Miami Reacts With Joy, Gratitude to End of Prison Siege With AM-Cubans-Atlanta, Bjt
MIAMI (AP) _ The end of the prison uprising in Atlanta meant rejoicing Friday in Little Havana, where residents had watched anxiously as the ordeal unfolded over 11 days.
″This community breathes a collective sigh of relief that there won’t be any violence or bloodshed,″ said Mayor Xavier Suarez, the city’s first Cuban- born mayor.
At Our Lady of Charity Shrine, prayers of thanks were being offered Friday, said the Rev. Jordi Rivero, assistant to Miami Auxiliary Bishop Agustin Roman. Roman helped end the hostage crisis in Oakdale, La., and went to Atlanta to give his blessing to Thursday’s agreement there.
″We’re very happy,″ Rivero said. ″We’re very grateful to the Lord.″
Roman was to celebrate a special Mass on Friday evening to offer thanks for the end of the hostage siege sparked by resumption of a U.S.-Cuba agreement that called for the deportation of 2,500 Cubans.
Ralph Chaviano Jr., whose uncle has been at the Atlanta prison for 3 1/2 years after serving 17 months on a drug charge, said the agreement supported basic constitutional principles.
″He did his time, he committed a crime, but he paid his debt to society,″ Chaviano, 33, said of his uncle. ″He should be released like anyone else.
″Basically, I think they got a very, very good deal all the way around,″ he said. ″I’m very, very happy.″
On the streets of Little Havana, a heavily Cuban district in south-central Miami, most residents said they were pleased with the settlement.
″They were smart,″ Carlos Martin said of officials and inmates. ″I congratulate the government officials, the immigration officials who met their needs.″
But at least one person in the Cuban neighborhood disagreed with the uprising and taking hostages.
″You’re asking me about being justified,″ Fred Gispert said. ″I say no. No period. I don’t care if they’re entitled to go back or not. I mean they shouldn’t do a thing like that.″
Suarez said he was pleased with the agreement, which places an indefinite moratorium on the return of any Cubans who were among the 125,000 immigrants in the 1980 Mariel boatlift.
″The crisis certainly brought a whole new understanding and recognition of their plight,″ he said.
Vanessa Lopez, whose husband is due to be released from Polk Correctional Institute in Florida next summer, was more emotional in her assessment of the agreement, which could save her husband from deportation.
″Oh, God, it’s wonderful,″ she cried. ″Oh God, I’m ecstatic.
″I never thought I’d hear this. When they said (the Mariel inmates) were gone, they were gone, I thought. (But) I see they did an excellent job in getting what was long overdue.″