HAVANA — Cuba said Saturday that it does not want to use force to halt Cubans trying to leave the island, but it urged the United States to apply its own immigration laws and stop encouraging illegal escape attempts.
"We absolutely do not want to hold back by force, and especially not through the use of arms, those who wish to emigrate," the official Cuban newspaper, Granma, said in a front-page editorial.
"We only want the United States to be faithful to its own laws and its own interests," said the paper, mouthpiece of Cuba's ruling Communist Party.
It went on: "Let the United States admit all those it wants to accept through normal safe channels, and let there be no encouragement of illegal departures."
The editorial followed a sharp exchange of protests between Havana and Washington over recent incidents, some of them violent, involving would-be Cuban asylum seekers trying to flee to the United States, either by themselves or with the help of refugee smugglers from the United States.
Granma repeated a statement made by Cuban Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina Gonzalez on Thursday that angrily denied U.S. allegations last week that Cuban border guards had killed at least four Cubans trying to swim to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay.
Washington has protested over another incident July 1 in which Cuban frontier troops fired at a U.S.-registered boat trying to pick up refugees on the Cuban coast near Havana. Three Cubans were killed and several more people, including an American citizen who was captured, were wounded.
Cuban authorities confirmed the Havana incident and two other recent seizures of U.S.-registered launches trying to pick up Cuban refugees.