Cuban President Fidel Castro has warned the United States against plotting to kill his most important ally, Venezuela’s leftist President Hugo Chavez.
Saturday, 12 February, 2005
By Anthony Boadle
HAVANA (Reuters) -
“I say to world public opinion: if they assassinate Chavez, the responsibility will fall squarely on the president of the United States, George W. Bush,” Castro said on Saturday.
The Cuban leader, who was the target of CIA assassination plots after his 1959 revolution steered Cuba toward Soviet Communism, gave no evidence that Chavez’s life was in danger.
But he said the United States would be responsible for killing Chavez even if the Venezuelan military was to carry out the assassination.
He added: “If they can eliminate him, they will.”
Populist Chavez has led oil-rich Venezuela into a close alliance with Cuba, raising fears in Washington of Cuban-style communism taking hold in the South American country, a major supplier of oil to the United States.
Castro, 78, boasted that he had survived at least 100 attempts on his life. CIA plots against him included such capers as poisoned cigars, an exploding conch shell and toxin to make his beard fall out.
“This comes from a survivor. I have survived,” he said in a nearly six-hour speech that lasted into the early hours of Saturday.
A DECISIVE STAGE
Closing a five-day conference of economists on the evils of globalization and free-market policies, Castro said the United States would be wasting its time trying to bump him off because socialism was well established and irreversible in Cuba.
But in Venezuela, Chavez’s so-called Bolivarian revolution was at a decisive stage, he said.
Castro said the U.S. government was furious with Chavez and agreements the two leaders signed in December that allow cash-strapped Cuba to pay for vital imports of Venezuelan oil with medical and educational services.
Cuba has 20,000 doctors, dentists, teachers and sports trainers in Venezuela, mainly working in pro-Chavez slums. Castro said the number would rise to 30,000 by the end of the year.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Castro has repeatedly accused the Bush administration of wanting to attack Cuba to oust his government, a charge vehemently denied by U.S. officials.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice added to Cuban fears of American intervention by dubbing the one-party island state an “outpost of tyranny” during her Senate confirmation hearing last month.
Castro said Cubans were well prepared to defend themselves with guerrilla tactics down to the last man and woman.
“I will fight until death. I will die with all the rest,” he said.
Rice also reinforced a barrage of U.S. criticism of Chavez, citing what she called his autocratic measures at home and his negative influence in the region.