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Cubans Arrest 21 at Mexican Embassy


Cuban authorities entered Mexico's embassy in Havana early Friday and removed 21 Cuban men who crashed a bus through the mission's gate late Wednesday.

Cuban officials say the operation to oust the gate-crashers came at the request of Mexico's government and proceeded without incident.

Among Cuban exiles in Miami, there is outrage. Ninoska Perez of the Cuban Liberty Council says she believes the Cubans wanted political asylum, and that Mexico should have considered their petitions on a case-by-case basis. She says the Mexican government's actions are ironic, coming at a time when Mexico is lobbying the United States for better treatment of migrant workers.

"This is the same government that asks the U.S. government to protect five million undocumented aliens that come to the United States to work without permits and is turning back 21 Cubans who are being politically persecuted," Ms. Perex said. "That is the hypocrisy of the actions of the Mexican government."

What will become of the 21 men is not clear. Cuban authorities have labeled them criminal and anti-social elements.

Mexican officials, who urged Cuban officials to treat the gate-crashers humanely, say the men made no request for political asylum assignments and instead wanted to leave Cuba for economic reasons. They say they ignored repeated requests to leave the embassy.

Late Wednesday, pandemonium erupted when the 21 Cubans crashed a bus through the mission's front gate and began shouting slogans denouncing Cuban President Fidel Castro.

In the street in front of the embassy, Cubans told journalists they had heard reports from a U.S. government funded radio station that Mexico had opened its doors to asylum-seekers.

Miami-based Radio Marti broadcast statements by Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda, who had visited Miami earlier in the week to mark the opening of a Mexican cultural center in the city.

There is confusion as to whether Mr. Castaneda's comments about "Mexico being open" referred to Mexico's embassy in Havana or the new cultural center in Miami. Radio Marti is standing behind its news reports, while Mr. Castaneda has said his comments were misinterpreted.

Mexico is stressing it has no open-door policy for Cubans who want to leave the island.

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