U.S. Takes Five Cubans Home In First Deportation Since Prison Uprisings
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) _ A lawyer who helped end prison riots by Cuban detainees criticized the deportation of five men who fled Cuba in the 1980 Mariel boatlift as an unjustified normalization of relations with Fidel Castro’s government.
A federal Marshal’s Service airplane ferried five handcuffed Cuban prisoners, all convicted of crimes in the United States, from Birmingham to an airfield near Havana, Cuba, on Friday.
They were the first Cubans deported since a repatriation agreement with the Caribbean island nation ignited riots at federal prisons in Atlanta and Oakdale, La., last year.
″We hope to have many of these flights,″ said Justice Department spokeswoman Deborah Vurstion-Wade.
″It’s a tragic day for the aspirations of the Cuban people to a free Cuba without Castro,″ said Rafael Penalver, a Miami attorney who negotiated a settlement with Cuban detainees that ended the riots. ″This is normalization in criminal wrappings.″
When the men, accompanied by two U.S. guards, got off the plane in Havana, three of them ″knelt down and kissed the ground,″ Ms. Vurstion-Wade said.
She said about 20 Cuban officials met them, exchanged documents with U.S. officials, and took the five away on a bus. She said she did not know where the bus took them.
The agreement with Castro calls for up to 100 Cubans a month to be returned.
About 500 are still in custody of the 2,746 Cuba agreed in 1984 to take back, Carla Dudeck, coordinator for the Coalition to Support Cuban Detainees, said in Atlanta. The others have been paroled, and some have appeals pending.
A federal judge in Birmingham is to rule next week on a temporary injunction against the deportation of 10 other Cubans from a federal prison at Talladega, 60 miles east of Birmingham.
The judge last week refused to halt deportation of three of the five who left Friday; the other two did not fight repatriation.
The three unsuccessfully took their cases to an appellate court in Atlanta and the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 8-1 against them Friday.
″This is a giant leap toward normalization with Castro,″ Penalver said. ″It’s the normalization of our deportation laws and the application of normal deportation laws to the community.
″For 30 years it has been U.S. policy to defer deportation of Cuban nationals until Cuban rights were restored in Cuba. Nothing has changed in Cuba to justify a change of U.S. policy at this time.
″Furthermore, I think it’s inconsistent and self-defeating for the U.S. to send human beings who have completed serving their sentences for whatever wrong they committed here to the very same jails that the U.S. condemns for the atrocities that take place there,″ Penalver said.
The Cubans who fought deportation claimed they would face mistreatment in their homeland.
In the 1980 boatlift, about 125,000 people, some of them convicts or mentally ill, sailed illegally from Mariel, Cuba, to the United States.
Friday’s flight was the first since a 1987 U.S.-Cuban agreement to resume deportations. When the pact became known, Cubans rioted for 11 days at Atlanta and Oakdale, with 125 people held hostage, one inmate killed and massive damage to both prisons.
The five returned to Cuba are Miguel Beitia-Socarraz, 28, who pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary; Onel Calzado-Garlobo, 43, convicted in 1982 of attempted sexual assault charges involving a 13-year-old girl; Rene Maurin- Oliva, who pleaded guilty to theft and battery; and Hector Hernandez- Quesada and Angel Meneses-Hernandez, who did not fight deportation and about whom little was known.