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Tuesday, August 4, 1998 Published at 06:27 GMT 07:27 UK

World: Americas

Castro gets hero's reception in Grenada

Thousands gathered to cheer to Castro

President Fidel Castro of Cuba has wrapped up his Caribbean tour by addressing an enthusiastic rally of several thousand people in Grenada.

He made only a vague reference to the United States' invasion of the island in 1983, speaking instead about the threat to Caribbean nations from global trade.

[ image: Fidel Castro and Grenadian Prime Minister Keith Mitchell]
Fidel Castro and Grenadian Prime Minister Keith Mitchell
"What kind of world will the globalized world be for us?" he asked.

Hundreds waved Grenadian and Cuban flags as calypso music rang out over the field. Mr Castro left the island shortly after the rally.

Earlier in the day, he had met the mother of one of his revolutionary allies, the late Marxist prime minister of Grenada, Maurice Bishop. His killing in 1983 led to the US invasion.

Correspondents say President Castro's six-day tour - he has also visited Jamaica and Barbados - marks a dramatic turnaround in Caribbean relations with Cuba, once shunned as an exporter of communist revolution.

US invasion

Mr Castro's visit to Grenada comes 15 years after armed Cuban construction workers helping the left-wing government of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop clashed with US marines.

The Cubans were eventually overwhelmed by a much larger force sent by President Ronald Reagan with the tacit approval of many of Grenada's Caribbean neighbours.

Some 20 Cubans, 45 Grenadians and 18 US soldiers were killed in the conflict.

Seeking to improve relations

Cuba has had little to do with Grenada since 1983 but President Castro, bereft of his former allies in eastern Europe and keen to break the US embargo on his country, has been reaching out to his Caribbean neighbours.

Cuba is offering trade and co-operation in health, education and other areas.

Grenada is not alone in responding warmly to these overtures from the Caribbean's biggest nation.

Grenada's Prime Minister, Keith Mitchell, visited Havana last year to discuss new joint projects.

A BBC correspondent in Havana, Pascal Fletcher, says President Castro's visit is a further reminder to the US that Cuba's return to the Caribbean fold is a fact Washington will have to accept, whether it likes it or not.

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