Friday, December 23, 2005

Castro calls head of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana a 'little gangster'

Castro calls head of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana a 'little gangster'

December 23, 2005, 9:54 AM EST

HAVANA -- Cuban President Fidel Castro has called the head of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, Michael Parmly a "little gangster" for slamming the regime's human rights record.

Parmly, head of the U.S. interests section in Havana, criticized the Castro regime at a speech marking International Human Rights Day earlier this month.

"The Cuban regime's hurling of angry and often violent groups against pro-democratic dissidents is particularly disgusting," Parmly said, adding that such actions were akin to those of the Nazi brown shirts.

He called on the world to reject Castro's "outrageous crimes," pointing out that one out of every five imprisoned journalists in the world is in Cuba.

Castro said during a rambling speech to the rubber-stamp National Assembly on Thursday that he did not know who was worse -- "that little gangster," referring to Parmly or "the previous gangster" -- meaning Parmly's hard-charging predecessor, James Cason, who Castro earlier had described as a "bully."

Castro said he at first thought Parmly was a "respectful" diplomat but his opinion changed when he heard the human rights speech.

Earlier this week, a moderator on a state television round table condemned "the cynical and provocative activities" of the two US diplomats.

"They took Corporal Cason and left us Sergeant Parmly," the program moderator said.

The United States and Cuba broke off diplomatic relations in January 1961. For the next 16 years, the US was represented by the Swiss Embassy in Cuba. The US Interests Section, or USINT, opened on September 1, 1977, re-occupying the seven-story former US Embassy building.

But officially, according to the US State Department, USINT remains a part of the Swiss Embassy, to which American diplomats are accredited.

Parmly accused Castro of keeping citizens artificially poor because that way it was easier to control them. He said two million Cubans in the United States were richer than the entire Cuban population of more than 11 million.

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