Less dramatic Ibero-American summit likely without Castro
HAVANA, Cuba (AP) -- Cuban President Fidel Castro, long accustomed to
stealing the spotlight at the annual Ibero-American summit, didn't attend
for the first time in the gathering's 10-year history.
Castro skipped the meeting of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking leaders,
opened Friday in Lima, Peru, because of ongoing reconstruction efforts after
Hurricane Michelle. The storm devastated central Cuba on November 4.
"I express my deepest solidarity to President Castro and the Cuban people,"
Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo told the opening session of the summit Friday
evening. He said Castro had sent his regrets in a letter.
Because of his legendary status, Castro's attendance at the summit has
to draw attention and spark speculation. The 75-year-old leader is known for
making lengthy speeches, arriving amid much secrecy and symbolically changing
his dress from his usual olive green military uniform to a dark suit or a tropical
Last year, upon arrival at the meeting in Panama, Castro immediately held
conference to announce that Cuban exiles in the country were plotting to
The announcement was quickly followed by the arrest in Panama of Castro's
nemesis, Luis Posada Carriles, whom the Cuban leader blames for numerous
terrorist acts against the island.
Posada, 72, is accused by Cuba of organizing the bombing of a Cubana de
jet that exploded off the coast of Barbados on Oct. 6, 1976. He escaped from
prison in Venezuela before his case was tried and is now behind held in Panama on
charges related to the alleged assassination plot.
Castro's arrival at the first Ibero-American summit i n July 1991 in Guadalajara,
Mexico, came as the Soviet bloc was crumbling and new, democratically elected
Latin American leaders were taking power.
At that first gathering, other heads of state called on Castro to start
at home. The following year, in Spain, speculation about Castro's future was
rampant as the communist country began feeling the economic effects of the loss
of Soviet aid and trade.
In 1993, Castro surprised fellow heads of state by joining their calls
groups to renounce armed struggle, and then by donning a white guayabera shirt
instead of his military fatigues.
In Oporto, Portugal, in 1998, all eyes were on Castro again when news broke
former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet had been detained in London on human
rights charges. Castro said that while the case seemed to be morally just, it was
Last year, Castro caused a stir with his spirited debate over a proposed
condemn terrorism by Basque separatists in Spain.
Castro refused to sign the resolution, saying that it should have been
include all acts of terrorism. Castro has long complained that other nations should
take more seriously the terrorist acts committed against his country.
Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.