Cubans Invite Exiles to Discuss Immigration
ANA SANTIAGO Herald Staff Writer
Invitations to a meeting next month convened by the Cuban government to discuss immigration issues with exiles are circulating in South Florida and 15 countries, Cuban officials in Washington said Friday.
"We've invited people from Australia to the United States, Angola, Spain, and Venezuela -- even verbally," said Jose Luis Ponce, spokesman for the Cuban Interests Section in Washington.
About 200 guests of the Cuban government are expected to attend the conference, to be held April 22-24. The central themes will be the immigration of Cubans to the Unites States, visits by Cuban exiles to the island and cultural exchanges, Cuban government officials said. Cuba's internal political situation won't be discussed.
In Miami, Vivian Mannerud, owner of ABC Charters -- which has flights to Cuba -- said she was invited Thursday by a Cuban official whom she refused to identify.
Magda Montiel-Davis, a Miami immigration lawyer, said she was invited a week ago by Hugo Yedra, an official in Cuba's Washington office.
Alicia Torres, member of the board of directors of the Cubanamerican Committee in Washington that advocates re- establishing relations with Cuba, was also invited by Yedra weeks ago.
Others were invited personally, like Luis Mendez, a retired investment banker, and Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, director of the organization Cambio Cubano.
Mendez said he was personally invited by the United Nations' Cuban ambassador, Jose Perez Novoa. Gutierrez Menoyo said a week ago that he was invited in Miami by a Cuban official he did not want to identify. Unlike the other invited guests, Gutierrez Menoyo said he will not attend, but his organization will send several unnamed observers.
Cuban exile leaders say the Cuban government is manipulating the event to make it appear that the island has an open political climate in the face of international public opinion. Key exile organizations, such as the Cuban American National Foundation, the Cuban Liberal Union and Cuba Independent and Democratic were excluded from the meeting.
For years, Mannerud, Montiel-Davis and Torres have advocated lifting the United States embargo against Cuba and re- establishing relations with the island.
At a press conference held in Cuba in February, Cuban Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina said that only those who sympathize with the revolution would be invited.