Reply-To: "pedro martori"
From: "pedro martori"
Subject: Castro 'Playing With Fire'...
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Date: Wed, 7 Jan 2004 15:38:41 -0500
NNTP-Posting-Date: Wed, 07 Jan 2004 15:38:34 EST
Organization: Bell Sympatico
Posted on Tue, Jan. 06, 2004
U.S. Official: Castro 'Playing With Fire'
NEW YORK - The U.S. administration's point man on Latin America
accused Fidel Castro on Tuesday of promoting "provocative" policies to
destabilize democratic governments and warned the Cuban leader he was
"playing with fire."
Roger Noriega, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere
affairs, also singled out Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, calling on him
to observe the rule of law in the run-up to a possible referendum on his
Speaking at a news conference following a speech at the Council of the
Americas, Noriega accused Castro, whom he called "a broken-down, old
dictator who doesn't cast much of a shadow," of sowing unrest in some
countries in the region. He did not identify the countries.
"It should be very clear to Fidel Castro that his actions have caught
the attention of Latin America leaders and that his actions to destabilize
Latin America are increasingly provocative to the inter-American community,"
"Those that continue in destabilizing democratically elected
governments, interfering in the internal affairs of other governments, are
playing with fire," he said.
Bush administration officials have expressed growing concern about
ties between Castro and Chavez, who is a close friend of Castro and a vocal
critic of U.S. policies. Chavez opponents are hoping to stage a referendum,
possibly this summer, that would recall the leftist leader and lawmakers who
U.S. officials told The Associated Press that Cuba and Venezuela are
working together to oppose pro-American, democratic governments in the
region with money, political indoctrination and training, such as in Ecuador
and Uruguay. Venezuelan resources may have helped in the October ouster of
Bolivia's elected, pro-American president, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada,
according to the officials, who declined to be named.
Venezuelan officials accuse the U.S. government of using slander and
defamation to weaken their country. Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente
Rangel demanded the United States provide proof that Venezuela helped
finance the ouster of Sanchez de Lozada.
"If they have any evidence ... they should put it on the table so we
can discuss it," Rangel told reporters in Caracas Tuesday. "What proof do
they have of these statements?"
Noriega also expressed concern with some of Argentina's recent foreign
policy decisions. He said the failure of Argentine Foreign Minister Rafael
Bielsa to meet with Cuban dissidents when Bielsa visited Havana was
Bielsa said he made no visit because his ministry had not received "a
single concrete request" for such an encounter. However, the wives of
several imprisoned dissidents said they requested meetings several times.
Noriega also urged Argentina's President Nestor Kirchner to stick to a
$21 billion debt refinancing plan backed by the International Monetary Fund.
Buenos Aires's financial standing has been battered by an economic implosion
in December 2001 and massive $103 billion public debt default - the largest
default ever by a country.
Noriega's comments came just days before a special summit meeting of
Latin American leaders in Monterrey, Mexico, scheduled to begin Monday.
Leaders from 34 Western Hemisphere countries, including the United States,
Mexico Brazil and others, are expected to discuss promoting democracy, and
reducing poverty among other topics, according to summit organizers.
Noriega said that the United States wants Latin American leaders to
agree on deadlines for protecting property rights, fighting corruption and
He also said leaders should simplify regulations on remittances -
money sent from immigrants and workers in the United States to their home
countries - which he said should total some $30 billion this year.
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