Miami Beach, Florida Remarks to Reporters Serving the Local Hispanic American Community.
THE PRESIDENT. Would you all rather that I read it in English or struggle in Spanish?
THE PRESIDENT. Really? Okay. You might have to interpret what I say, but I'll try.
[In Spanish] It is a pleasure for me to be in Miami to speak to the Cuban-American community through the local Spanish language press.
These past weeks have been both rewarding and difficult for all of us. Over 100,000 Cubans have come to our shores in a spontaneous and dramatic expression of their faith in freedom, of their desire to escape the oppressive Castro regime, and a desire to reunite long-separated families.
We thank God that so few lives were lost during the dangerous sea voyages. The United States Coast Guard and the Navy have saved thousands of lives during the past 7 weeks. I join every American in congratulating both organizations for their good work. We could not permit this unsafe and uncontrollable flotilla to continue. That is why on May 14, I announced that we must replace it with a safe and orderly process of bringing close family members and political prisoners from Cuba to the United States.
We will continue to insist that the 362 Cubans in the U.S. Interest Section in Havana be allowed to depart for the United States immediately and that families be reunited and political prisoners be permitted to enter our country in complete accordance with our Nation's laws. We will not stand idly by while Castro willfully seeks to violate those laws or our immigration process.
Among the many people fleeing oppression in Cuba, Fidel Castro has cynically included several hundred hardened criminals from Cuban jails. We will take all legal steps to ensure that under no circumstances will these criminals be resettled or relocated in American communities. There is evidence that the Cuban Government exported these undesirable elements to the United States in a calculated effort to support a propaganda contention that all of those Cubans who have come to this country are undesirable. The truth is that the vast majority are law-abiding citizens whose only purpose is to seek freedom and to be reunited with their families.
This despicable action of Castro is a violation of international law and practice, and the government of Cuba is obligated to accept the return of those criminals. I have directed the Secretary of State to press these issues through diplomatic channels and in appropriate international forums.
With the help of the Cuban-American community and others throughout the country, we have already resettled more than half of the Cubans with their families. Others await resettlement at temporary staging centers. We are working diligently to locate sponsors for eligible people and to reunite families as quickly as possible. The continuing cooperation and support of the Cuban-American community are essential if these efforts are to be successful.
I will soon be making recommendations to the Congress concerning the legal status and benefits to be made available to those Cubans and Haitians who have come to our country over the last few months. I am mindful that the Federal Government must bear its fair share of the resettlement, and other costs, so that the particular State and local governments involved will not be unduly burdened by such costs. If we are to reunite more Cuban-American families and allow Cuban political prisoners to live free of persecution, we need your help.
The dangerous and disorderly flow of boats from Cuba is just about at an end. Only if it remains stopped will the Castro government have any reason to agree to orderly procedures that would allow other Cubans to find freedom.
We and other nations have already proposed to the Cuban Government the negotiation of such arrangements. We need the continued support and cooperation of Cuban Americans for these efforts to succeed.
During the last 20 years, the Cuban-American community has distinguished itself by its hard work, by its enterprise and patriotism, and has contributed greatly to our Nation. Our Nation now needs your help both in keeping the illegal flow from Cuba stopped and in resettling and assimilating the Cubans who have recently arrived. As your President, I call upon you for that help.
I am pleased to announce that Mr. Sergio Perrera, a Cuban American who is currently working in Dade County, will join my administration as an adviser to the State Department on the resettlement program.
Thank you very much.
[The President answered questions in English.]
Q. Mr. President, what's your position regarding Castro's demands of lifting the blockade on the Guantanamo Naval Base?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know about any demand that we lift a blockade on the Guantanamo Base. There is no blockade on the Guantanamo Base.
Q. Castro is demanding the surrendering of the Guantanamo Base, the lifting of the economic blockade, and the stop of the recognition plans.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, we have a longterm agreement with Cuba, signed before Castro took power and confirmed by him after he became the leader of Cuba, that confirms our use of the Guantanamo Base. And this is an international agreement, confirmed under international law; and it is being carried out meticulously in accordance with its terms; and we have no intention of abandoning this agreement even though Castro demands it now, since he confirmed it himself after he became the leader of Cuba.
Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 5:40 p.m. outside the Fontainebleau Hotel.
As printed above, the translation of the President's remarks in Spanish follows the press release.
Jimmy Carter, Miami Beach, Florida Remarks to Reporters Serving the Local Hispanic American Community. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/252212