Rights Activists Blast Mexico for Deporting Cuban Who Sought Asylum
They say he is a spy who fears for his life
Mary Beth Sheridan, Los Angeles Times Thursday, October 5, 2000
Mexico City -- A reputed Cuban intelligence official who fled to Mexico
seeking political asylum was summarily sent home yesterday, raising a howl
of protest from human rights officials who said they feared for his life.
Pedro Riera Escalante, a former Cuban diplomat based in Mexico, admitted to
authorities here that he had specialized in spying on CIA operations abroad,
according to human rights activists who had helped the Cuban in his quest
``He had a lot of information that was compromising about the Mexican and
Cuban governments,'' said Edelmiro Castellanos, one of the activists.
Castellanos said that Mexican officials had indicated that Riera would
receive asylum but that on Tuesday evening the former Cuban official was
snatched by a team of pistol-packing men in plainclothes as he emerged from
a meeting with a Mexican intelligence official at a Mexico City restaurant.
They bundled him into an unmarked white truck and sped off, Castellanos
It wasn't until yesterday that Mexican immigration officials confirmed that
they had detained and deported the Cuban.
Alejandro Carrillo Castro, head of Mexico's immigration agency, told
reporters that Riera was kicked out because he had entered Mexico illegally.
Asked about the Cuban's asylum request, Carrillo said: ``He never made it
before migration authorities, which is where you can begin any process of
seeking political asylum or refuge.''
But a spokesman for Mexico's Foreign Ministry said Riera had indeed asked
for asylum on Sept. 8.
The case was puzzling because it occurred as Mexico's relationship with Cuba
has cooled. During the Cold War, Mexico maintained close ties with Cuba, to
the occasional irritation of Washington. But President-elect Vicente Fox has
indicated that he will change such relations established by the
Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, during its 71-year-rule.
Human rights activists blasted the government for Riera's deportation,
saying it had broken international treaties barring the return of
asylum-seekers to countries where they could face torture -- or worse.
Rafael Alvarez, of the Miguel Agustin Pro Human Rights Center, a prominent
Roman Catholic group that had been counseling Riera, said he could be
charged with treason. ``We fear for his life,'' Alvarez said.
Alvarez and Castellanos said Riera had been consul in Mexico from 1988-94.
He told them he had spied on CIA activities in Mexico.
Castellanos said Riera had fled to Mexico in early September after facing
harassment at home.