By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
SECURITY was heightened around the Bahamas’ Consulate in Miami yesterday after the United States’ Diplomatic Protection Services identified a threat that was made against the consul on Facebook.
According to Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell, additional layers of security were therefore necessary as protests continue over the impending deportation to Cuba of 24 detainees.
After suspending protests earlier this week, Cuban exile group Democracy Movement is now on “red alert” until it is confirmed whether or not the detainees will be deported.
As a result of the threat, Bahamians in Miami were also advised to exercise “reasonable caution”.
The human rights advocacy group branded the government’s decision as a deceitful attempt to hide the alleged torture of Cuban detainees by guards at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.
Last night, Democracy Movement spokesperson Luís Felipe Rojas said that all demonstrations had been put on hold and denied that the organisation had any involvement with the threat made against the consulate.
Mr Rojas said: “We have called off all the protests until we receive further notice, we are on a red alert. If it happens we will go back in front of the consulate, and the protest will be much larger.”
He added: “I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary (yesterday). Whenever we do demonstrations there is always police there and that is normal. We are non-violent, we don’t believe in violence. If someone has done that it is not Democracy Movement, it is not the people conducting the protests.”
While the organisation does not advocate any type of violence, Mr Rojas noted that the latest decision by the government has “angered a lot of people.”
Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Department of Immigration did not respond to calls placed up to press time.
However, a source close to the matter confirmed that detainees were processed for repatriation yesterday, but then told that the flight was cancelled due to weather conditions.
Today the Panamanian government plans to open discussions with Bahamian officials over territorial asylum for Cuban detainees today after inclement weather delayed a repatriation exercise to Cuba.
Honorary Consul General of Panama David McGrath said yesterday that it is unclear how the decision to repatriate detainees will impact discussions between the two governments on Panama’s decision to grant visas to 19 Cuban detainees.
Mr McGrath said that the visas were granted to specific individuals, but could not divulge any further details.
Six Cubans were moved from the detention centre to Fox Hill for hostile and disruptive behaviour.
Three Cuban detainees – two of whom are currently being held at HMP – are expected to appear before Supreme Court Justice Carolita Bethel next week for a hearing on whether or not they will proceed with a habeas corpus application.
The men agreed to await the outcome of resettlement interviews with United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, that are due to be completed this week.
Democracy Movement suspended its nearly two-month-long protest and hunger strike on Monday on the condition that the Bahamas government releases the Cubans to Panama.
The decision to end the protests came after the government of the Bahamas agreed to reopen an investigation of torture in their migrant detention centre.
In the House on Monday, Mr Mitchell confirmed that investigations into allegations made by protesters and detainees were continuing, and added that the government had commissioned a formal probe.