November 23, 2001

Castro won't attend Ibero-American summit

                 By Lucia Newman

                 LIMA, Peru (CNN) -- For the first time, Cuba's long-term President Fidel
                 Castro will not attend the annual Ibero-American summit in Lima, Peru, the
                 most important gathering of Latin and Caribbean nations' heads of states.

                 In a letter addressed to Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, Castro said he will
                 stay in Havana as his country continues to recover from Hurricane Michelle, which
                 struck Cuba earlier this month. He called the storm the worst natural disaster to
                 strike the island in a century.

                 The Category 4 hurricane killed five people in Cuba and caused serious damage as it
                 passed over the island with winds of 135 miles per hour.

                 Castro's absence came as a surprise to many, because he has attended the first 10
                 summits, despite four reported assassination plots against him. He came to power
                 42 years ago. Police arrested several suspects in connection with plotting Castro's
                 assassination in 1997 and 2000.

                 The summit, to be held Friday and Saturday, will be attended by 23 world leaders
                 from Latin America, the Caribbean, Spain and Portugal. Castro, who was expected
                 to arrive in Lima on Friday, sent his apologies to the leaders and said Cuban Vice
                 President Carlos Lage will attend in his place.

                 There have been largely peaceful protests in advance of the summit. Peru is
                 deploying 20,000 police and special forces to ensure the safety of the leaders.

                 Military personnel, armored vehicles and security checkpoints are in place. Security
                 is tightest in the quiet neighborhood surrounding the hotel where the summit is to
                 be held, with all persons, bags and vehicles to be searched.

                 The summit will focus on economic problems in the region and the war on terror,
                 and Peruvian Foreign Minister Diego Garcia-Sayan said there will be declarations
                 involving the international economic situation and international terrorism.

                 Ibero-American finance ministers plan to appeal for an end to Cuba's exclusion
                 from multinational and regional loan institutions.

                 The "Mothers Against Repression," a Miami-based anti-Castro group, is in Lima to
                 draw attention to Cuba's exile community throughout the world and the lack of
                 freedoms in the island nation.