Castro marks his 74th birthday
BY ANITA SNOW
HAVANA -- A politically recharged President Fidel Castro marked
birthday Sunday, addressing a graduating class of health care workers and
making a veiled reference to the recent defection to the United States of two
medical workers who had been assigned to Zimbabwe.
``These Cuban health care workers will leave an indelible imprint
as they travel
around the world, providing their services and sowing medical schools in other
lands,'' Castro said at the ceremony.
``Today, it gives us immense satisfaction to take part in the
graduation of 4,000
new members of the glorious contingent of professionals who bring such honor to
The two Cuban medical workers who defected, Leonel Córdova
and Noris Peña Martínez, 25 -- were granted U.S. refugee status and flew to
Miami last week.
In the process of seeking asylum, they said, they were kidnapped
Zimbabwean security officers, who helped Cuban diplomats force them onto a
flight to Havana. Air France refused to let them board during a stopover in South
Africa after the doctors slipped a note to a crew member saying they were kidnap
At the time, Cuba denied any involvement in the alleged kidnapping.
Without referring specifically to that case on Sunday, Castro
``imperialist'' nations that ``offer money and make all kinds of promises to our
doctors, hoping to bribe them into defection and treason, heedless of the lives
that would be lost as a result.''
Other than greetings delivered to Castro by several speakers at
there was no public birthday celebration Sunday.