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Cubans Reportedly Leave Home of Czechoslovak Diplomat

July 19, 1990

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Five Cubans who entered the residence of a Czechoslovak diplomat in Havana to seek asylum left the building today wearing masks and were taken away in a Cuban police vehicle, a news agency reported.

The brief report from Havana by Mexico’s official news agency Notimex quoted unidentified journalists. It did not say whether the Cubans had acted voluntarily or explain why they were wearing the masks.

The four Cuban men and one woman took refuge in the residence of the charge d’affaires, Jan Doemoek, last week. They were among small groups of Cuban asylum-seekers who began entering embassies in Havana eight days ago.

Their departure came as Spain and Cuba exchanged barbs over the flight of asylum-seekers to the Spanish Embassy in Havana. Madrid recalled its ambassador after Cuban police seized one of the refugees, sent more guards to the compound, and suspended $2.5 million in grants to Cuba.

The European commissioner for Latin American relations, Abel Matutes of Spain, said through a spokesman today in Brussels that three ″symbolic″ aid projects about to be undertaken by the EC with Cuba would not go ahead.

At least 13 Cubans have reportedly holed up in embassies or residences of Spain, Czechoslovakia and Italy.

The embassy standoffs have drawn wide publicity because similar situations in East German embassies last year helped precipitate the fall of that nation’s hard-line Communist government. Albania, which like Cuba has refused to adopt Western-style reforms, also recently allowed hundreds of people who occupied embassies in its capital, Tirana, to leave for new lives in the West.

State radio and television in Cuba today gave extensive coverage to the trial of 11 human rights activists who were convicted in Havana of crimes against the state, the official Cuban news agency Prensa Latina said.

The coverage featured the prosecutor accusing U.S. officials in Havana of ″instigating″ the activists, the dispatch from Havana said.

Prosecutor Sara Nieves said officials at the U.S. Interests Section had provided logistical support and ″orientation″ to the members of Pro-Human Rights Youth, who were convicted on Wednesday.

According to Prensa Latina, she said the United States was using the group to ″foment economic chaos and carry out terrorist acts.″

The activists were given sentences ranging from 15 years in prison to three years of house arrest for counterrevolutionary crimes such as terrorism and rebellion.

The dispatch said the defendants had planned to steal explosives to blow up the National Library and the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television.

Nieves also accused the defendants of contact with other Western diplomatic missions and with Venezuelan diplomats, Prensa Latina said.

The dispatch, monitored in Mexico City, said Nieves described Pro-Human Rights Youth as the armed wing of the outlawed Pro-Human Rights Party.

Spain said it has recalled Ambassador Antonio Serrano de Haro for consultations. It accused Cuba of words ″removed from the customary niceties of international co-existence.″

The tensions broke into the open earlier in the day when Spain’s foreign minister, Francisco Fernandez Ordonez, suggested to reporters that leader Fidel Castro knew his regime would crumble if he opened the door to all Cubans who want to leave. Cuba, a former Spanish colony, has 11 million residents.

″The situation in Havana is very nervous due to Cuba’s isolation from the world and because of the extremely serious economic problems there,″ Fernandez Ordonez told Spanish National Radio. ″No one wants a catastrophe there. What is needed is a peaceful transition to democracy.″

Cuba retaliated later in the day, issuing its own statement saying Spain had violated Cuban and international law by harboring asylum-seekers. It said in a statement that it would never yield to ″pressure or blackmail″ by people seeking to leave the Caribbean island, Prensa Latina reported.

The Cuban statement also accused Spain’s foreign minister of suffering from an ″attack of historical amnesia,″ displaying a ″scandalous lack of education about international law″ and being ″morally disqualified″ from commenting on Cuban human rights.

Cuba was a Spanish colony from the 16th century to 1898.

Castro’s government has portrayed the asylum-seekers as ″antisocial elements.″

Also Wednesday, Madrid sent a special security squad to Havana, Cuba’s capital, to reinforce security at the Spanish Embassy.

Cuban police entered the grounds of the Spanish Embassy on Friday in pursuit of a young Cuban asylum-seeker and arrested him. Three other Cubans were reportedly inside the embassy, and a fourth arrived Wednesday, according to the Spanish news agency EFE.

On Tuesday, Cuban police arrested a man in the U.S. diplomatic post in Havana. Both Spain and the United States protested the incidents.

The Cuban refugee crisis has attracted attention in part because it is reminiscent of the East German refugees who sought passage to the West at embassies in Eastern Europe last year. Their exodus helped precipitate the fall of East Germany’s rigid Communist government.

Albania, which like Cuba has refused to adopt democratic reforms, just last week allowed hundreds of people who had entered embassies in its capital to leave for new lives in the West.

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