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The BBC's Ian Bruce
"He denounced what he described as the 600th attempt to assassinate him"
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The BBC's James Reynolds reports
"The assassination plot had come to overshadow the summit"
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Saturday, 18 November, 2000, 06:37 GMT
Castro charge sparks arrests
Fidel Castro in Panama
Gunning for me: Castro had a picture of the alleged suspect
Police in Panama have arrested four people after President Fidel Castro, in Panama for a summit, accused Cuban exiles of plotting to kill him there.

Police said they arrested the man believed to have masterminded the alleged plot, Cuban exile Luis Posadas Carriles, and three of his Cuban-American colleagues at a hotel in Panama city as a precautionary measure.

The Cuban leader earlier said a squad led by the Cuban-American National Foundation had smuggled weapons and explosives into Panama as part of the assassination plot.

I believe Fidel Castro is senile and unstable. Only a sick person could have made those allegations

Cuban opposition spokesman Raymond Molina
But a spokeswoman in Miami for the Cuban-American National Foundation denied any plot, saying Mr Castro was behaving like an aged rock star who needed to attract attention.

The Foundation, which campaigns against Mr Castro, also denied any links to Mr Carriles.


Mr Castro, who had accused Mr Carriles by name described him as "the most notorious terrorist in the area" and said he had been trained by the CIA.

Children playing in Panama
The summit is focusing on the plight of the region's children

Mr Carriles has frequently been accused in the past of the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976 in which 73 people were killed.

The police have blocked off all streets near the hotel in which Mr Castro and the other visiting heads of state are staying.

Whenever he leaves the hotel, the Cuban leader is surrounded by a host of bodyguards who make sure that no-one gets near him.

Honourable death

The Cuban leader says that since taking power 41 years ago, he has survived several hundred assassination attempts, including an attempt by the American CIA to kill him with explosive cigars.

At a press conference called to reveal the alleged plot, Mr Castro recalled that he had survived two previous assassination attempts at Ibero-American summits.

A workman fixes a streetlamp
A workman helps get Panama City ready for some 20 leaders
The first, he said, was in 1994 when he was travelling through the Colombian city with novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

"In that case I would have had the honour of dying with such an illustrious writer," he said.

The second was during the 1997 summit on the Venezuelan island of Isla Margarita, he said, when coast guards stopped a boat with arms on board.

To coincide with the summit, a group of well-known Cuban dissidents has published a report highlighting what they say are serious failings in Mr Castro's one-party rule.

Summit agenda

The dissidents, Marta Beatriz Roque, Rene Gomez Manzano and Felix Bonne, were released from jail earlier this year after earlier criticisms of the Cuban Government.

In a document, entitled Social Facets, they accused the authorities of using education to indoctrinate Cuban children and said that many youngsters were malnourished because of food shortages.

The report also says Cubans are denied privileges given readily to foreigners, such as mobile telephones, computers, cars or homes.

The Panama summit, being attended by Portugal, Spain and Latin American countries, has been called to look at the plight of the region's children.

According to the United Nations children's agency, Unicef, poverty blights the lives of almost two-thirds of the region's 200 million youngsters.

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See also:

19 Oct 00 | Americas
US poised to ease Cuba embargo
19 Oct 00 | Americas
Castro: The great survivor
01 Jan 99 | Americas
Cuba - the struggle goes on
21 Oct 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Castro's fading Cuban dream
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