HAVANA Cuba called Hungary a "lackey" of the United States on Wednesday for granting political asylum to 29 Cubans emigres held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay since they were intercepted at sea.
"The government of Hungary acts as an accomplice of the Empire ... while Cuba resists the Empire and despises the lackey," a Cuban Foreign Ministry statement said.
Havana said the emigres picked up earlier this year on boats heading for the United States were not escaping political persecution by Cuba's communist authorities and were not opposition figures, as reported in Hungary.
It said they left Cuba for economic, not political, reasons.
Cuba said Hungary should concern itself with treating its Romany (gypsy) minority as "human beings" instead of granting political asylum to illegal Cuban emigres.
U.S. immigration authorities have been holding 44 Cubans caught at sea at its naval enclave at Guantanamo Bay in eastern Cuba while looking for countries willing to take them.
Hungary granted 29 of them asylum, with the United States paying for their rent, winter clothes and language courses for a year, the Hungarian news agency MTI reported on Saturday, quoting the Foreign Ministry in Budapest.
It said 17 of the Cubans ended a three-week hunger strike to protest against their detention when they found out that Hungary would take most of them.
Cuba also criticized Hungarian Foreign Minister Kinga Goncz for meeting with the anti-Castro "Mafia" in Miami and inviting exiled groups to Budapest.
Eastern European countries, formerly staunch allies of Fidel Castro's government before Soviet communism collapsed, have become Havana's fiercest critics for suppressing human and political rights.
The Cuban statement accused the United States of violating a 1995 migration agreement under which the U.S. Coast Guard is obliged to return to Cuba any illegal migrants caught trying to cross the Florida Straits.
Under the U.S. "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, Cubans who make it ashore in the United States get to stay because they are considered political refugees, which Cuba says only encourages more illegal and perilous crossings.