Cuba rejects Castro-Pinochet comparison

December 28, 2006

Miami Herald- Anita Snow

HAVANA - Cuba blasted Costa Rican President Oscar Arias on Wednesday for comparing ailing leader Fidel Castro to the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, calling Arias an 'opportunistic clown' who does the bidding of the U.S. government.

In a statement published in the Communist Party daily Granma, the Cuban Foreign Ministry said it reacted with 'profound indignation' to President Oscar Arias' comments likening Castro to his ideological foe.

'There is no difference' between the men, Arias said in an interview in Costa Rica last week. ``The ideology differs, but both were savage, brutal and bloody.'

Pinochet, who died on Dec. 10 at age 91, was blamed for a political crackdown that killed nearly 3,200 people during his right-wing military rule from 1973 to 1990.

The 80-year-old Castro governed communist Cuba without interruption for more than 47 years until he temporarily ceded his powers to his younger brother Raúl following intestinal surgery on July 31.

The Washington-friendly Arias, who won the Nobel Peace Price in 1997 for helping broker an end to Central America's civil wars, has exchanged salvos with Cuban officials since he was elected earlier this year.

Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage and Arias quarreled publicly in August after they suspended a meeting on reestablishing diplomatic relations between the two nations. Arias had also wanted to use the meeting to discuss civil rights on the island, but Lage rejected that idea.

In the statement on Wednesday, Cuba called Arias a 'vulgar mercenary' of U.S. officials and said Washington 'always had on hand another opportunistic clown ready to follow its aggressive plans against Cuba. President Arias shamelessly supports the United States' annexation plan against Cuba and disrespects the heroic and selfless struggle of our people.'

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