Vice President Mondale issued a statement yesterday saying that President Carter has ordered Navy and Coast Guard ships to assist those caught in the storm. "The world will hold Castro responsible for the safety of these Cubans," Mondale said.
White House officials also accused the Cuban government of refusing to cooperate with Coast Guard attempts to aid ships carrying refugees by, for example, refusing to grant permission for U.S. ships to enter Cuban waters for rescue attempts. "It's almost as if they are looking for an accident," one White House aide said.
In his statement, the product of weekend meetings on the flood of Cuban refugees, Mondale called on Cuba to adopt a policy "that permits the orderly, safe and humane evacuation of refugees."
The vice president said the U.S. will contribute to this international effort."
Officials said the administration's goal is a return to some form of the multinational airlift of refugees to Costa Rica for screening and later dispersal to countries willing to accept them. Such a program was under way before Cuban president Fidel Castro announced that any cubans wishing to leave the country for the United States wwere free to go, an announcement that triggered the boatlift.
Calling Castro's action a "callous, cynical effort . . . to play on the emotions of the Cuban-American community in the United States," Mondale said in his statement:
"Castro has evaded hjis responsibility to his citizens, and has broken the commitment he made earlier to help with an orderly, prompt and humane evacuation of refugees."
Mondale also challenged Castro to release the "plantados," many of whom are in Boniato prison. These are political prisoners, numbering up to 400, who have refused all cooperation with the Castro government.
If these prisoners are freed, Mondale said, "we will have aircraft standing ready to bring them to freedom."