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Castro accuses bush of plotting with cuban exiles

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Posted on Fri, Jan. 30, 2004
Castro accuses Bush of plotting with Cuban American exiles to kill him

Associated Press Writer

HAVANA - (AP) -- Fidel Castro accused U.S. President George W. Bush on Friday of plotting with Miami exiles to kill him as part of his administration's hardening policies against the communist-run island.

''We know that Mr. Bush has committed himself to the mafia ... to assassinate me,'' the Cuban president said, using the term commonly employed here to describe anti-Castro Cuban Americans.

Castro's comments came at the end of a 5 hour speech that began Thursday night and continued into early Friday at the closing of a conference bringing together activists across the region who oppose the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

The Cuban leader didn't back up his accusations with specific details.

Castro has accused past U.S. presidential administrations of seeking to assassinate him. During Castro's early years in power there were numerous documented cases of U.S.-sponsored attempts on his life.

But assassination of foreign leaders as U.S. policy was later banned in 1976 by an executive order signed by then President Gerald Ford and reinforced by Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

Castro also criticized the Bush administration's Commission for a Free Cuba -- a panel set up last October and headed by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

When Bush announced the commission last October, Powell suggested that the goal is not to ease Castro out but to plan a strategy for Cuba once the 77-year-old leader is no longer in power.

''I can die a natural death or I can die a planned death,'' Castro said. ``It really doesn't matter to me how I die, but I will surely die fighting.''

Earlier in his speech, Castro called on the more than 1,000 activists from across the Americas gathered here to work against the U.S.-backed FTAA, which he said will only further impoverish their nations.

The Bush administration has progressively hardened its policies toward Cuba in recent years, particularly with the approach of this year's presidential elections.

Cuban authorities charge that much of that hardening is aimed at wooing the important electoral vote in Florida, home to most of the Cuban-American exiles living in the United States.

For more than four decades, the two countries have been without diplomatic ties and a U.S. trade embargo against the island makes most trade between the nations impossible, with the exception of direct American sales of farm products.

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