More than 1,500 Cubans have sought asylum in the Peruvian Embassy since yesterday, and the Cuban government said today they will be allowed to leave the country.
A statement said the political refugees are authorized to go to Peru, Venezuela or "any other country that will give them visas." The Cubans said, however, that anyone who entered by force would not be allowed to leave.
Until now, authorization to leave Cuba was limited to the beneficiaries of an amnesty accorded last year to 3,600 political prisoners and the parents and children of Cuban emigres.
The cubans seeking asylum have slipped onto the embassy grounds since the Cuban government decided yesterday to remove its police guard from outside the diplomatic mission.
The refugees, including children, pregnant women and elderly Cubans, jammed the mission grounds. They asked the International Red Cross to send them food and requested that a Catholic priest visit them.
Havana's decisioon to withdraw the guard came three days after a police officer posted outside the embassy was killed by a stray bullet as a group of Cubans braved gunfire to ram their way to the embassy grounds in a stolen bus.
It was one of several such incidents in the last two months. Before yesterday, 25 Cubans took refuge in the Peruvian mission and another 15 in the nearby Venezuelan Embassy, where Cubans had used buses, trucks and even armored vehicles in desperate bids to gain asyllum by entering diplomatic territory.
In an effort to halt the increasing movement of Cubans into Latin American dimplomatic compounds, Cuban authorities at first announced they would no longer grant safe conduct to people who enter embassy premises by violent means.
Peruvians at the embassy said Cuban President Fidel Castro met with the Peruvian charge d'affaires, Ernesto Pinto, yesterday, but they gave no details of their discussion.
Earlier today, before the Castro government announced that the refugees would be allowed to emigrate, an official communique from Lima sharply criticized Cuba for withdrawing its guards from the embassy. The Peruvian Foreign Ministry also said Peru would hold the Cuban government responsible for any consequences of the withdrawal.
By yesterday afternoon, 150 Cubans had taken advantage of the pullout to enter the Peruvian compound in the Miramar residential area west of the capital.
Later hundreds more joined them by jumping the 4 1/2-foot railings, until there were 600 in the 1,600-square-yard chancery park adjacent to the official residence.
The refugees sought support from the U.N. Human Rights Commission and appealed to the papal nuncio here, asking him to convey their cause to Pope John Paul II.