US to guard Cuban exiles' ocean protest

PHIL DAVISON

Miami

US Coast Guard vessels and aircraft will attempt to keep the peace today as Cuban-Americans sail and fly from Miami in a protest-cum-memorial demonstration to within 20 miles of the Cuban coast. The exiles plan to toss wreaths and crosses into the Straits of Florida in the area where four exiles were shot down in two small planes by Cuban MiG fighters a week earlier.

With relations between Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro at their lowest point to date, the President's order for a heavy Coast Guard escort - with Air Force fighters and naval vessels on standby in Florida and the Caribbean - appeared aimed as much at keeping the exiles in check as protecting them from any further Cuban attack.

The US warned the exiles, expected to sail in up to 40 private boats with two light aircraft overhead, that they would face civil and criminal penalties if they tried to provoke Mr Castro by pushing ahead into Cuba's 12-mile territorial waters. The organisers have promised not to but there were some fears here last night that the most radical anti-Castro activists may break ranks.

Some moderate exiles expressed fears that any unforeseen incident could create confusion in the US response and suck in the US military forces on stand-by.

The White House press spokesman, Mike McCurry, said the US had warned Cuban officials not to interfere with the flotilla. "In plain English, the United States of America will not tolerate unacceptable behaviour by the Cuban government," he said, a phrase seen by some as almost dangerously vague in the event that anything unforeseen occurs.

Mr McCurry said Mr Clinton supported the idea of a memorial service at sea to the four victims from the Miami-based Brothers to the Rescue. The group flies the Straits of Florida looking for Cuban boat people but has also made at least two flights over Havana to drop pro-democracy leaflets.

Cuba's Foreign Minister, Roberto Robaina, said Cuba would take no action provided the flotilla and planes stayed outside the island's territorial waters. That, however, raised the question of definition. Cuba said its MiGs shot the two planes down over its waters, though US radar tracking showed they were outside the 12-mile limit, 17 and 25 miles respectively. Cuba apparently acted because a third plane had entered the 12-mile limit or because all three were south of the 24th parallel, about 40 miles north of Cuba, recognised even by the US as the island's Air Defence Identification Zone.

A dozen Coast Guard cutters will accompany the flotilla, backed by two unarmed Coast Guard C-130 planes.

Meanwhile, Canada slammed Mr Clinton for backing anti-Castro legislation that could affect countries, such as Canada, Britain and Spain, which do business with Cuba. The Canadian Trade Minister, Art Eggleton, said he would meet US officials in Washington tomorrow to argue that the so- called Helms-Burton bill violates international law and the North American Free Trade Agreement. He said Canada may take the US to the international court in The Hague. The bill would mean Cuban exiles could sue in US courts for the return of property they owned before Mr Castro's 1959 revolution.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss