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Posted September 08, 2004 by Dana Garrett in Cuba Human Rights

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Canadian Press


HAVANA (AP) - Diego Maradona’s doctors hope a tough paternal role by President Fidel Castro will help the former Argentine World Cup hero finally cure his drug addiction in Cuba, Argentina’s ambassador said Tuesday.

The doctors plan to ask Castro to take advantage of ``the friendly relationship he has with Maradona to become a strict father’’ to him when he returns here for treatment, Ambassador Raul Taleb told reporters in Havana.

Basing his comments on a recent conversation with Maradona’s doctor Alfredo Cahe, Taleb said the former sports great would receive no special privileges in Cuba and could be returned to Argentina - and even lose his property - if he failed to follow the court-ordered treatment plan.

When Maradona returns to Cuba in the coming days for treatment, he will stay in a locked psychiatric centre, Taleb said. While undergoing treatment in Cuba in the past, Maradona stayed at the upscale La Pradera health tourism resort, where he could come and go as he pleased and invite people to his guest house.

Castro has characterized himself as a friend and admirer of Maradona, and in early July said he hoped Maradona could return to Cuba, where he spent several years undergoing treatment for drug problems.

Castro himself has not publicly commented on the ruling Monday by a federal judge in Buenos Aires that Maradona could return to Cuba. Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said Tuesday that Maradona would be welcomed on the island.

``The affection that the Argentines feel is similar that which we Cubans feel (for Maradona),’’ Perez Roque told reporters who asked him about the former sports star at an unrelated event Monday morning. ``He loves our country, he trusts our doctors and he will receive all our support.’‘

It was not immediately announced when Maradona would travel to the island, but Cahe has said it could be as soon as Friday.

Maradona, who bears a tattoo of Castro’s face on one leg, has also expressed admiration for the Cuban leader and received at least one visit from the president during his earlier stay here.

Maradona, 43, has been receiving treatment in Argentina since early May, after twice being rushed to a clinic for heart and lung problems.

An admitted cocaine addict, the former Argentine captain had been barred from leaving his native country after several family members sought a legal injunction to keep him from travelling without their consent.

Maradona’s former wife and parents had reportedly urged him to continue treatment at home where he could be more closely monitored.

Maradona, who has been confined to a psychiatric hospital for the last three months, appealed to judicial authorities to let him go to Cuba, where he was in a drug rehabilitation program for four years before traveling to Argentina earlier this year.

Argentine Judge Norberto Garcia Vedia, who has been overseeing Maradona’s rehabilitation, said the family agreed to his request to seek treatment abroad as long as he was accompanied by a relative.

Maradona has said he would prefer to return to Cuba, where he insists he can remain out of the public eye.

Hector Leguizamon, a member of Maradona’s legal team, said Maradona was expected to travel to Cuba with his father, a sister and his personal physician to resume treatment at the Havana psychiatric center.

In Cuba, Maradona is to stay in the National Center for Mental Health, a sprawling complex of individual houses with red-tile roofs in a quiet, palm-tree dotted neighborhood in western Havana.

A portrait of revolutionary icon Ernesto ``Che’’ Guevara marks the main entrance to the center, described by Maradona’s doctor as a ``closed community.’’ Birds can be heard chirping in the peaceful, suburban-style setting.

Maradona led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title and 1990 final, and retired in 1997. In 2000, FIFA chose him and Pele as the greatest players in history.

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