Castro may attend World Trade Organization meeting

Amandeep Sandhu sandhu at SPAMUVic.CA
Sun Nov 28 16:54:06 MST 1999



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   Castro may attend World Trade Organization meeting

   Copyright © 1999 Nando Media
   Copyright © 1999 Associated Press

   From Time to Time: Nando's in-depth look at the 20th century

   By JOHN RICE

   HAVANA (November 25, 1999 6:54 p.m. EST http://www.nandotimes.com) - A
   Cuban government spokesman said Thursday that President Fidel Castro
   is studying up for next week's World Trade Organization meeting in
   Seattle, though it is still uncertain whether he will attend.

   "He has not yet decided if he will travel or will not travel to
   Seattle," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alejandro Gonzalez told a news
   conference.

   But Gonzalez said Castro "has spent days bottled up in the study of
   all the materials of the meeting in Seattle. He is used to preparing
   himself completely when there are events of this nature."

   The communist leader has never visited the West Coast of the United
   States as president and the Ministerial Conference of the WTO would
   give him a chance. Because the WTO is a U.N.-sponsored organization,
   the United States cannot deny him a visa under international law.

   Cuban officials reportedly have booked rooms in Seattle in case Castro
   decides to go to the meeting, which starts Tuesday, and the prospect
   has created anticipation both among friends and foes of the Cuban
   leader, as well as those curious about him.

   Gonzalez said Castro had received invitations from "an infinite number
   of institutions, academic centers, business groups" and other
   organizations seeking meetings during any trip to Seattle.

   "Requests of that character have rained down as never before,"
   Gonzalez said. "I know he is desirous of complying and showing his
   appreciation for so many expressions of hospitality and friendship."

   But he noted that Castro has been immersed in other business as well,
   including the recent 21-nation Ibero-American Summit here and the
   visit of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Castro also decided to skip
   a summit of African, Caribbean and Pacific nations starting in the
   Dominican Republic this week.

   Gonzalez also said there are "numerous and complex practical questions
   and procedures" which would have to been addressed before Castro could
   make the trip, though he added, "he still has time."

   Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., asked
   Washington state Attorney General Christine Gregoire to arrest Castro
   in connection with Cuba's downing of two planes piloted by the
   anti-Castro group Brothers to the Rescue in February 1996. Four people
   were killed.

   Diaz-Balart, whose father served in the government overthrown by
   Castro in 1959, is one of the Cuban leader's most vociferous critics
   in the United States.
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