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Cuba-Bahamas-U.S. Tangle: U.S. Threatens Economic Sanctions on Bahamas
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Posted by:Feb 27th 2006, 07:04:15 pm
Fig Tree News Teamhttp://www.jonesbahamas.com/
25th February
Ambassador Sears Responds To Economic Sanctions Threat
By Macushla N. Pinder
Bahamian officials hit back with responses of their own yesterday after learning that two U.S. lawmakers are threatening to push for economic sanctions against The Bahamas if the government fails to release two Cuban dentists, who have been detained here for the past 10 months.

In an interview with The Bahama Journal Friday, Bahamas Ambassador to the United States, Joshua Sears, described the situation as "most unfortunate," but stressed that imposing such sanctions would prove a "lose-lose" situation for both The Bahamas and the United States.

"The economic relationship between The Bahamas and the United States, particularly the State of Florida, goes beyond narrow interests," Ambassador Sears said.

"Florida ranks The Bahamas as possibly number 21 on its list of trading partners and if one were to carefully examine the volume of trade from the Bahamian side to Florida, one would come to the conclusion that this (sanction) would not be a direction in anyone’s mutual interest. With respect to the wider relationship between The Bahamas and the United States, this involves drug interdiction, migration matters, issues that cut across our political lines like Haiti, etc. There is really just too much at stake to be interpreted in any narrow political confines. And so I think that sober judgment will dictate that this is one, which has to find its rightful place between the two countries."

In a statement released from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Thursday night, Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell said The Bahamas appreciates the concerns of U.S. Congress Representatives Connie Mack and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and values the continued good relations between The Bahamas and the State of Florida, as well as the longstanding close and warm relationship between the country and the United States.

But, said Mr. Mitchell, The Bahamas cannot be drawn into a "rhetorical war of words" between members of the legislative branch in the United States and the Cuban government on migration issues, which arise between certain communities in the U.S. and Cuba.

"The United States government has approached The Bahamas government with regard to two individuals who are Cuban nationals and they have a fair, accurate and true position on the question of those individuals, who are now detained in The Bahamas for illegal migration to The Bahamas," he said.

According to the statement, the interests of the United States arose because individuals related to the two detainees – Dr. David Gonzalez-Mejias and Marialis Darias-Mesa – reside in the United States.

Gonzalez-Mejias and Darias-Mesa have been detained at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre since April, after a boat they were on along with 16 other Cuban migrants stalled in Bahamian waters.

They were picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard and handed over to Bahamian officials

Citizens of Cuba are subject to a migration accord between The Bahamas and Cuba, which is an agreement between two sovereign nations. That migration accord is subject to international law.

"An application now stands from the two individuals with respect to their status in The Bahamas," the statement explained.

"Pursuant to their request, that status is subject to a review and The Bahamas government has made clear its intention to resolve this matter in as timely a fashion as the exigencies permit."

The ministry’s no-nonsense response followed a news conference in South Florida, where the two Florida Republicans announced they would begin pushing in Congress for economic sanctions against The Bahamas, such as the withdrawal of easier customs clearance for cruise ship passengers travelling between the United States and The Bahamas.

But according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when it comes to the question of boycotts and other forms of economic pressure on The Bahamas, "wiser counsel would suggest that it is not in the best interest of the communities in South Florida to adversely affect and impact the economy of The Bahamas, having regard to the mutually important bilateral relationship between us."

This latest development comes on the heels of the Ministry of Immigration’s investigation into an alleged altercation between a Bahamian Defence Force officer and a Cuban-American journalist, who was allegedly attacked at the Detention Centre earlier this month.

Miami-based television reporter Mario Vallejo was in Nassau covering a story about seven Cubans rescued from Elbow Cay.

Ambassador Sears has since communicated with Cuban-American members of Congress on the matter and has stressed that the incident does not paint a true picture of Bahamians.

"We’re being seen as inhumane and this is clearly wrong. The minute this incident occurred an investigation was launched even before it was made public. And we think this will satisfy this certainly," the Ambassador said.

Ambassador Sears is hoping to meet with Cuban-American members of Congress next week to continue the dialogue.

He said, "We understand their political posture in addressing what they perceive to be an issue from their constituent interest."

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