HAVANA - Cuban Defense Minister Raul Castro said on Sunday that should the Communist state’s arch-enemy the United States invade Cuba its forces would pay a far heavier price than the U.S. troops occupying Iraq.
“Our people will pay a terrible price, but we will exact from the aggressors a high cost, be they the Yankees alone or with their cousins the British or Spanish,” Castro told reporters after attending a Veterans Day ceremony.
The Bush administration denies it plans to attack Cuba but since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March Cuban officials have expressed concern that they might be targeted too. Western diplomats say the government has used the prospect of such an invasion to rally Cubans.
Raul Castro, President Fidel Castro’s younger brother and designated successor, said the Bush administration’s doctrine of preemptive strikes and accusation that Cuba may have weapons of mass destruction amounted to direct military threats.
“The price they pay will be much higher (than in Iraq) and they are not going to dominate this country,” Castro said. Nearly 450 Americans have been killed in combat and non-combat incidents in Iraq since the March 20 invasion.
“For any invader who sticks a boot here, at the very least the boot with the foot inside will remain,” he said, adding there would be a mine and an ambush awaiting foreign troops every square meter of the country.
Cuba is the target of the longest and most comprehensive U.S. economic sanctions ever and is on Washington’s list of states that support international terrorism.
Cuba’s Defense Minister, who appeared robust and in good humor, had not been seen in public for weeks, leading to persistent rumors he had cancer or another terminal illness.
“I was dying of cancer but thanks to Cuban medicine ... I am almost well,” he joked with reporters. Castro said he had been busy working on the nation’s defense and Communist Party affairs.