"Working together for a free Cuba"




 Posted on Tue, Aug. 24, 2004

Stung by Cuba's charges, Panama pulls ambassador.
By Nancy San Martin

Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso recalled her ambassador in Cuba on Monday because of ''offensive'' claims by Havana that she plans to pardon four imprisoned Cuban exiles who were convicted in connection with an alleged plot to kill President Fidel Castro.

Panama's foreign ministry also summoned Cuba's ambassador to Panama to a meeting today to determine whether he will be allowed to stay in Panama City, said ministry spokesman Mauricio Benaim.

Moscoso's action came amid escalating complaints by Cuba that Moscoso plans to pardon Luis Posada Carriles -- whom Havana has called its most wanted terrorist -- and three Cuban Americans.

Panamanian Foreign Minister Harmodio Arias told The Herald that Moscoso was reviewing numerous pardon requests for prisoners, including the four exiles, but had not yet decided whether to grant them before her term expires on Aug. 31.

Cuba has been complaining about the alleged pardon plan since Aug. 12. But the breaking point came Sunday, when Cuba issued a statement threatening to break off relations with Panama if the four men were pardoned.

''Cuba really disrespected us,'' Arias said in a phone interview from Panama City. ``They went too far.''

Moscoso told reporters Monday that Panama ''cannot be subjected to interference or threats by any foreign government.'' She added that ''these declarations are disrespectful and unacceptable to the dignity and sovereignty'' of her country.

Moscoso said that while recalling Panama's ambassador did not mean an end to diplomatic or commercial relations with Cuba, it placed both in a delicate position.

Efforts to reach Cuban officials for comment were unsuccessful Monday.

The four Cuban exiles, convicted in April of endangering the public safety, were arrested in 2000 after Castro, in Panama for a heads-of-state summit, complained at a news conference that the exiles were in Panama and plotting to kill him. They were cleared of charges of attempted murder and possession of 33 pounds of military-grade explosives.

The men have claimed they were in Panama to help a Cuban army general defect during Castro's visit and that they were framed by Cuban security agents.

Pedro Remón and Guillermo Novo, both of Miami, were sentenced to seven years. Miamian Guillermo Jiménez and Posada Carriles, formerly of El Salvador, got an additional year for using false passports to enter Panama.

Posada has both admitted and denied that he arranged a string of terror bombings in Havana in 1997. He has denied charges that he was involved in the 1976 midair bombing of a Cuban jetliner that killed 73 people.

Source:The Miami Herald