Cuban migrants in Mexico demand freedom after 3 months in a lockup

Seven Cubans detained for nearly three months in a kind of immigration limbo in southern Mexico say their guards are mistreating them for demanding that they be allowed to continue their trip to the border with the United States.

Mexican authorities, meanwhile, on Thursday were processing another 19 Cuban would-be migrants who turned up on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula after the motor on their makeshift boat broke down.

The 16 men and three women, being held in a migration lockup in the city of Chetumal, told local journalists that they had left 20 days earlier from Granma province in southern Cuba. Tides and winds carried them westward.

Mexican authorities intercepted the group of seven Cubans on March 23 near the southern border with Guatemala and put them in an immigration lockup in the city of Tapachula. A local human rights group held a news conference Thursday to complain about their continued detention.

“We’re not being told anything” about their cases, Roque Emilio Martinez Angulo, 46, one of the seven and former member in Cuba of the Miami-based Democracy Movement, said by phone from Tapachula.

The seven are relatives of the 116 Cuban political prisoners who were freed by Cuban ruler Raúl Castro in 2010 and 2011 and were flown directly into exile in Spain, along with more than 500 family members.

Using their temporary Spanish residency documents, the five men and two women flew to Costa Rica and Nicaragua and then headed north by land toward the Mexican border with the United States, said Martinez’s cousin in Miami, Isabel Martinez.

Mexican authorities in Tapachula declared their Spanish documents were not valid for travel, Martinez Angulo said, so the seven renounced their Spanish residency and asked to be treated like other undocumented Cuban migrants in Mexico — being freed on a 30-day permit that gives them time to get up to the border.

Cubans who cross into the United States get to stay under the so-called “wet-foot, dry foot” policy. The great majority of those intercepted at sea are repatriated to the Caribbean island.

Martinez Angulo said guards at the migration lockup in Tapachula have been mistreating the Cubans and that four days ago they pummeled some of the men for demanding their release and protesting the lockup’s conditions.

“They are in a difficult situation,” said Ramon Saul Sanchez, Miami head of the Democracy Movement. He added that he met with Mexico’s consul in Miami and wrote to Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto to complain about the case.


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