April 21, 1999
Castro's bodyguard defects in Dominican Republic, sources say

                  SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) -- One of Fidel Castro's
                  bodyguards defected during the Cuban leader's recent visit to the Dominican
                  Republic, high-ranking sources in the Dominican government said

                  The sources, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of
                  anonymity, said Captain Lazaro de Betancourt sought asylum at the U.S.
                  Embassy Sunday after a summit of the Association of Caribbean States.

                  Spokesmen at the embassy and the U.S. State Department in Washington
                  would not comment on the reports.

                  "I'm not in a position to comment at this time," embassy spokesman Michael
                  Stanton said in Santo Domingo. A State Department spokesman said he
                  could neither confirm nor deny the report.

                  The captain was the second-in-command of a circle of bodyguards who
                  protect Castro, the Dominican sources said. They added he was being
                  housed in a U.S. diplomatic residence in Santo Domingo.

                  A senior official in the Dominican National Investigations Bureau said
                  Dominican officials were proceeding with caution because the Cuban was
                  being protected by the U.S. Embassy, which he said also was in a difficult
                  situation since the would-be defector was not in U.S. territory.

                  Castro kept an unusually low profile during the summit and left before it

                  A series of U.S.-backed Dominican governments shunned Castro for
                  decades until the latest leader, the U.S.-educated President Leonel
                  Fernandez, took over in 1996 and renewed relations with Cuba last year.

                    Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.