Castro criticizes Fox, Castaneda

Richard Fidler rfidler at
Tue Apr 23 10:48:53 MDT 2002

New York Times
April 23, 2002

Castro Defies Fox of Mexico as Once-Warm Ties Sour


HAVANA, April 22 - In a defiant challenge to President Vicente Fox of
Mexico, President Fidel Castro of Cuba tonight released an audio tape of a
phone call in which the Mexican leader tried to persuade him to cancel or
cut short his attendance last month at the United Nations development summit
meeting in Monterrey, Mexico, in order not to "complicate" Mexico's
relationship with the United States.

Mr. Castro, at a news conference here to which he had urgently summoned
foreign journalists, made public his private conversation on March 19 with
Mr. Fox. During the late-night phone call, Mr. Fox and Mr. Castro agreed
that the Cuban leader would leave the development meeting early, and would
not make any criticisms of the United States.

"The conversation illegally made public by the president of Cuba speaks for
itself," said Rodolfo Elizondo, a spokesman for Mr. Fox. "President Fox at
no time asked his counterpart not to attend the Monterrey summit."

He added, "The only government that has pressured Mexico about its vote in
Geneva on human rights in Cuba was the government of Havana."

Tonight, Mr. Castro accused Mexican officials of "lying, left and right,"
and even trying to buy Cuba's silence with much-needed oil supplies.

"If anyone can prove that such a conversation never took place, and that
those were not President Fox's words, I would firmly offer my immediate
resignation to all my positions and responsibilities at the head of the
Cuban state and revolution," Mr. Castro said after playing the tape. "My
honor would not permit me to continue at the head of this country."

Mr. Castro acknowledged that his disclosures could further strain relations
between the two nations.

"The aftermath of telling these truths could be that diplomatic relations
are severed," he said. "However, the fraternal and historical bonds between
the peoples of Mexico and Cuba will last forever."

For decades, Mexico was Cuba's most steadfast ally in Latin America,
consistently standing with Havana in its confrontation with the United

Mr. Castro made his unusual show of pique today three days after Mexico
joined several other Latin American nations in criticizing Cuba's
human-rights record at a meeting of the United Nations Humans Rights
Commission in Geneva.

Mr. Castro's government regarded Mexico's human rights vote as a grave
betrayal and accused the Mexican government of reneging on a promise not to
support the resolution, which passed on Friday by a vote of 23 to 21.

The playing of the tape was the centerpiece of a two-hour discourse in which
the Cuban leader criticized Jorge G. Castañeda, Mexico's foreign minister,
whom he described as "diabolical and sinister."

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