- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Two members of Congress, angry that no charges have been filed against Cuban Interests Section officials in Washington who attacked anti-Castro demonstrators two years ago, have questioned whether the Clinton administration blocked any prosecution in the case.
Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both Florida Republicans, asked Attorney General John Ashcroft in a letter last week whether President Clinton's efforts to appease the communist regime of Fidel Castro had resulted in the case being dropped.
"We understand that part of the delay in addressing this matter could be the result of interference by officials of the previous administration, whose policies of appeasement toward the Castro regime led to a disregard for the interests of these American citizens," the two House members said.
But they told Mr. Ashcroft, "The time has come for justice to be served" and asked the attorney general to explain why no criminal charges have been sought in the April 2000 attack in which several demonstrators, including four women, were injured.
"It is extremely disconcerting that two years after the attack by agents of the Castro regime on U.S. citizens holding a vigil in front of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, that these individuals are still roaming free, acting with impunity for this reprehensible attack," they said.
A Metropolitan Police Department report said the assault at the Cuban Interests Section, on the grounds of the Swiss Embassy on 16th Street NW, occurred April 14, 2000, about 7:30 p.m. The report said 10 unidentified Cuban employees ran out of the mission and began to hit demonstrators on the front sidewalk with their fists, feet and flagpoles.
The police report said 20 anti-Castro Cuban-Americans were on the street protesting the return of Elian Gonzalez to Cuba.
Those attacked filed criminal complaints against the Cubans and later identified suspects in a photo lineup for an investigation by the Metropolitan Police Department. The victims also testified before a federal grand jury in July and August 2000.
Brigida Benitez, a D.C. lawyer who was among the demonstrators, told The Washington Times that several men emerged from the Cuban offices and, "after rolling up their sleeves, they began to physically assault us."
She said the men punched, kicked and beat the demonstrators in an attack that was unprovoked.
Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen has said that if the attackers have diplomatic immunity, the State Department should declare them persona non grata and expel them from the United States. She also said if some of them have since left the country, the government should bar them from re-entering.
She also said that, according to published reports, the government has a surveillance tape of the incident, which she said should help an inquiry and should be made public.
After the attack, business cards belonging to Armando Collazo Iglesias, a first secretary at the Cuban Interests Section, were found on the street. The Cuban Interests Section has not commented on the attack.
In their letter, Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen and Mr. Diaz-Balart said the incident was investigated by Metropolitan Police, FBI, U.S. Secret Service and the Justice Department, and that despite "repeated calls and inquiries from those Americans who were physically assaulted,"no prosecutorial or punitive action has been ordered."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide