Friday, December 09, 2005

Castro Remembers Victims of 1976 Bombing

Friday December 9, 2005 12:31 AM


Associated Press Writer

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (AP) - Fidel Castro laid flowers Thursday at a memorial to 73 people killed in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner - a plot allegedly masterminded by a Cuban militant being held in the United States.

The tribute came as Caribbean leaders condemned Washington's 44-year-old trade embargo against Cuba during a regional summit.

``It is an embargo that is not only inhumane but also blatantly inconsistent with international trade laws,'' said St. Lucia Prime Minister Kenny Anthony at the opening of the second Caribbean Community-Cuba summit.

The bombing plot was purportedly hatched in Venezuela's capital of Caracas, where the flight originated, by Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative and naturalized Venezuelan.

Posada Carriles was arrested in Florida last May on charges of entering the United States illegally and is jailed in Texas. A judge ruled that he could not be deported to Venezuela, which wants to try him for the attack, because he faces the possibility of torture. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez - a close ally of Castro - has condemned the ruling, saying his government does not torture people.

Castro, who alleged that the United States has provided assistance to Posada over the years, urged that he be turned over to Venezuela.

``We are asking for justice. We are not asking for revenge ... these are horrible deeds and he has never been condemned morally,''

At sunset, Castro and the other leaders visited a memorial to 73 people who died in the 1976 bombing of a Cubana Airlines flight.
Castro and the son of a crew member killed in the crash, Carlos Alberto Cremata, placed a bouquet of flowers at the base of the polished, gray granite pyramid, which is inscribed with the names of the bombing victims.

The delegates observed two minutes of silence in honor of the those killed. Afterward, Cremata told reporters he still hopes the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

``We are all in danger everyday if the impunity for terrorism continues,'' said Cremata, the director of a children's theater group in Cuba.

``This most horrific act of terrorism remains forever etched in our minds,'' Anthony told delegates at the Hilton Hotel. ``We owe it to the families of those who died to remember them, in pain, in sorrow and in martyrdom.''

Posada Carriles escaped from a Venezuelan jail in 1985 before a civilian trial on the airline bombing was completed. He later ran weapons from El Salvador to Nicaraguan Contra rebels, as part of the White House Iran-Contra operation.

Castro also chided wealthy nations for using a disproportionate share of the world's energy resources, saying they were growing richer at the expense of poorer countries, and endangering the environment.

``The unbridled race to waste the natural resources of the planet will bring life to an end on Earth, but our small island states will be the first to perish,'' Castro said.

The Cuban leader joined the heads of state of nine Caricom nations at the summit, designed to encourage cultural exchanges and health care cooperation between the 15-nation bloc and Cuba.

Cuba has teamed up with Venezuela in recent months to offer free eye surgery to impoverished people with sight-threatening ailments from across Latin America and the Caribbean. Hundreds of young people from the region study for free at Cuba's School of Latin American Medicine, where they train to become doctors.

Haiti, which was suspended from the bloc after the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the country's first democratically elected leader, did not attend the summit. The bloc has refused to recognize Haiti's interim government, saying it was unconstitutionally installed.

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