Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Plan Would Coax Cubans Home

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Plan Would Coax Cubans Home

Article excerpt

The United States prepared a plan Tuesday to coax thousands of Cuban refugees interned at Guantanamo Bay to return to Cuba and then apply from there to move to the United States under a program that would sharply increase legal immigration.

U.S. officials described the plan, to be presented at talks with Cuban officials beginning Thursday in New York, as administration policy faced a setback with a sharp increase in the number of Cuban refugees picked up in the Straits of Florida.

As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Coast Guard had rescued 1,234 Cubans. That was up from 295 for all of Monday and an average of 170 a day from Saturday through Monday after stormy weather sharply reduced the number of departures.

But as the number of Cubans sailing toward Florida jumped sharply, Panama, Honduras, and the Turks and Caicos Islands gave a boost to the administration's efforts. The three nations announced that they would open their doors to 17,000 Cubans.

The rise in numbers suggested that Cubans were leaving despite the U.S. effort to discourage the exodus by sending rafters to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay rather than admitting them to the United States.

The New York Times reported that over the last year, the United States had granted residence visas to only 2,700 Cubans. The low number has caused Cuban President Fidel Castro to complain that this is far below the legal ceiling of 27,485 Cubans that the administration is authorized to admit and that the failure to grant more visas had helped trigger the mass exodus of Cubans.

Implementing the new U.S. plan to empty Guantanamo depends on the willingness of the Cuban government to accept the refugees, even temporarily, and of the refugees to return home in the hope of immigrating legally to the United States.

The proposal reflects a conclusion reached by the administration in recent days that potential raft people in Cuba are unconvinced by U.S. statements that Guantanamo is a dead end, offering no hope of ultimately reaching the United States. …

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