By Ray Sanchez | Sun-Sentinel.com
10:53 AM EDT, July 24, 2008
HAVANA - Ending the silence over reports that Russia may use Cuba as a
refueling stop for nuclear-capable bombers, former president Fidel
Castro said the socialist island doesn't have to "ask forgiveness" or
owe any explanation to Washington.
In a brief essay on a government Web site Wednesday night, the ailing
81-year-old leader neither confirmed nor denied a report Monday in the
Moscow newspaper Izvestia.
"Raul did very well keeping a dignified silence," Castro wrote of his
younger brother, President Raul Castro.
"One doesn't have to give explanations nor ask for excuses or
forgiveness," he wrote.
Izvestia quoted a "highly placed source" in the military as saying
Russia could land supersonic bombers in Cuba in response to a planned
U.S. missile defense shield in Europe. Russian officials denied the report.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz told the U.S. Senate Armed Services
Committee this week that Russia using Cuba as a refueling base for
bombers "crosses a threshold, crosses a red line for the United States
Castro said the remarks by Schwartz, nominated as the Air Force's top
military officer, represented the "Machiavellian strategy that the
empire applies to Cuba."
"If you say yes, I kill you," Castro wrote. "If you say no, it's the
same, I'll kill you anyway."
The flap has stirred memories of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. At the
time, the world came to the brink of nuclear war after President John F.
Kennedy revealed the presence of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.
In the end, the Soviets agreed to dismantle the missile sites while the
U.S. pledged not to invade Cuba and to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey.
Raul Castro, who was officially named president in February, has said he
is willing to discuss the longstanding differences on equal terms with
America's next president.
Wednesday night, Fidel Castro wrote: "Nerves of steel are needed in
times of genocide, and Cuba has them. The empire knows it. On Saturday
the 26th of July we celebrate 55 years of struggle without rest."
On Saturday, Cuba commemorates the July 26, 1953 attack by the Castro
brothers and other guerrillas on the Moncada army barracks in Santiago.
The disastrous assault signaled the birth of the rebellion that
eventually ousted Fulgencio Batista in 1959.