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Cuba claims all rafters have been stopped

HAVANA (Reuter) - Cuba said it had succeeded in totally halting departures of boat people but warned that what it views as the underlying cause of the month-long exodus - US policy toward the island - still had to be addressed. 'The mass departures have been stopped,' said a government statement published on the front page of the ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma. But, referring to Washington's longstanding economic embargo against Cuba, it said the 'fundamental factor that causes the massive exodus, the economic blockade, is still in action with all its cruel and brutal force'.

The statement said the halt in rafter departures had been achieved through urging and persuading citizens, with advance warnings and with no use of force or violence. Cuba imposed the clamp-down as its side of a deal with the US. US Coast Guards saw only a handful of Cuban refugees in the Florida Straits yesterday morning.