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US Accuses Cuba of “Cruelty” Toward Asylum Seekers

July 8, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The State Department accused Cuban authorities Wednesday of ″extraordinarily cruel″ behavior in allegedly opening fire or using hand grenades against Cubans trying to flee to the U.S. naval base on the island.

Spokesman Joseph Snyder said that on five separate occasions late last month, U.S. personnel at the Guantanamo Base observed Cuban border guards using force against the would-be emigres.

Snyder did not know how many casualties there were but said the border guards were seen pulling three bodies from the water on June 26 and one on June 27.

″We informed the Cuban government that we view these actions against individuals who pose no threat to others to be extraordinarily cruel and unacceptable,″ he said.

He said the United States insisted that the Cubans end the practice but has received no response.

Efforts to reach the Cuban diplomatic mission here Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Because of hard economic times in Cuba, the number of people who have attempted to swim to the U.S. base at the eastern end of Cuba has jumped dramatically in recent years.

Snyder said 195 Cubans have made it to Guantanamo this year, compared with 152 in all of 1992. In 1989, when Cuba was still receiving subsidies from the Soviet Union, the figure was 12, Snyder said.

Thus far in 1993, 1,131 Cubans have reached Florida aboard inner tubes or rafts.

Unlike most other refugees, Cubans who reach U.S. shores generally are allowed to remain indefinitely.

Snyder also called attention to three incidents over the past week in which Cuban authorities captured Cuba-bound boats from the United States and detained those aboard, including at least one U.S. citizen.

Snyder said a boat captained by a U.S. citizen was fired on, touching off a U.S. protest that Cuban authorities had engaged in excessive force. Cuban radio broadcasts have said three persons were killed in the incident, all Cubans hoping to flee to the United States.

The Cuban media has identified the American as Rick Robert Hoddinott of Key West, Fla., who told Cuban authorities that he was receiving a large sum of money for each Cuban he could bring to the United States.

According to the Cuban media accounts, government officials told U.S. diplomats that the United States was to blame for such incidents, contending that U.S. policies encourage illegal emigration and limit opportunities for legal emigration.

Snyder said the United States actively discourages illegal emigration, and he pointed to an official statement released on June 9 highlighting the dangers.

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