Tight security greets Castro in the Dominican Republic
By JUAN O. TAMAYO
Herald Staff Writer
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Cuban President Fidel Castro
arrived Thursday for a Caribbean summit under an unprecedented security blanket
woven of gunboats, a helicopter and thousands of armed guards.
Security officials concerned about reported plots to kill Castro barred
from the 19-mile route from the international airport to Santo Domingo and lined it
with police and troops armed with assault rifles.
A helicopter and a fast patrol boat shadowed Castro's motorcade along the
coast-hugging route, and two gunboats later patrolled the waters in front of the
hotel where Castro and 15 other Caribbean leaders are staying.
Castro arrived aboard one of two matching Cubana de Aviacion jetliners,
apparently a precaution against air attacks, and boarded one of three identical
black limousines for the ride into the capital.
Scattered knots of 10 to 20 Dominicans waving Cuban flags lined the route,
some 100 radical leftists set up a vigil outside the Jaragua hotel, vowing to protect
Castro with their own bodies if necessary.
Dressed in his trademark olive green fatigues, Castro looked fit for the
latest of his
Caribbean swings designed to shore up commercial and political relations with his
President Leonel Fernandez told Castro to ``feel at home'' at an airport
and thanked him for arming a group of Dominican rebels who invaded from Cuba
in 1959 in a failed attempt to topple the Trujillo dictatorship.
``I would not have mentioned it,'' demurred Castro, who almost always denies
he armed Latin America guerrillas in the 1960s. ``But it's nothing, what we may
have done for you.''
Castro is expected to get warm receptions as he attends a three-day summit
Caribbean leaders to discuss regional issues, and then spends two days touring a
nation he said he had ``long dreamed of visiting.''
It is a country that saw Rafael Trujillo assassinated in 1961, a coup in
1963 and a
U.S. military invasion in 1965 to quell a civil war that U.S. officials feared would
end in another Cuban-styled Marxist regime.
For the next 12 years, anti-communist President Joaquin Balaguer harshly
persecuted leftists and blocked relations with Cuba. Balaguer, who ruled for 22 of
the last 32 years, left office in 1996.
Fernandez's Dominican Liberation Party, now centrist, was founded as a
party and has long opposed the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. Fernandez restored
full diplomatic relations with Havana in April after a 39-year break.
A low profile
Anti-Castro exiles living here kept a low profile Thursday after two brief
with leftist radicals Wednesday. But an exile group from neighboring Puerto Rico
said it had asked permission to fly an airplane over Santo Domingo dragging a
sign: ``Fidel Castro. Dictator and Murderer.''
``We reject the attitude of democratic governments that invite a dictator''
said the group, Casa de Jose Marti.
But the reports of plots to kill the Cuban president during his visit make
that Dominican authorities will allow any anti-Castro group to get too close to the
16 Caribbean heads of government at the summit.
A top Dominican security official Wednesday confirmed that police had arrested
Cuban-born man last week, but said they found no convincing evidence of a plot
against Castro. The man's name has not been made public.
``He had a notebook with some notes on Castro's travels, written in pencil,
found nothing suggesting a plot,'' said Gen. Sigfrido Pared Perez, head of the
National Investigations Directorate, the country's FBI.
The man was detained in the western town of Jimani, on the border with
claimed he was a diesel motor mechanic on his way to Port-au-Prince to work on
a boat motor there, Pared Perez told The Herald. A search of the Santo Domingo
home where he had stayed turned up nothing unusual.
The man had overstayed his six-month Dominican visa by one month and was
turned over to immigration authorities. He had Spanish travel documents and will
probably be sent to Spain soon, Pared Perez added.