Oct. 10, 2001

Castro angers Argentina with comments on economy

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Reuters) --Cuban leader Fidel Castro angered
the Argentine government by saying its beleaguered economy had got a "stay
of execution" from Washington but would soon "explode" anyway.

The president of Communist-run Cuba told the left-leaning Argentine newspaper
Pagina 12 that Argentina and other Latin American nations burdened with a total
$950 billion in foreign debt "and unbelievable poverty" had "lost all independence."

Citing U.S.-led aid packages dating back to the "Brady Plan" Latin American debt
bailout of a decade ago to major aid packages from the International Monetary Fund
in recent months for countries such Brazil and Argentina, he said:

"Latin America is like those people on death row in the United States: They appeal
and appeal and after 23 years go to the electric chair. You have been given a stay of
execution; they have given you some pills, some bonds and other things.

"Now, with or without annexation, you are going to explode," Castro said. "The
system will explode with annexation and so will neo-liberalism."

His comments brought an immediate response from Argentine President Fernando de
la Rua's spokesman, Juan Pablo Baylac, who told reporters: "Argentina is not going
to explode."

The Cuban leader, who offered his condolences for the recent attacks on the World
Trade Center and Pentagon but has condemned the bombing of Afghanistan, said the
"neo-liberal" or market economy was already in crisis before this violence.

"One favor the people who committed the attack in New York have done for
imperialism is that they will now blame the sabotage for the failures of
neo-liberalism," he said. "Because it was already finished, it was already in crisis. ..."

    Copyright 2001 Reuters.