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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 April, 2003, 05:32 GMT 06:32 UK
Castro defends strict measures
By Stephen Gibbs
BBC correspondent in Havana

Police cars leave port area after end of crisis
Hijacking over, executions soon followed
Cuban President Fidel Castro has defended his decision to imprison 75 dissidents and summarily execute three hijackers over the last month.

The actions have been condemned by governments and human rights groups around the world.

Mr Castro said he was acting to prevent an attempt by US President George W Bush to provoke a war with Cuba.

In a defiant three-and-a-half hour speech, The cuban president gave his first full response to the extraordinary events here over the last five weeks.

Everything was blamed on the United States.

America, he said, was trying to destabilise Cuba, to provide an excuse for military intervention.

The 75 dissidents that have recently been imprisoned here he describes as mercenaries in the pay of the enemy.

Hijacked ferry
The hijacking eventually ended with no one hurt
President Castro also said that the spate of recent hijackings in Cuba was all part of a sinister attempt by the US to encourage a mass exodus.

Much of his speech was spent defending the decision to execute three hijackers who attempted to take a ferry boat to Florida earlier this month.

That ended a three-year moratorium on capital punishment in Cuba and prompted an outpouring of world criticism.

He said it was a decision he would take again.

He said the alternative might be war with his northern neighbour, and in that case, millions of Cubans would die.




SEE ALSO:
Cuba jailings draw anger
09 Apr 03  |  Americas
Cuba ferry hijackers executed
11 Apr 03  |  Americas
Cuba ferry hostages released
04 Apr 03  |  Americas
US investigates plane hijack
21 Mar 03  |  Americas
US and Cuba's complex relations
09 May 02  |  Americas
UN challenges Cuba on rights
17 Apr 03  |  Americas


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