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Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

May 18, 1999, Cuba Free Press. >

POLICE INTERCEPT MASSIVE EXODUS AT GIBARA By Ricardo González Alfonso, Cuba Free Press (as translated by a volunteer).

HAVANA - Department of the Interior authorities at Gibara, Holguín province, are attempting to prevent a massive exodus at that port.

Dozens of citizens have been apprehended and sent back to their hometowns. Since Sunday, May 16, police have intensified patrols. Authorities are verifying identity papers and limiting fishing schedules in the eastern zone of the island.

By Sunday night, at least 70 people had been detained in the local border guard headquarters on Pedro Martinez Rojas Avenue. Those citizens were later returned to their regions.

Those detained ranged in age between 20 and 40. Some came from Holguín, 20 miles from this port on the island's northeastern coast.

Agents have been stopping private cars as they leave the Floro Perez locality and they demand identification papers. If the travelers are not from Gibara, they must return homeward. There are reports of seven armed patrols of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) and one from the Office of State Security (OSS) so as to support increased enforcement efforts in the crackdown.

Authorities advised boat-owning fishermen to guard their craft personally. The fishing schedule is limited to begin at 5 a.m. and continue only to 4 p.m.

Local residents suggest this big wave of emigrants is motivated by the worsening food shortage. Other observers say fair, summer-like conditions facilitate the passages.

The immigration agreement signed by the governments of Havana and Of Washington, DC, establishes that Cuban citizens intercepted on the high seas by U.S. Coast Guard vessels will be returned to the island. Officials from both nations emphasize navigation in fragile boats is dangerous and exhort potential emigrants to travel safely and legally by means of the visa lottery.

Ricardo González Alfonso, Cuba Free Press

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