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Tuesday, August 25, 1998 Published at 06:35 GMT 07:35 UK

World: Americas

Castro finds new friends

Bearded Castro with leaders of neighbouring Caribbean nations

Caribbean nations have embraced Cuba's Fidel Castro while accusing the US of breaking trade promises.

Island leaders expressed "deep disappointment" with Washington for failing to include Caribbean textile industries in the North American Free Trade Agreement.

[ image: A word in your ear: Castro with Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Basdeo Panday]
A word in your ear: Castro with Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Basdeo Panday
But Mr Castro, until recently a regional outcast, has found favour by increasing grants and scholarships to the Caribbean countries.

The Prime Minister of St Lucia, Kenny Anthony, said: "We believe that the development of our region must include Cuba."

President Castro's new status results, in part, from Caribbean frustration with a US policy that has seen a 25% drop in aid over five years.

Meanwhile Cuba has been increasing donations and offering Cuban university scholarships to hundreds of students.

Global economics

Mr Castro told the summit that the small island nations of the Caribbean must oppose the unbridled capitalism he attributes to the US.

He said: "The Caribbean confronts the serious danger of a growing marginalisation. Unity is the sole and true strength of the Caribbean."

His speech struck a chord in a region where people fear the vagaries of a global free market in which small economies cannot compete.

The Caribbean Community's 14 members and the Dominican Republic signed a trade agreement to remove most tariffs between the island nations.

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