ALEXANDRIA, La. — A congressman says he doesn't believe he endangered the hostages held by Cuban inmates at the Oakdale Federal Detention Center when he said the detainees should be sent back to Cuba.
"I thought it was a fairly conservative statement. I don't think the statement was anything that would have led to someone being killed. . . . I'm not apologizing for anything," said Rep. Clyde C. Holloway (R-La.).
Cuban detainees rioted at Oakdale and a federal prison in Atlanta to protest a government announcement that it would deport some of them back to Cuba.
Holloway said he avoided reporters during the final days of the Oakdale siege because he didn't want his remarks to reach another group of Cubans holding hostages in Atlanta.
"We tried to stay away from the media . . . to make sure we didn't make a statement. Because I have very strong feelings in the matter and I felt if the paper were going to Atlanta, I wouldn't want someone reading it in Atlanta," he said.
After they were released Sunday, several former hostages said Holloway's comments nearly got them killed. Gary Marcantel said his Cuban captors' reaction to Holloway's statements was the only thing that frightened him during his eight days as a hostage.
"We never intended to jeopardize anything. I feel we were very careful about what we said," Holloway said.
The day after the fiery riots in which Cubans took over the federal detention center and while 28 hostages were still held, Holloway told reporters that the detainees should be deported.
"How many of the people of this country want to see them on the streets?" he was quoted as saying.
Holloway said now that the Cubans have been removed from the center, they should be given hearings quickly and then be sent back to Cuba.
"I think we have to hear each case. I think I could hear them all in one day and have them on their way back," he said.