Fidel's arrest would have been an act of war

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Tue Nov 30 19:50:14 MST 1999

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba's President Fidel Castro announced on Monday he was
shunning a World Trade Organization (WTO) summit in Seattle and he accused
U.S. authorities of backing a Cuban exile ``plot'' to have him arrested on
U.S. soil.
The announcement, made in the form of a public letter to a U.S. Democrat
congressman who had invited him to the U.S. city, ended days of intense
media speculation about the possible participation of the veteran Cuban
leader in the WTO meeting.
In the letter addressed to Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington state, Castro
cited moves by extreme right-wing Cuban exiles in the United States to have
him arrested by U.S. police for ''murder'' once he set foot on U.S.
He made clear that any such attempt to detain him by force in Seattle would
have ``inevitably'' resulted in a ``bloody armed conflict between Cuba and
the United States.''

    People should pay close attention to what Fidel said, for it isn't

    Heads of state like diplomats enjoy extraterritorial immunity; wherever
they are and wherever they go, they are considered to be in their own
territory. Thus, any attempt by U.S. authorities to "arrest" Fidel would
have been a military attack on Cuba; without doubt, Fidel's security
personnel would have treated it as such.

    This incident undercuts whatever legitimacy the WTO gabfest in Seattle
may have had. The United States, as host country, failed to provide the
necessary guarantees of respecting the immunity that attaches to the
representatives of all countries in such a delegation. The failure of the
State Department to make a clear and unambiguous statement reiterating
respect for international diplomatic conventions, at a time when Members of
Congress were agitating for Fidel's arrest, shows that the United States
cannot be considered a suitable venue for this or future negotiations. Fidel
took the only possible action he could in face of the widespread gusano
agitation and the complete and utter silence of the competent U.S.

    It should also serve as a bucket of cold water to leftists who have been
supporting the extraterritorial jurisdiction of imperialist courts and
judges in the Pinochet case. However deserving Pinochet may be of exemplary
punishment, Britain and Spain have no right to claim jurisdiction over
alleged crimes that took place in Chile. If Britain and Spain are so
interested in pursuing tortures and murderers, there is no need for them to
look abroad for defendants. They can start by prosecuting the protagonists
of their OWN "dirty wars" against the Irish and Basque patriots and the
politicians who gave them their orders.


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