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Radio Marti Denies Cuba's Charges of Biased Coverage - 2002-02-28


A U.S. government funded radio station that broadcasts to Cuba has denied charges it distorted its news coverage to cause upheaval on the communist-run island. Radio Marti issued a response after Cuba's government accused it of inciting asylum-seekers in Havana, who crashed a bus through the gate of Mexico's embassy late Wednesday.

Cuba's government accuses Miami-based Radio Marti of what it calls a "gross provocation." Cuba says Radio Marti manipulated the words of Mexico's foreign minister to imply that Mexico had opened its doors to all asylum-seekers, and that the gate-crashing incident at Mexico's embassy in Havana came as a direct result of the broadcasts.

According to Salvador Leo, Director of Radio Marti, nothing could be further from the truth. He said Cuba had made similar accusations over the years, and that every time the Cuban government hears something it does not like, it labels it a "gross provocation." He added that Radio Marti has no desire to provoke or incite anything, and that its broadcasts did nothing more than transmit the declarations of Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda - in his own voice.

Earlier this week, Mr. Castaneda visited Miami to mark the opening of a Mexican cultural center in the city. He said the center is open to all, including all Cubans and Cuban-Americans. His comments were widely reported by local news organizations.

Late Wednesday, pandemonium broke out at Mexico's embassy in Havana when asylum-seekers crashed a bus through the front gate.

The asylum-seekers made their way to the embassy's roof, where they shouted slogans denouncing Cuban President Fidel Castro and threatened to jump if police attempted to apprehend them.

President Castro and other high-ranking officials showed up a while later and appealed to a crowd that had gathered in front of the embassy to assist authorities in maintaining calm.

Cubans interviewed by reporters in the street said they had heard radio reports of the supposed Mexican offer to receive those wishing to leave the island.

Mexican officials say Foreign Minister Castaneda's words appear to have been misinterpreted; that he was speaking of a cultural center in Miami and not the Mexican embassy in Havana. They say the embassy is open for normal business but Mexico has not adopted an open-door policy for Cuban asylum-seekers.

What will become of the Havana gate-crashers is not clear. Reuters news agency quotes officials in Mexico City as encouraging the asylum-seekers to leave the embassy.

In 1980, thousands of Cubans massed in Peru's embassy in Havana, eventually prompting the Castro government to open the port of Mariel, where more than 100,000 Cubans left for the United States.

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