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Posted May 19, 2003 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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BY CHARLES D. SHERMAN | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Miami Herald

A top Cuban official charged in an interview broadcast Sunday that Gov. Jeb Bush is pressing his brother, President Bush, to bring down the government of Fidel Castro.

Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Ricardo Alarcon, the leader of Cuba’s National Assembly, said Florida’s governor was urging President Bush to invade the island.

‘‘You have, first of all, those in Miami that are calling for even a military action against Cuba, including the governor,’’ Alarcon said.

Later in the interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Alarcon said: “I am convinced that not very far from President Bush and his entourage are people that are not just willing, but actively working toward that . . . [Jeb Bush] was very open, calling publicly in Florida to do in the neighborhood, in the nation of Cuba, what you just did to Iraq.’’

In recent weeks, U.S.-Cuban relations have reached a low point over the arrests and trials of 75 Cuban dissidents, who were given lengthy prison terms, and the expulsion on orders from the State Department of 14 Cuban diplomats from Washington and New York.

Following the broadcast of the ABC interview, a spokeswoman for Gov. Bush dismissed Alarcon’s charges.

Alia Faraj, Gov. Bush’s press secretary, said that the governor has not changed his views on Cuba. ‘‘Gov. Bush has been very clear in his position that he does not condone Castro’s repressive regime,’’ she said, according to a report from The Associated Press.

“Americans should continue to show their support for the brave men and women who continue to seek change through continued support of an economic embargo and travel restrictions.’‘

Gov. Bush was reported to be in Austin for the graduation of his son, George P. Bush, from law school.

In the interview, Alarcon also pointed to a March 28 demonstration in Miami that featured some members of Congress and included a banner that read, “Iraq now, Cuba next.’‘

FITTING `PATTERN’

Joe Garcia, spokesman for the Cuban American National Foundation, said Sunday that Alarcon’s statements fit a pattern used in times of stress by the Castro government. ‘‘This is a regime that for the last 44 years has been preparing for a U.S. invasion,’’ Garcia said.

“Anytime they are suffering a crisis, they externalize it. It is someone else’s fault—the Miami mafia, the U.S. or puppet leaders in Latin America.’‘

Garcia said Alarcon’s harsh rhetoric and his claims that the United States is seeking a pretext to invade Cuba is an attempt to find a way to negotiate with the Bush administration on several issues, including migration and trade.

‘‘The problem is that Fidel Castro negotiates with human lives,’’ Garcia said.

EXPELLED DIPLOMATS

Alarcon’s accusation follows statements by Cuba’s Foreign Ministry characterizing the U.S. expulsion of 14 diplomats on Tuesday as an effort to provoke conflict.

The State Department said it had ordered the diplomats to return to Cuba for various transgressions, including monitoring and surveillance, association with known criminals, and the attempted recruitment of spies.

Cuba, meanwhile, has been criticized internationally for the recent sentencing of 75 dissidents to prison terms ranging from six to 28 years on charges of collaborating with U.S. officials to undermine Cuba’s communist government.

Cuba has also been widely condemned for the April 11 execution of three accused hijackers of a ferry boat they seized in effort to reach the United States.

Castro said the executions were necessary to stem further hijackings.

This report was supplemented with material from the Associated Press.

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