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Cuban Inmates Take Captives in La.

December 15, 1999

ST. MARTINVILLE, La. (AP) _ A growing group of Cuban inmates frustrated with their incarceration held three hostages for a second day Tuesday and threatened to kill their captives if they aren’t freed.

Warden Todd Louvierre and deputies Jolie Sonnier and Brandon Boudreaux have been held at knifepoint since Monday, when they were grabbed as five inmates left an exercise area.

A fourth hostage, a deputy sheriff, was released Monday after six hours of negotiations. No injuries have been reported, and authorities said they believe the hostages are being treated well.

The Cubans said they have run out of patience with deportation proceedings and want out of the St. Martin Parish jail.

``We want to be released and sent back to our country or any other country. We don’t care,″ said Jonne Ponte, one of the Cubans who telephoned television station KLFY. He said he had been in jail for 13 years.

Authorities said as many as four inmates had joined the original group of five by Tuesday night. The new recruits apparently came from a group of about 70 other Cubans who had control of a section of the jail adjacent to the area with the hostages.

Sheriff’s Capt. Audrey Thibodaux said the large group is outside the control of guards but unable to get out of the building.

Baton Rouge radio station WCAC-FM broadcast an interview with three of the Cubans who said they were imposing a 72-hour deadline on their demand to be freed or they would kill the hostages. It was unclear when the deadline would be reached.

Ms. Thibodaux said she could not confirm that such a threat had been made.

In Washington, State Department spokesman James Foley said the Cubans cannot be freed because of their past. Cuba will not accept them and the United States does not want them on the streets.

``We have raised the issue of the return of criminal excludables, as they’re called, with the Cubans during each round of the migration talks since 1984,″ he said. ``The Cuban government has not agreed to accept the return of such individuals. ... We will continue to work together on this issue.″

In Miami, Ruby Feria of with Mothers for Freedom, a support group for Cuban detainees in the United States, said her group received two telephone calls from the detainees early Tuesday.

The callers, who did not identify themselves by name, left messages in Spanish.

``We have a situation where we can no longer endure this and we want to be taken out of here and out of the United States,″ the first caller said, according to Ms. Feria. ``If they kill us, it is probably going to be after we have killed somebody.″

Four of the five Cubans who started the rebellion were among a group of 60 being held in the jail for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, pending deportation or other action. Officials described it as a typical arrangement like those with numerous county jails around the nation. The fifth man was being held on state charges, the INS said.

St. Martinville, in south-central Louisiana, is about 50 miles from Oakdale, where a federal deportation center was burned by 1,000 rioting Cuban inmates in 1987. Twenty-eight employees were taken hostage and held for eight days before all were released unharmed.

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