MIAMI A Cuban diplomat who disappeared with her husband from her post at the Cuban embassy in Mexico last month has told relatives they are "safe in the United States," the Miami Herald reported on Saturday.
Yusimil Casanas, 25, who worked in the passport section of Cuba's Mexico City embassy, and her husband Michel Rojas, 32, disappeared on March 17 and the embassy car assigned to them was found parked near the U.S. embassy in the Mexican capital, the Herald said, citing family members.
Cuban, U.S. and Mexican authorities have all declined to comment on the apparent defection by the Cuban diplomat.
The Miami Herald quoted an uncle of Casanas, Esteban Casanas Lostal, who lives in Canada, as saying that the missing diplomat called her mother in Cuba on Thursday and reported that she and Rojas were "safe in the United States" but that she could not reveal exactly where they were.
A cousin of Rojas in Miami, Jose Carrasco, told the Miami Herald Casanas' husband had called his mother, father and a cousin in Cuba on Thursday to pass on the same message.
The family members told the newspaper they believed Casanas, who had previously worked in the personal office of former Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, ousted in a purge last year, was being questioned by U.S. intelligence officials, the normal practice in such a defection.
Casanas also previously served in the Cuban mission at the United Nations in New York, her uncle told the Miami Herald.
Perez Roque's dismissal last year along with former Vice President Carlos Lage was part of a major shake-up of Cuba's government by President Raul Castro, who took over the presidency from his ailing elder brother Fidel Castro in 2008.
Cuban authorities circulated surveillance testimony alleging Perez Roque and Lage, both originally tipped by analysts as possible future younger Cuban leaders, had betrayed the trust of the aging Castro leadership.
Raul Castro's government has come under intense international criticism since the February 23 death of jailed dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died after an 85-day hunger strike to protest prison conditions in Cuba.
Cuba's rulers are also struggling with an economic crisis triggered by sharp cuts in revenues due to the global economic downturn and long-standing inefficiencies in the island's socialist system. They blame their woes on a U.S. trade embargo against Cuba and have ruled out any shift toward capitalism.
(Writing by Pascal Fletcher, Editing by Eric Walsh)