HAVANA (AP) _ The taking of a state-owned plane with people aboard was an act of piracy that complicates migration relations with the United States, Cuba said Thursday as the two countries headed into talks in New York.
``Although the pilot spoke by radio of a hijacked plane with children aboard, more than a hijacking it was an act of piracy to commandeer an airplane destined to fumigate and fertilize fields of rice, a basic food for our people,″ the Communist Party daily Granma said in an official note Thursday.
The plane crashed Tuesday in the southern Gulf of Mexico about 50 miles west of Cuba, killing one of the 10 people on board. The others were rescued by a merchant ship and taken to Key West, Fla.
The Communist daily said the pilot, Angel Lenin Iglesias, did not have a criminal record, that he was a good worker and that he came from a ``revolutionary family.″
``The very name he was given when he was born demonstrates that,″ the communique said.
Instead it blamed the ``harmful influence″ of Rodolfo Fuentes Fernandez, the man seriously injured in the plane crash, ``for the undertaking of such an irresponsible action.″
Cuba-U.S. migration talks in New York were going ahead as scheduled Thursday and Friday, but the communique indicated that the plane incident was likely to be a subject of discussion.
``The worst part about this act is that it took place 48 hours before migration talks between the United States and Cuba,″ the government communique said.
Cuba has protested in the past when the United States has failed to prosecute Cubans who have commandeered to the United States planes and boats with passengers aboard.
Havana criticizes Washington for the Cuban Adjustment Act, a 1966 law it says encourages its citizens to undertake risky journeys to the United States because the law allows any Cuban who reaches American soil to apply for U.S. residency. Most Cubans picked up at sea are repatriated.
Washington accuses Havana of provoking the risky journeys by preventing Cubans who have U.S. visas from legally leaving the island. Cuban officials deny the charge.