In a stern warning to President Fidel Castro of Cuba, the Clinton administration says it will not permit a repeat of the 1980 Mariel boat lift, in which Cuba dropped emigration restrictions and 120,000 Cubans fled to the United States.
The warning was issued by the State Department on Friday night after administration officials became alarmed by Castro's threat to unleash a flood of refugees. The State Department also urged Cubans not to go along with Castro's "ploy."Castro's threat came after protesters clashed with police in Havana in an unusual display of political unrest. The clash followed a series of boat hijackings by people trying to flee Cuba, and Castro said that unless the United States stopped encouraging Cubans to flee by sea "we will stop blocking the departure of those who want to leave the country."
In its statement, the State Department tried to discourage an exodus while avoiding the impression that the United States was reluctant to accept Cubans fleeing communist Cuba.
"The United States has stated repeatedly that we will not permit Fidel Castro to dictate our immigration policy or to create a replay of the Mariel boat lift, a cynical move on the part of Castro in 1980," the State Department said.
"We urge the Cuban government to carefully consider all the implications of such incitement. We urge the citizens of Cuba and their relatives in the United States to remain calm and not to participate in this ploy of the Cuban government."