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Miami Radio Host Wins Release of Cuban Refugees

Radio host Javier Ceriani (left) is trying to secure the release of Armando Pinero (center), an Cuban refugee being held in a Mexican immigration facility in Chetumal.

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It looks like another Che is having a big impact on the Cuban community – but not for his affiliation to Fidel Castro. Javier Ceriani, a Miami Spanish language radio host who dubs himself “The Eagle,” has plucked several Cubans from their limbo in Mexico.

The towering Buenos Aires native -- whose long, pampered blonde locks puts Fabio’s to shame -- has been on a campaign to free fifteen undocumented Cubans who were being held in two separate Mexican immigration detention facilities since this past June. Ceriani’s involvement began in early December of last year when he hosted the Miami relatives of the detainees on his morning radio program "Zona Cero" on Clasica 92.3 FM. They were seeking public support to free their loved ones. “What these people were going through was a terrible situation,” Ceriani told New Times during an interview this past December 6. “What is going on in Mexico is a Pandora’s box.”

Ceriani was referring to the plight of undocumented Cubans going to Mexico to enter the United States as opposed to crossing the Florida Straits. Some 9,296 Cubans crossed the border into the Lone Star State between October 1, 2006, and July 22, 2007, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That's more than double the 4,589 who crossed or were picked up by the Coast Guard in the Florida Straits during the same period. In a majority of the cases of Cubans intercepted at sea, Mexican authorities will detain the refugees for more than six months while they seek political asylum. That is what happened with the fifteen Cubans, who were picked up by a Mexican Naval vessel in international waters near the Yucatan Peninsula.

In mid-December, Ceriani flew to Chetumal and Tapachula, where the Cubans were being held, to meet with Mexican immigration authorities to plead for their release. It appears Ceriani’s persistence is starting to pay off. In the past few days, Mexican authorities have freed Cubans Eduardo Quintero, Yadeli Espi Bermudes and her husband Jorge Luis Arencibia, who had staged a 20-day hunger strike until the local radio personality convinced him to call it off. Still in custody is Alexander Pedraza Martinez, whose saga is documented in this week’s cover story. -- Francisco Alvarado

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