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Many Cubans in south Florida were first stunned, then outraged, by Attorney General Janet Reno's announcement that Cubans intercepted at sea would be detained indefinitely.

"She needs to put herself in these people's shoes and think how she would feel after fleeing Cuba and then landing in jail," said Leticia Ramos, who was waiting at a refugee center to pick up two cousins fleeing Cuba."What this is is an insult to the Cuban people and nothing more," said Julia Barrera, one of several exiles in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood who expressed anger over the detention plan early Friday.

But Cubans in Miami said the detention policy is foolish because the refugees will have to be released eventually.

"What are they going to do?" exclaimed Jorge Pino, who arrived from Cuba years ago. "Put them in prison forever because they cannot even think of sending them back to be killed in Cuba?"

The change also raised fears at the Cuban Transit Center near Key West, where the U.S. Coast Guard has released hundreds of Cubans in recent days.

"I don't think that this is going to stop anything," said the center's medical director, Dr. Jose Castillo. "The only thing this is going to create is a lot of fear and bad feelings."

"Better to be in jail here than being in jail there," said Armando Medina, 18, who was plucked off the waters Thursday.

Daniel Ortiz, 23, who was picked up by the Coast Guard late Wednesday, didn't expect the exodus to stop. He said hundreds of people in his village of Cojimar, which has about 7,000 residents, were building rafts and making plans to flee.

"All the young men in Cojimar want to leave," said 35-year-old Jorge Bencomo, who made the trip with Ortiz. "It doesn't make any difference if they might die on the ocean or be locked up by the Americans."