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Cubans Break into Czechoslovak Embassy, Take Diplomats Hostage

July 16, 1990

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia (AP) _ Seven Cubans broke into the Czechoslovak Embassy in Havana today and took four diplomats hostage, the state CTK news agency reported.

The Mexican government news agency Notimex, in a report from Havana, said the seven demanded a plane to take them to the United States.

The incident came after five Cubans seeking asylum occupied the apartment of the charge d’affaires Friday and held him hostage for a few hours.

Charge d’affaires Jan Doemoek was among the diplomats CTK said were being held hostage.

According to the report, the seven Cubans broke into the embassy building this morning and took the diplomats hostage as they were holding a meeting.

It said the Cuban citizens were acting ″very violently,″ but that it was not clear whether they were armed. The news agency said no one was hurt.

It said that the diplomats held hostage included, in addition to Doemoek, a commercial counsellor, a press secretary and a foreign ministry official who had come to Havana to help negotiate a solution for the 12 Cubans who have sought refuge in the embassy over the past week.

Czechoslovak state television quoted foreign ministry spokesman Lubos Dobrovsky as saying that a deputy foreign minister would leave for Havana immediately because ″it is necessary to protect the safety of Czechoslovak citizens.″

The brief CTK report did not give the demands of the seven Cubans.

The Mexican news agency quoted unidentified journalistic sources in saying the seven Cubans demanded a plane to the United States. It said the hostage- taking followed an argument between two groups of Cubans seeking to leave their Communist homeland.

Twelve Cubans remain at the embassy, Czechoslovak Foreign Ministry officials said. Two students, identified as Igor Campana Dada and Alejandro Rosendo Lugo, decided to leave Friday. The first Cubans gained access to the compound July 9.

Dependents of some Czechoslovak diplomats have left Havana.

About 30 Czechoslovaks left Sunday on a regular airliner, the daily Lidova Demokracie reported. Among them were 12 or 13 wives and children of Czechoslovak diplomats, Foreign Ministry official Jindrich Opava said.

Ten more were dependants of diplomats whose tours had ended, Opava said. The rest were tourists.

″It was not an evacuation, they left at their own request,″ Opava said of the departure of the diplomats’ relatives.

Five Cubans, meanwhile, were still holed up today at the abandoned apartment of the Czechoslovak charge d’affaires, Jan Doemoek, officials said. Doemoek fled his home July 12, after the five forced their way in. Doemoek’s apartment is not in the embassy compound.

Cuban President Fidel Castro, in his first official statement on the affair, called the Cubans ″antisocial elements encouraged by Czechoslovak diplomats,″ Lidova Demokracie said.

He also was quoted as saying that Cuba has no agreement on diplomatic asylum with European countries, and the embassies of these countries have no right to grant the asylum.

″Czechoslovak diplomats in Havana try to interpret the situation in a way that indicates that Cuban government should solve the situation ... the affair should be solved by the Czechoslovak side,″ the daily quoted Castro as saying.

The influx of asylum-seekers has heightened tensions between Cuba and Czechoslovakia, close allies before last fall’s democratic upheaval toppled Prague’s hard-line Communist leaders.

Castro has resisted the reforms sweeping Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, sticking to his orthodox Marxist policies.

Three Cuban asylum-seekers have also taken refuge in the Spanish Embassy in Havana. And on Sunday, the Foreign Ministry in Madrid said Cuban police violated the embassy by chasing a fourth asylum-seeker into the compound and hauling him away.

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