Castro Government Denounces US Over Cuban Refugees

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

( - The Castro government is blasting what it calls "Washington's refusal to bring criminal charges against Cubans involved in air piracy and hijackings."

The comments followed Thursday's decision by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to allow nine Cuban refugees to pursue U.S. residency. They won't be able to start the process until next September, however, and in the meantime, they're expected to live in the Miami area.

These are the same nine Cubans who flew a stolen crop duster out of Cuba Tuesday, finally ditching the plane in the ocean when they ran out of fuel. All but two of them had been discharged from a Miami hospital as of Friday morning.

An editorial in the official Cuban government newspaper Granma said "the lack of sanctions against Cubans who commit crimes constitutes...major incitements to illegal immigration and a violation of the US-Cuba migratory accords."

That migratory accord -- the Cuban Adjustment Act -- was passed by Congress and became law under President Lyndon Johnson in 1966. The act says any Cubans reaching American shores are entitled to remain in the United States. But Cubans picked up at sea are returned to Cuba.

The Granma editorial said, "Washington's refusal to return, without any justification, a significant number of illegal Cubans intercepted on the high seas, and the impunity benefiting those involved in the trafficking of human beings, generate the least favorable conditions for a level-headed and constructive analysis of, and search for, satisfactory solutions to bilateral migratory problems."

However, Cuba said it will continue to participate in immigration talks with the United States in New York.

In the past, American authorities have returned airline hijackers to Cuba for prosecution. But the FBI said on Wednesday that this week's flight was not a hijacking.