By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
FOREIGN Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell yesterday denied that the Bahamian government “tolerated” and “allowed” the Cuban government to intimidate a key witness in a hearing to determine whether Bahamian marines abused detainees at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre last year.
Last Thursday, Miami-based Cuban exile group Democracy Movement raised concerns that Yordan Cantero may have changed his version of events during the hearing because of “intimidation tactics” by the Cuban government that have been “suspiciously quietly tolerated as legitimate by some high ranking Bahamian authorities.”
Ramon Sanchez, leader of the group, further criticised the hearings saying the process is “plagued with irregularities, secrecy and doubts about transparency produced by the Cuban and Bahamian governments.”
He said: “Yordan Cantero arrived at the Bahamas (last week) Sunday to testify closely accompanied by two Cuban state police agents and was taken back to Cuba immediately after he testified in the proceeding being held in a military base without public or press access.”
Mr Sanchez’s comments came in a statement following remarks from lawyer Wayne Munroe, who is representing the accused marines. Mr Munroe said that Mr Cantero’s testimony last week Tuesday before a Royal Bahamas Defence Force panel changed from his original statement.
However, Mr Mitchell dismissed Mr Sanchez’s concerns as “propaganda” from an “anti-Bahamian group”.
“The true position is that the witness arrived in the Bahamas unaccompanied by anyone on Sunday, July 27.
“He was met at the airport by a representative from the Cuban embassy and accommodations were provided in a local hotel at the expense of the Bahamas government,” Mr Mitchell’s statement said.
“Out of an abundance of caution, he was provided with security by local law enforcement officials.
“On Tuesday, July 29, he gave and completed his evidence in the inquiry which was conducted at the Royal Bahamas Defence Force base at Coral Harbour. He returned to Cuba, unaccompanied on Wednesday, July 30.”
Mr Cantero, Carlos Pupo and Alexander Vazcuez were allegedly beaten after they attempted to break out of the Detention Centre on May 20, 2013. Hearings into their allegations reconvened last week.
The proceedings initially began in November after a series of protests against the Bahamas and statements by the Democracy Movement.
The proceedings were adjourned last week Tuesday, according to Mr Munroe, to allow the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “reasonable time” to locate Mr Vazcuez whose testimony is the final piece of evidence needed to wrap up the prosecution’s case.
However, Lorenzo J Palomares-Starbuck, attorney representing Mr Vazcuez told The Tribune by e-mail that his client was residing in Miami and was willing to testify via Skype or through a deposition at the law offices of the Palomares-Starbuck and Associates in Florida.
Mr Vazcuez told a Florida talk show host last week that his client suffers from psychological problems and chronic spinal pain more than a year after the alleged incident.