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Asylum-Seekers Invade German Embassy

June 13, 1994

HAVANA (AP) _ Twenty-one Cubans seeking asylum smashed a truck through the iron gates of the Germany embassy Monday, the second storming of a diplomatic compound in three weeks.

The Cuban government called the incident an international ″provocation″ meant to embarrass the country on the eve of a summit of Spanish-speaking countries. And it blamed the United States for instigating embassy takeovers.

The truck slammed into the gate adjoining the compound at 5:15 a.m. (7:15 a.m. EDT), and the 18 men and three women inside rushed in through the broken bars, the German foreign ministry said in a statement in Bonn.

No one was hurt, the foreign ministry said. The asylum-seekers have not said where they want to go, though many who leave Cuba make their way to the United States.

The occupation of the German embassy came as the governments of Cuba and Belgium were trying to end the May 28 takeover of the Belgian ambassador’s residence by 122 Cuban asylum-seekers.

″Cuba qualifies this act as an obvious provocation, a carefully planned and illegal act,″ said Miguel Alfonso, a Cuban foreign ministry spokesman quoted by the official news agency Prensa Latina.

″We should note that this action took place the day the Mexican president was arriving in Havana and on the eve of the fourth Ibero-American summit,″ Alfonso said.

President Carlos Salinas de Gortari of Mexico was visiting Havana on his way to the summit in Colombia amid reports he was seeking to expand trade and seal a major contract to overhaul Cuba’s decrepit telephone system.

A German government spokesman in Bonn, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the gate-crashers were unarmed and didn’t threaten anyone. The German ambassador in Havana, Georg Trefftz, was working with European Union partners to find a solution, the official said.

The official, said Cuba has not demanded that the 21 asylum-seekers be returned.

Alfonso said the Cubans refused to surrender to security forces ringing the embassy compound.

″This is further proof of the harmful policies of the United States,″ he said.

It is Cuba’s position that the United States incites embassy takeovers through its immigration policies. Few legal visas are granted to Cubans, but any Cuban who reaches U.S. shores is automatically given asylum.

The Communist government of Fidel Castro has opposed granting exit permits to people who storm embassies to seek asylum.

In January, nine Cubans broke into the Belgian ambassador’s residence and stayed until February. Eight have since received visas to enter Belgium, although Belgian officials say they have not left Cuba.

Meanwhile, human rights groups and politicians have raised pressures on Belgium to let the asylum-seekers in the ambassador’s residence leave the country under Brussels’ protection.

Update hourly