Cuban-Americans end hunger strike, call off protests against Bahamas

Bahamian government promises investigation

MIAMI —Cuban-American activists in South Florida ended a hunger strike and series of protests Monday over the alleged mistreatment of Cubans detained in the Bahamas.

The Bahamian government's announcement that it would conduct a formal investigation into the allegations coupled with a decision by Panama to grant asylum to 19 of 43 detained Cubans means the protest achieved its goals, said Ramon Saul Sanchez, a leader of a Cuban-American activist group.

"This is a victory for human dignity," he said.

The group's noisy protests outside the Bahamian consulate and near the cruise ship port in Miami, as well as calls for a tourism boycott, angered Bahamian officials, who denied any mistreatment of migrants and had said an investigation was unnecessary.

Late last week, however, the government issued a statement saying it would conduct a formal investigation into the allegations raised by the demonstrators, which included claims that migrants at the Carmichael Road Detention Center had been beaten by guards, denied access to adequate food and medical care and prevented from making asylum claims.

"We will review the report and act accordingly, and take any punitive or disciplinary action as deemed necessary," the statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The Bahamas also agreed to allow a U.S. official to visit the Carmichael Road Detention Center, which has been criticized by governmental agencies and human rights groups for years for overcrowding and other problems.

In announcing the end of their protest, Sanchez and fellow activist Jesus Alexis Gomez ate soup to end a hunger strike in support of the detained Cubans.

The Bahamas has become a transit point for migrants, mostly from Cuba and Haiti, who try to reach the nearby United States, often with the aid of smugglers.

Copyright The Associated Press

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