last of the asylum-seekers voluntarily went home after Cuban officials assured Spain there would be no reprisals against them.

ABC said Sanchez had been charged for illegally attempting to leave the island on a small boat.

Another asylum-seeker, Enrique Magdalena Ruiz, was also arrested in late April and placed in a ″re-education center,″ the paper said.

He is currently awaiting trial on a burglary charge, the paper said, quoting an official Cuban account given to Spanish officials.

ABC identified the third jailed former asylum-seeker as Luis Monteagudo.

The paper quoted Ernesto Diaz Rodriguez, a recent arrival in Miami after 22 years in Cuba’s Combinado del Este prison, as saying Monteagudo was serving a three-year sentence there after a conviction on ″counterrevolutionary″ charges.

Diaz Rodriguez said Monteagudo’s health had worsened recently because of a hunger strike he began to protest his arrest and imprisonment, ABC said.

The Cuban version of the arrests given to Spain justified the arrests by detailing alleged crimes committed by the prisoners, including theft and illegal attempts to leave the country.

Cuban officials have denied the detentions were related to the attempts last summer to gain political asylum at the Spanish Embassy.

ABC said unidentified diplomatic sources told the paper the situation ″greatly concerned″ the Spanish government, which has closely followed the movements of the Cubans who had sought refuge in the Spanish Embassy.

Of the original asylum-seekers, only four, all identified only as members of the Alberto Vallin family, have managed to leave the country, ABC said. The paper said the information came from Cuban human rights groups. It did not name the groups.

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