The Associated Press
Published: December 27, 2006
HAVANA: Cuba blasted Costa Rican President Oscar Arias on Wednesday for
comparing ailing leader Fidel Castro to the late Chilean dictator
Augusto Pinochet, calling Arias an "opportunistic clown" who does the
bidding of the U.S. government.
In a statement published in the Communist Party daily Granma, the Cuban
Foreign Ministry said it reacted with "profound indignation" to
President Oscar Arias' comments likening Castro to his ideological foe.
"There is no difference" between the men, Arias said in an interview in
Costa Rica last week. "The ideology differs, but both were savage,
brutal and bloody."
Pinochet, who died on Dec. 10 at age 91, was blamed for a political
crackdown that killed nearly 3,200 people during his right-wing military
rule from 1973 to 1990.
The 80-year-old Castro governed communist Cuba without interruption for
more than 47 years until he temporarily ceded his powers to his younger
brother Raul following intestinal surgery on July 31.
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The Washington-friendly Arias, who won the Nobel Peace Price in 1997 for
helping broker an end to Central America's civil wars, has exchanged
salvos with Cuban officials since he was elected earlier this year.
Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage and Arias quarreled publicly in August
after they suspended a meeting on re-establishing diplomatic relations
between the two nations. Arias had also wanted to use the meeting to
discuss civil rights on the island, but Lage rejected that idea.
In the statement on Wednesday, Cuba called Arias a "vulgar mercenary" of
U.S. officials and said Washington "always had on hand another
opportunistic clown ready to follow its aggressive plans against Cuba."
"President Arias shamelessly supports the United States' annexation plan
against Cuba and disrespects the heroic and selfless struggle of our
people for their independence and sovereignty," the statement said.
The escalated spat comes with Castro still out of public view months
after his surgery.
On Tuesday, a Spanish surgeon who recently treated Castro said in Madrid
that the Cuban leader does not have cancer, as U.S. intelligence
officials have speculated, and insisted that he was recovering slowly
but steadily from a serious operation.
Cuban authorities have not commented on last week's visit to the island
by Dr. Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido, the chief surgeon at Madrid's Gregorio
Garcia Sabrido's statements to news media represented the first
independent medical assessment of Castro's condition. The Cuban
government has kept Castro's condition a state secret, occasionally
releasing photographs and videos of him to show he is convalescing.