November 21, 2001

Jeers, cheers await Castro in Peru

                 LIMA, Peru, Nov 21 (Reuters) -- Friends of Cuban President Fidel Castro
                 promised on Wednesday that the veteran communist leader would receive a
                 "spectacular welcome" when he arrived in Peru for a weekend summit.

                 Cuban exiles, however, called him a "fascist" and pledged vocal demonstrations
                 against his government.

                 Castro, 75, is expected in Lima for an annual summit of leaders from Latin
                 America, Spain and Portugal on Nov. 23 and 24.

                 Peru's biggest trade union confederation said it would be out in force, with 1,500
                 supporters, to greet "companion Castro" at the airport. Cuba has not confirmed
                 when -- or even whether -- Castro will arrive, but he usually attends the annual
                 Ibero-American summit, and Cuban officials are already in Lima.

                 Cuban exiles were gearing up for to give him a bitter welcome of their own, saying
                 Castro's government had tortured and shot their relatives for speaking out in

                 "Ibero-America has democracy, Cuba has dictatorship. Why?" Mothers and
                 Women Against Repression, which has sent a half-dozen of its 300 members to
                 Lima from Miami, asked in a letter the group hopes to present to the summit.

                 "We have come to show the reality of Cuba, to condemn this regime and to speak
                 out about the incongruity that it represents," the group's head, Silvia Iriondo, told

                 She criticized the "double standards" of regional leaders, saying, "We have been
                 waiting now for 10 (Ibero-American) summits for our demands to be heard."

                 Peru is mobilizing 22,000 police officers to guard the 23 heads of state and
                 government in this poor Andean nation's biggest international gathering. Castro,
                 who travels with extensive armed security of his own, last year denounced a plot to
                 ki ll him at the Ibero-American summit in Panama.

                 Iriondo said her group's message to the assembled leaders would be published in El
                 Comercio, Peru's most respected newspaper, on Thursday, the day before the
                 summit starts.

                 David Rodriguez, the head of a group of exiles in Peru, said his Union of Cubans
                 was organizing an anti-Castro march through the streets of Lima on Friday.

                 "I consider Castro's dictatorship like a leftist fascism. In the past, we criticized
                 (Second World War Nazi leader) Adolf Hitler, one of the biggest killers in history. I
                 believe Castro is the Latin American Hitler, a fascist of the left," he said.

                 But Peru's biggest labor body, the General Confederation of Workers of Peru, said
                 it would be rolling out a red carpet for the veteran fighter.

                 Castro, who often appears in trademark olive green fatigues, led a two-year
                 guerrilla war before toppling dictator Fulgencio Batista in his communist revolution
                 of 1959.

                 "We are coordinating a welcome with civil groups and political parties for
                 companion Castro as president of the only Latin American country that offers real
                 resistance to the dominance of the United States," confederation head Juan Jose
                 Gorriti told Reuters, promising a "spectacular" 1,500-person welcome.

                 "Fidel is the man who personifies the dignity of Latin America, the dignity of a
                 people that has fought against domination, with its errors and incompetences, but
                 that has fought," he added.

                    Copyright 2001 Reuters.