MIAMI

Cubans to protest as cruise ships leave Miami for Bahamas

 

jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

Cuban exile groups are planning a series of protests as cruise ships leave the port of Miami for Nassau on Friday to highlight allegations that Bahamian guards are abusing Cuban and other undocumented migrants being held there.

A dozen or so vessels from the Democracy Movement will gather on the north side of Government Cut at around 3:30 p.m. Friday so they will be visible to passengers and crews as the ships leave port, said Movement director Ramón Saúl Sánchez.

Sanchez said the vessels will display large signs with messages such as “Bahamas Be Beautiful Again. Respect the Human Rights of the Undocumented Migrants,” while a large zeppelin will display a sign saying “Democracy.”

One Miami activist, Jesus Alexis Gómez, will launch a hunger strike aboard one of the vessels and after that seaborne protest will continue his fast under a tent set up next to the Torch of Freedom in downtown Miami, Sánchez told a news conference Monday.

Gómez is credited with smuggling a video out of the immigration detention center in Nassau, taken with a cell phone and purporting to show a Bahamian guard kicking and screaming at some of the about 30 undocumented Cuban migrants held there.

The video sparked a storm of protests and complaints to the Bahamas government when it was broadcast later on America TeVe. Bahamas Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell rejected it as “a manufactured attempt to create a damaging and defamatory impression of The Bahamas.”

Sánchez, whose Democracy Movement has staged several other protest flotillas in the past, said the one Friday is designed to demand better treatment for all undocumented migrants detained in Nassau, which include Haitians, Brazilians, Colombians, Chinese and others.

It will also demand punishment for the detention center authorities who have abused prisoners, and Bahamian government respect for those undocumented migrants who ask for political asylum, he added.

Cuban migrants held in the Nassau center have long complained of physical abuses, bad food and unsanitary conditions. Several inmates sewed their lips shut in May to protest their conditions, and that protest prompted the alleged guard’s videotaped attack.

Also joining the seaborne protest Friday will be members of the exile groups Agenda Cuba and the Cuban committee for Human Rights.

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