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Last Updated: Friday, 9 March 2007, 12:55 GMT
Cubans land during US coast drill
Operation Vigilant Sentry
The operation had been planned before Fidel Castro fell ill
Forty Cuban migrants sneaked ashore in Florida as a training exercise designed to deal with a possible mass exodus from Cuba was under way, officials say.

They were found on two beaches. A US border patrol spokesman said the case enhanced the realism of the exercise.

The two-day Operation Vigilant Sentry, which ended on Thursday, involved 325 agents and 85 law enforcement agencies.

Most Cubans who reach US shores are allowed to stay - those intercepted at sea are usually returned to Cuba.

Preparedness

Over two days, hundreds of law enforcement agents enacted a scenario which imagined thousands of Cubans fleeing violence in the event of the death of President Fidel Castro.

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Officials said the training exercise had been planned before Mr Castro fell ill last July.

But the operation took on a renewed urgency when he temporarily handed over power to his brother, Raul.

President Castro recently spoke in a live broadcast with his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez, but has not been seen in public since last year.

Coast Guard Rear Adm David Kunkel said: "It's a mass migration plan in general. It doesn't have to be from Cuba.

"However we do recognise that Cuba is certainly an area where we must be prepared."


SEE ALSO
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02 Mar 06 |  Americas

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