Tuesday, August 08, 2006

400 intellectuals urge United States to respect Cuba's sovereignty

www.eitb24.com

08/08/2006

Many of the 400 letter signers are from Latin America, and numerous Nobel Peace laureates are listed, such as former Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and activist Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala.

Leftist intellectuals and human rights activists from around the world urged the United States Monday to not interfere in Cuba while Fidel Castro recovers from intestinal surgery, while the nation's parliament speaker said the U.S. would face "hell'' if it did.

Many of the 400 letter signers are from Latin America, and numerous Nobel Peace laureates are listed, such as former Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and activist Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala.

Announcing the letter at a news conference in Havana, leading Cuban writer Roberto Fernandez Retamar said Cubans are convinced that Fidel Castro's handover of power to his younger brother and defense minister Raul Castro is only temporary. "In a few months we'll have him back with us,'' said Retamar.

Vice President Carlos Lage, in Bogota to attend the inauguration of President Alvaro Uribe for a second term, said Monday that Castro "continues to be coming along favorably and we are sure that he will recover." Lage said Cuba was operating normally in Castro's absence. "He himself has said that in a few weeks he will be back at work again," Lage added.

Fidel, recovering

That optimistic assessment has been reinforced by a flurry of statements from Castro's inner circle and Latin American allies, who say the Cuban leader, who turns 80 on Sunday, is recovering from surgery to repair internal bleeding.

Cubans were told most details of his health would be kept "a state secret'' to prevent the island's enemies from taking advantage of his condition. Indeed, officials haven't said precisely what ails Castro or what surgical procedure he underwent.

U.S. President George W. Bush said Monday the United States remains in the dark about Castro's illness, but he didn't miss the chance to motivate anti-Castro activists to push for change on the island. "Our desire is for the Cuban people to choose their own form of government,'' Bush said from his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Cuba's Parliament Speaker Ricardo Alarcon said Monday that if the U.S. tried to intervene on the island "it's going to become a hell for them from the first day.'' "We will guarantee them total failure once again,'' Alarcon added in an interview from Havana with the Venezuela-based television station Telesur, apparently referring to the failed U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961.

As for Castro, "We have to trust in his discipline to rest now that he has to do it, to get better as soon as possible,'' Alarcon said. The Castro brothers have been out of sight since the July 31 announcement on state television that Fidel had undergone surgery and was temporarily ceding power to Raul. Meanwhile, the government has tried to promote a sense of normalcy, and that's an image Retamar fostered Monday.

"Fidel is not at the helm of Cuba and there has been no chaos to overpower the Cuban people,'' Retamar said. "This has produced a peaceful succession,'' he added, while making clear he believed the change was temporary. A growing number of other Cuban officials and Castro allies have come forward, meanwhile, to say that Fidel will soon return.

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