Cuba, USSR and Africa

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Thu Mar 29 10:14:51 MST 2001

Mbeki Welcomed to Cuba

March 26, 2001

HAVANA (Reuters) -- Cuban President Fidel Castro has welcomed greeted South African
President Thabo Mbeki to Cuba.

Castro, 74, embraced Mbeki at Havana's Jose Marti international airport, before the
pair drove together into the city.

The South African leader, who was in Cuba for last year's summit of the G77 group of
Third World nations, was to later visit a Cuban biotechnology center and a former
Spanish fortress on
the edge of Havana Bay.

Mbeki's four-day visit is intended to build on economic, health and educational ties
between the two states, as well as explore commercial possibilities, officials said.

But the visit will have wider political symbolism, highlighting South Africa's
opposition to the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba and Castro's long-time support for the
anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.

Cuba trained fighters and supplied weapons to the then-exiled African National
Congress (ANC) in its battle against minority rule, and poured thousands of its troops
in the 1980s into Angola against white South African forces who were supporting a
rebel army.

Cuba has been vocal in its backing of South Africa and Brazil in the controversial
production of generic versions of patented AIDS medications.
Castro said recently Cuba would also begin to locally produce cheaper AIDS drugs to
help fight the world epidemic.

Mbeki, who succeeded former President Nelson Mandela in 1999 as South Africa's second
post-apartheid leader, will receive a formal welcome on Wednesday at Havana's
Revolution Palace, and later speak at Havana University.

Castro, who counts Mandela as a personal friend, is also expected to discuss with
Mbeki reform of the United Nations, the World Bank and the agenda for a U.N.-led
conference on racism due in South Africa in August.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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