New Bahamas protests in Miami
By MINDELL SMALL, Guardian Senior Reporter
22 February, 2006/ The Nassau Guardian
Hundreds of Cuban-American residents in Miami are expected to take part in another protest against The Bahamas on the weekend of March 4 and 5. Their aim is to expand their existing tourist boycott of The Bahamas by portraying the country as an inhumane one that does not respect human rights.
Mickey Garrote, spokesperson at Agenda Cuba told The Guardian yesterday the demonstration is planned for that Saturday and Sunday in the afternoon at the Port of Miami. He said Agenda Cuba and the Democracy Movement have chosen that location on the weekend so that protestors can display placards to people on Bahamas-bound cruise ships, telling them to avoid the country in the future.
"But this is not a protest against the Bahamian people. This is not a protest against The Bahamas. What we are asking for is The Bahamas government to humanise the situation for the detainees at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre," said Mr Garrote.
"Not just for the almost 60 Cubans that are in the Centre right, but for all the immigrants that are there. There are allegations by the detainees that there are violations of human rights."
Mr Garrotte added that protests and the boycott of The Bahamas would continue until "four conditions" are met at the Detention Centre. He said these include: better treatment of detainees at the hands of guards; better treatment of family members who visit the detainees; better food and water and better medical care. On the latter two points, Mr Garotte said Agenda Cuba is willing assist the government in sending food and medical supplies if necessary.
"But I can tell you certainly that The Bahamas government has been looking forward to continuing talks to resolve these issues, because it is in the interest of both sides," he explained.
The anti-Bahamas sentiment among many Cuban-Americans in Miami stemmed from an alleged attack of a Cuban-American reporter outside the perimeter of the Detention Centre two weeks ago.
In that Feb. 7 incident, Univisión journalist Mario Vallejo said he was attacked and badly beaten by four RBDF officers while shooting footage of Cubans inside the Centre. The incident was reportedly shown on several local television stations in South Florida, prompting Cuban-American groups the following day to demonstrate outside The Bahamas Consulate in Miami and call for a boycott of all tourist visits to The Bahamas.
"And again, the community is being urged to not travel to The Bahamas until this situation is resolved," said Mr Garrotte. "We are specifically urging those persons and entities that have economic ties with The Bahamas to, in the very near future, cease those ties."
"That's something we are strongly working on again in the hopes to accelerate a more humane treatment of detainees."
The Ministry of National Security was expected to reveal the results of an internal investigation into the Feb 7 incident last week. However, the findings of that investigation were said to be incomplete at that time, but should be complete this week.
Prime Minister Perry Christie also responded to the alleged attack saying, "Whenever there is a demonstration against our country, clearly, it is a negative and we must be assiduous in addressing the issue."
Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell said the government properly handled the alleged attack. Asked if he thought the fallout was hurting The Bahamas, he said, "I'm not going to categorise it one way or the other. It is what it is and we are working as best as we can to try and solve the issue involved."
Officials at the Detention Centre have repeatedly said that detainees are not mistreated. However, complaints of mistreatment at the facility have been reported for years. In Dec 2004, angry Cubans, who initially staged a hunger strike at the Centre, were blamed for setting afire one of the facility's four dormitories.
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