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Cuba Cancels Prisoner Swap as Radio Marti Goes on Air : Cooperation on Hijackers Also Periled

May 20, 1985|From Times Wire Services

MIAMI — Radio Marti started beaming U.S. news and commentary into Cuba today and an angry President Fidel Castro promptly cut off an immigration pact between the two countries and threatened to end cooperation to punish hijackers.

The Cuban announcement was Radio Marti's lead news story as it went on the air at 5:30 a.m.

Cuba also apparently attempted to jam the new station's signal. FCC spokesman William A. Russell Jr. said U.S. government monitoring stations detected a tone being transmitted from Cuba on the same frequency as Radio Marti within hours of the first broadcast from its Washington studio.

Radio Havana announced that the Cuban government is terminating a Dec. 14 agreement with the United States in response to the start-up of Radio Marti, the brainchild of the American right wing with a $10-million budget.

"The Cuban government has decided to suspend all kinds of the proceedings relating to the execution of immigration," Radio Havana said. In addition, the broadcast said Cuban-Americans will be barred from traveling to Cuba.

3,000 Prisoners Expected

Under a special section of an immigration treaty signed in December, as many as 3,000 Cuban political prisoners and their families were expected to arrive in the United States this year.

The agreement stipulated that a maximum of 20,000 Cuban immigrants could come to the United States each year if Cuba allowed the return of 2,700 "undesirable" Cubans in U.S. prisons and mental health facilities.

The "undesirables," most of whom arrived during the 1980 Mariel boat lift, began returning to Cuba in February.

The Radio Havana announcement was made only hours after the first 11 Cuban political prisoners and their relatives arrived at Miami International Airport under the terms of the new agreement.

At the White House, presidential spokesman Larry Speakes at first said that not only had Cuba responded by suspending the Mariel agreement but also suspended an airplane hijacking agreement.

'Right to Reconsider'

At a later briefing, however, Speakes corrected himself and said Cuba had said it "reserves the right to reconsider collaboration" with the United States on a treaty providing for the return of hijackers but had not actually suspended it.

Speakes said the Cuban government was informed Sunday that Radio Marti would go on the air today. "At that time they informed us of their actions which were obviously well-prepared in advance," Speakes said.

Radio Havana called the debut of Radio Marti "cynical and provocative" because it began transmitting on the anniversary of Cuban independence from Spain. It also said the naming of the station for Cuban patriot Jose Marti was a "gross insult."

When Radio Marti was under debate on Capitol Hill two years ago, Castro beamed back music and political programs that were heard as far away as Salt Lake City.

Few people in Cuba today were aware the broadcasts were going to start. Some said they might listen later this week but doubted the station would have much impact.

Little Effect Seen

"The Voice of America has been broadcasting to us for 25 years with little effect so I don't think Radio Marti will make much difference," one Cuban said.

"We can listen to plenty of American stations in Spanish and I don't think this one will make much difference--but the news about the immigration and the visits is a terrible blow," transport worker Eduardo Reyes said in Havana.

Reyes was anxiously lining up outside the main travel agent dealing with flights to the United States. He had hoped to leave Cuba for good within a few weeks.

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