1980 diplomatic protection incident at the Peruvian Embassy, Havana

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On 4 April 1980, the Embassy of Peru in Havana granted diplomatic protection to over 10,000 Cuban citizens, located in the embassy's property of about only 2,000 square meters, eventually allowing over 120,000 Cubans to leave the country, since the incident lead to the so-called Mariel boatlift.[1] Peruvian diplomat Ernesto Pinto Bazurco Rittler spearheaded the diplomatic effort to protect Cubans, most of whom were disapproved of by the Fidel Castro government and seeking diplomatic protection at the Peruvian embassy.[2]


During the night of April 4 to April 5, Pinto Bazurco Rittler negotiated with Fidel Castro the status of the Cubans occupying the Peruvian embassy, whether they should be considered refugees or asylum seekers; they concluded to label them simply as "emigrating people".[3] With this resolved, the Cuban government collaborated in the orderly departure of the emigrating Cubans over the following days.[3] Another 34 persons, who had been under the diplomatic protection of the embassy during the preceding months, could also leave the country.[3]

The Cuban government also consented to guarantee the safety of the Peruvian embassy, given that some of the emigrating persons had violently forced their way onto the embassy grounds.[1] Nonetheless, the police guard was withdrawn, which represented a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.[4]


This incident opened a new chapter in international law and peace-making in Latin America, and furthermore lead to the Mariel boatlift, the mass emigration of about 125.000 Cubans to the U.S.[5] The Peruvian Ambassador Ernesto Pinto Bazurco Rittler received the Palmer Award in 2011 and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for his commitment to defend the human rights in Cuba.


  1. ^ a b Verdon, Lexie. "Thousands in Cuba Ask Peruvian Refuge", The Washington Post
  2. ^ "Cuba Gives Food, Water to Thousands at Peru's Embassy", The Washington Post
  3. ^ a b c Pinto-Bazurco Rittler, Ernesto. "En las Barbas de Fidel", Caretas
  4. ^ "Havana Removes Guard From Peruvian Embassy", The New York Times
  5. ^ Calderón Urtecho, Félix C. (2002) Alerta roja! Fugitivos en La Habana. Historia de la invasión a la Embajada del Perú en 1980.