The Miami Herald
Mar. 04, 2002

Cuban exiles call for boycott against Mexico

                      BY ELAINE DE VALLE

                      First came the anger. Now, comes the action.

                      Cuban American leaders in Miami have called for a 90-day boycott of Mexican products and travel to Mexico in
                      the wake of last week's ouster of 18 men and 3 teenagers from Mexico's embassy in Havana after the group had
                      crashed through the gates in an effort to leave the country.

                      ''We cannot just ignore what the Mexican government has done,'' said Juan Pérez Franco, president of Brigade
                      2506, the Bay of Pigs veterans group. ``They have forgotten the international laws that govern the rights of
                      those seeking asylum.''

                      Franco and dozens of other exiles who voted to support the boycott said they hope it will lead to a change in
                      Mexico's position of engagement with the Castro government and support an expected resolution condemning the
                      island's human rights record at the United Nations.

                      A spokeswoman with the Mexican Consulate in South Miami said she had no comment on the boycott.

                      But other Cuban exiles are not so sure a boycott is the best idea. Brothers to the Rescue founder José Basulto
                      told others at the meeting in Little Havana Monday that antagonism toward Mexico would just play right into
                      Castro's hands.

                      ''This whole thing was an initiative of the Cuban government to manipulate the exile and use us against Mexico.
                      They are paying Mexico back for that small ray of light they gave the dissidents in the meeting with [Mexican
                      President Vicente] Fox,'' Basulto said.

                      He said the Cuban government would like nothing better than to have the exile community fight Mexico instead of
                      the Castro regime.

                      ''It is a distraction. They are giving us something to do to make us feel active and patriotic and what we are
                      doing, actually, is following Castro's agenda without realizing it,'' Basulto said.

                      The Cuban American National Foundation was not at the meeting and executive director Joe Garcia declined to
                      comment on the boycott effort.

                      Luis Zuñiga, executive director of the Cuban Liberty Council, said the boycott was more about showing the Cuban
                      exile's pain than bringing about any change in Mexico's policy.

                      ''It's a message of how angry we are with them. The future of Cuba is in freedom and democracy and Mexico is
                      betting on the wrong side,'' Zuñiga said.

                      Zuñiga said the intent is not to hurt Mexicans, but to have business leaders put pressure on the government to
                      treat the Cuban regime with less favor.

                      ``Ninety days is long enough for them to realize the impact it might have in their economy. It is not against the
                      businessmen. It is not against the commercial community from Mexico. It is just against the government and we
                      hope the entrepreneurs will let their government know because they will be the ones who pay the price.''