Friday, October 22, 2004


Cuba’s representative in Washington yesterday said a State Department spokesman’s comments about Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s fall late Wednesday proved the immoral nature of the Bush administration.

“These statements reflect to a large extent the low humane, ethical and moral standard of a terrorist regime — pardon me, warring regime — such as the United States,” Dagoberto Rodriguez told a group of reporters when asked about comments from State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

“We heard that Castro fell,” Mr. Boucher said on Thursday.

Asked whether the United States wished Mr. Castro, 78, a speedy recovery, he replied: “No.”

“You’d have to check with the Cubans to find out what’s broken about Mr. Castro,” Mr. Boucher said. “We, obviously, have expressed our views about what’s broken in Cuba.”

Mr. Castro’s communist government has been the target of a U.S. trade embargo for more than 40 years. The Bush administration has accused Mr. Castro of curbing democratic freedoms in the island nation.

Cuba and the United States do not have normal diplomatic relations, but maintain “interests sections” in each other’s capitals. Mr. Dagoberto heads the Cuban office in Washington.

In Rome, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi criticized comments made about the state of Mr. Castro’s health and said he hoped his convalescence would bring him “wisdom.”

“No one can wish death on an individual. When someone has hurt himself the reaction should be to wish the person a speedy recovery,” Mr. Berlusconi said.

“One can, however, hope that his recovery will bring him wisdom and reflection,” he added.

Television cameras recorded Mr. Castro’s fall late Wednesday when he stumbled as he was leaving a stage and fell on his side after a speech to graduates of an art school in Santa Clara, 175 miles east of Havana.

Mr. Castro, who suffered a broken knee and a fractured arm, quickly got up with the help of his bodyguards and, sitting on a chair, hastened to assure the audience he remained in control and full of enthusiasm.

Yesterday, Mr. Castro wrote from his hospital bed that he was recovering after an operation on a broken knee.

“I am doing well and I will not be out of touch with you,” he wrote in the letter read on official television and published in newspapers.

“From the moment I fell, I have not abandoned my most important tasks,” said Mr. Castro, who holds the posts of Communist Party leader, president of the councils of state and of ministers, as well as armed forces commander in chief.

Mr. Castro also wrote a 1,183-word open letter to the Cuban people Thursday announcing that he had undergone an operation without general anaesthetic.

“Nobody could be blamed [for the accident]. It was absolutely my responsibility. Apparently, the strong emotions of that day, full of creativity and symbolisms, explain my carelessness,” he wrote.

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