Castro won't attend Ibero-American summit
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
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
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
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
deploying 20,000 police and special forces to ensure the safety of the leaders.
Military personnel, armored vehicles and security checkpoints are in place.
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
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
draw attention to Cuba's exile community throughout the world and the lack of
freedoms in the island nation.