Cuba Rejects U.S. Order to Expel Diplomat

Official Told to Fight Spying Allegations

Feb. 20, 2000


-- Cuba said Saturday that it will not willingly bring home a Washington based diplomat targeted for expulsion, and instead will instruct him to defend himself against accusations of spying.

Cuba accused the U.S. government of using the espionage issue to try to block 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez's return to his communist homeland.

"The government of Cuba will not pull back any official," Fernando Remirez, head of the Cuban mission in Washington, said in a statement broadcast Saturday afternoon at a huge televised rally in eastern Cuba.

He said the government would recommend that the Cuban official "remain in United States territory to give testimony and demonstrate the total falseness of this accusation."

Diplomat given 7 days to leave U.S.

Remirez statement was the first official reaction here to the U.S. State Department's announcement earlier in the day that it had ordered the expulsion of a Cuban diplomat linked to a Cuban-born U.S. Immigration official arrested in Miami on spy charges. The diplomat, whose name was not released, was given seven days to leave the country.

President Fidel Castro, Remirez, and other top members of the communist government leadership were among the tens of thousands in the audience at the rally in Santiago called to press for the return of the 6-year-old to his father in Cuba.

Elian has been at the center of an international tug-of-war since Nov. 25 when he was rescued off the coast of Florida. His mother and 10 others perished in the sea journey from Cuba to the United States.

"This (the expulsion) takes place exactly 3-1/2 days before the hearing in federal court in South Florida that must analyze and make a decision about the motion by the kidnappers of the boy Elian Gonzalez against the decision by the INS in favor of his return," Remirez statement said.

"It is very clear and impossible to hide the attempt to strongly pressure and influence the federal judge's decision with this desperate and spectacular maneuver," it said.

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