Cuban-American Lawmakers Say Mexican Ambassador Snubbed Them

July 7, 2008 - 7:11 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Many in the U.S. Cuban exile community are still smarting over the way the Mexican government handled last week's gate-crashing asylum-seekers at the Mexican Embassy in Havana.

About twenty Cubans hijacked a bus and smashed their way into the Mexican Embassy, demanding asylum. At Mexico's request, Cuban authorities removed them. Cuban Leader Fidel Castro called them common criminals and said they will appear in court on a variety of charges.

While Cuban-Americans are not surprised by Castro's actions, they are very disappointed in Mexico's.

Mexican Ambassador Juan Jose Bremer, who is winding up a trip to Miami this weekend, has rankled Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) by refusing to meet with them. All three are Cuban-American members of Congress.

They wanted to meet with Bremer in Miami to discuss what they consider a violation of international law. They are furious that the Mexican government honored a Cuban request to expel the asylum-seekers from the Mexican embassy.

Diaz-Balart's chief of staff, Stephen Vermillion, told CNSNews.com that he had informed Sergio Zapata, the congressional liaison at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, that the three lawmakers were eager to meet with Bremer to discuss last week's incident.

But Bremer refused the invitation.

Diaz-Balart said Bremer's refusal was a "grave mistake and a further affront to the Cuban-American community."

Reports from Miami said that Bremer will meet there with individuals chosen by the Mexican Embassy in Washington.

Neither Ros-Lehtinen nor Menendez had any further comment when their offices were contacted by CNSNews.com on Thursday.

But the Mexican Embassy in Washington accused Diaz-Balart of being disrespectful, according to Embassy spokesperson Mireya Magana.

"We will always be open to a respectful and constructive dialog, and the tone of Lincoln Diaz-Balart does not respect the reciprocal respect that has characterized the Mexico- United States bilateral relationship," Magana told CNSNews.com.

Sources told CNSNews.com that all three congressional offices were flooded with calls from Cuban-American constituents after the trouble at the Mexican embassy in Havana.
Many relatives of the asylum-seekers were dismayed that the Mexican government refused to grant them their wish.

Castro said there would be no impunity for any gate-crashers.

"Anyone who does this should know he will be punished, anyone who enters an embassy will never leave Cuba," he said. "What guarantee do the rest of the embassies have any time some people want to break in with a bus, a lorry or an armored vehicle? We won't allow it," said Castro in a 3-hour nationwide television address.

Earlier, The Castro government blamed broadcasts by the United States-based Radio Marti for instigating the trouble.

According to the Castro government, Radio Marti aired comments from Mexico's Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda, in which he said "the doors of the embassy of Mexico on the island are open to all Cuban citizens."

That prompted the hijacking and the storming of the Mexican embassy, the Cuban government stated.

E-mail a news tip to Jim Burns.

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