PM: Bahamas innocent victim in Cuban affair
The Bahamas is an “innocent victim” that has become the target of protests from sympathizers of Cuban immigrants, Prime Minister Perry Christie said yesterday, but added that all claims of abuse toward detainees will be investigated.
Christie was asked to respond to a letter that was reportedly sent to him by US Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio and Congress members Mario Diaz-Balart, Albio Sires and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the U.S. representative for Florida’s 27th congressional district.
The letter asked Christie to stop any further Cuban repatriations.
On Friday, the government repatriated 24 Cubans.
Christie said he is worried about damage The Bahamas’ reputation might sustain because of the negative press and criticism.
He said The Bahamas conducts repatriations in accordance with international treaties.
He said when Cuban immigrants are detained in the country the United Nations comes in and assesses who is eligible for asylum.
“We do not invite the Cubans to come to The Bahamas [illegally],” Christie said. “They come in and when they come in we are spending significant resources to ensure that they are treated in a very hospitable way even though they are in the Detention Centre, that there is a level of comfort that ought to exist.”
The prime minister stressed that the government does not encourage detention center officers to be cruel to detainees.
“That’s not the intention of the government,” he said. “When we have allegations we investigate the allegations.
“We are in the process now of investigating those allegations. Clearly, there will be a finding on it.
“People are very emotional on this subject but we are going to find a way to deal with it.
“We’re going to try to work through this problem. We are innocent victims as a country and a government of this entire situation.
“If, in fact, a few of our officers have caused people to have harm inflicted upon them, then we have to find those parties and they have to pay the price for their misdeeds.”
Christie said the government has concerns over the traction the issue has gained.
“I’m very saddened by the development where Cuban Americans have been led to believe that we as a country treated Cubans in the detention center cruelly.
“I’m hoping that we arrive very quickly at the final results of the investigation on it, so that they can see that we are a country of laws and a country of justice and that we will see that justice is done.”
On Sunday, Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell refuted an assertion made by Ros-Lehtinen that a video purporting to show Cuban detainees at the detention center being beaten by Bahamian officers is legitimate.
According to an article appearing in the Miami Herald, Ros-Lehtinen said on Friday that U.S. State Department officials told her that Nassau officials have confirmed the video was real and fired the “guilty guards”.
However, Mitchell said, “The Bahamas has not admitted to the authenticity of the video which the protestors themselves have admitted is a fake.”