Talks between the United States and Cuba on reviving their suspended 1984 immigration accord have ended in disagreement because Cuba demanded the right to make radio transmissions to this country on a scale that would be "disruptive" to American broadcasting, the State Department said yesterday.
"The Cuban side insisted on proposals that would have required major and disruptive changes in the organization of radio broadcasting in the United States," department spokesman Bernard Kalb said in revealing that the talks Tuesday and Wednesday in Mexico City had been unsuccessful.
He added that proposals by the United States Information Agency "for implementing free competition of ideas without interference to U.S. broadcasting" had been rejected by Cuba. Kalb also said that no further negotiations are anticipated at this time.
That appeared to close off any immediate prospects for implementing the immigration accord under which Cuba would have taken back almost 3,000 Cuban criminals and mental patients who came to this country during the massive 1980 boatlift from the Cuban port of Mariel. In exchange, the United States agreed to accept some 3,000 former Cuban political prisoners and their families and resume issuing immigration visas for up to 20,000 Cubans a year.
The discussions in Mexico were aimed at getting the immigration agreement -- the only major avenue to broader U.S.-Cuban relations -- back on track after it was suspended by Cuban President Fidel Castro last year. He was retaliating against the beginning of broadcasts to Cuba by the U.S.-operated Radio Marti.
The latest negotiations came about after Cuba indicated that it might be ready to drop its original insistence that Radio Marti be dismantled and would settle instead for an agreement permitting it to beam its propaganda broadcasts to the United States on an AM radio frequency.
U.S. officials, who asked not to be identified, said that the Cubans in Mexico City had insisted on access to as many as four "clear channel frequencies," which would enable them to blanket much of the continental United States with Cuban-originated broadcasts.
The term "clear channel" refers to an AM facility that is authorized to use 50,000 watts of power and that has exclusive use of of a frequency in a specific area for up to 750 miles at night. No other station can beam its signal into the protected area. U.S. officials said the demands would interfere with American stations and violate Federal Communications Commission rules.
In addition, the U.S. officials said, the Cubans wanted the name of Jose Marti, regarded as the father of Cuban independence from Spain, dropped from the American-controlled station. That is a very sensitive matter for Castro because he regards Marti as the spiritual father of the communist revolution in Cuba and has denounced the efforts of Cuban exiles in this country to use Marti as a symbol of anti-Castro resistance.