Ronald Reagan today proposed a "Berlin airlift" type of rescue mission to evacuate 10,000 Cubans who have sought political asylum in the Peruvian embassy in Havana.
In a prepared statement read at a news conference here, Reagan said the United States should work with Latin American nations to find permanent resettlement homes for the Cubans who wanted to leave their country. Later, at an Amarillo news conference, Reagan said the United States should take in the refugees if no other country would adding that he didn't know "of any American that would stand there and slam the doors on them."
"This spontaneous break for freedom has not been equaled since the days before the communist government on East Germany built the wall of shame in August 1961 to prevent its people from escaping to freedom," Reagan said in Lubbock. "This is the most massive popular resistance to [Cuban President Fidel] Catro's rule in 20 years."
Reagan also commented on the threat of Iranian militants to kill U.S. hostages held in the American embassy if the United States takes military action against Iran.
The former California governor said that the U.S. government always has known that "an Entebbe-like raid" to rescue the hostages would result in their deaths. He said he did not favor such a raid, but that there were "other options," including a naval blockade and the mining of Iranian harbors, which the United States could pursue.
When Reagan was asked whether this was not also a military action, he replied that he did not believe the militants would kill the hostages because of a blockade or the use of mines.
As he has in the past, Reagan said that the United States should set a "date certain" for freeing the hostages and warn Iran that further action would be taken if they are not freed.
On the issue of the Cubans who have taken refuge in the Peruvian embassy, Reagan said that "the Carter administration has once again demonstrated it is simply incapable of a dealing with more than one crisis at a time."
He called on the administrtion to take immediate action, by working through the Peruvian government, other Latin American nations or such organizations as the Red Cross and the Organization of American States, "to provide for the immediate food, shelter and medical needs of Cuba's newest refugees."
If Cuba refuses, Reagan said, the United States should seek to mobilize world opinion in favor of such action.
". . . . The United States, with the cooperation of the government of Peru and other like-minded Latin Americans, must rally together to bring pressure on Cuba to allow a rescue mission of unprecendented proportions," Reagan said. "Such a rescue would be akin to the Berlin airlift -- massive and swift. The United States should offer to help with the means of transport necessary and should work closely with our Latin American neighbors to find appropriate opportunities for resettlement in the free nations of the Americas."
Reagan campaigned today in Lubbock and Amarillo at airport rallies. He is an overwhelming favorite to sweep the 80 Republican delegates to the GOP national convention in the May 3 Texas primary. Reagan was greeted in Lubbock with cheers and a balloon drop, which failed to materialize when dozens of balloons failed to emerge from their brown plastic bags and remained poised over Reagan's head throughout his speech.