Cuba said yesterday it would ignore President Carter's announced halt of a boatlift that has brought an estimated 46,000 Cuban refugees to Florida over the last several weeks. It issued what amounted to a dare to Carter to stem the flood of new immigrants.
"The question of whether to permit the departure of boats from Florida is a matter for Carter to decide," said an editorial in the official Communist Party newspaper Granma, published in Havana yesterday. "We'll see how he manages it."
"Carter governs in Florida," said the newspaper, which is considered the mouthpiece for official government views. "But in Mariel," the Cuban port where the refugees are being picked up, "Cuba governs. And in Mariel, there is freedom to enter and leave."
The editorial was made available here by the Cuban diplomatic interests section. It provided the first Cuban response to Carter's announcement Thursday that vessels bringing refugees into the United States would be seized and their owners fined. The editorial did not comment on reports that Cuban gunboats had blocked the port at Mariel to any ship attempting to leave without a load of refugees.
Granma did note that "all ships from Florida are free to return to the United States at the moment and in the manner they wish." Cuban officials said this meant the ships could leave with or without refugees.
The editorial also denied U.S. government and media charges that the Cuban government is packing the boats, sailed to Mariel both by commercial enterprises and the exile families of Cuban citizens, with criminals and mentally ill persons.
"It is true that delinquents have left," Granma said. "We've said that repeatedly and have said that the great majority" of those who want to go to the United States "are not 'dissidents' but rather delinquents," the term Cuba uses to refer to both criminals and those publicly dissatisfied with the government.
"Now," it continued, "the United States says it does not want to turn itself into a garbage heap for Cuban rabble." But the United States, the editorial said, by "encouraging and treating as heroes" those who previously managed to escape the island by hijacking boats and sailing to Miami, "has the sole responsibility for having stimulated the exit of these elements." "
Granma said that "absolutely no one who has left from Mariel has been deported; all have left voluntarily. We have allowed, it is true, the exit of elements with past criminal histories -- robbery, gambling, drugs, prostitution . . . we have not allowed, nevertheless, the exit of those implicated in violent crimes . . . It is also a vile lie to say that we have sent the mentally ill to the United States."
Meanwhile, Reuter reported from Havana that hundreds of Cuban exiles who came there to look for relatives wanting to leave the island spent yesterday trying to find out whether they would be able to sail back to Florida.
Many had been staying in Havana's Triton Hotel as they searched for family members or waited for them to be given emigration papers. Yesterday morning, the hotel was almost empty after the exiles returned on government buses to Mariel, 15 miles west of Havana, to find out the reactions of Cuban authorities at the port to Carter's announcement and the attitude of the captains of the boats they had chartered.
At the same time, Reuter said, preparations increased for tomorrow's "March of the Fighting People" past the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana. More than a million Cubans are expected to take part in the protest against U.S. policy toward Cuba.
Reuter said Communist Party members at workplaces have been telling workers they will lose a day's pay if they do not take part in the march, and neighborhood committee members have been going from door to door to drown up support.
The marchers are to demand the lifting of the trade embargo maintained against Cuba by Washington since 1961, closure of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo in eastern Cuba, and the ending of U.S. reconnaissance overflights.
Nearly 400 would-be Cuban emigres are currently sheltered in the U.S. mission, located along Havana's broad waterfront boulevard.They took refuge there following an attack by pro-government Cubans as they stood outside waiting for visas.
From Nassau, Bahamas, news agencies reported that Cuba said it will resume talks on MIG 23 jet raids last weekend which sank a Bahamian patrol boat and killed four seamen.
The talks, which began Monday, were suspended Tuesday when Cuban Foreign Minister Isidoro Malmierca asked for more time to study the situation.
The Bahamas is demanding reparations and an "appropriate apology" for the attack. The Cuban government has publicly agreed to negotiate the amount of reparations, but the discussions could snag over the apology issue because of Cuban contentions that the incident was caused by U.S. CIA agitation.
Bahamian External Affairs Ministers Paul L. Adderley denied there was any Bahamian involvement with U.S. intelligence activity and said he did not want the Cubans "to think they can use us as a pawn in their international affairs."
At the United Nations in New York, Cuba reiterated yesterday that if the sunk vessel actually was a Bahamian patrol boat, it sincerely regretted the incident.