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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 June, 2003, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Cuba taunts EU over sanctions
Fidel Castro
Castro's speech lasted three hours
Cuba's leader, Fidel Castro, has accused the European Union of bowing to the "Nazi-Fascist policy" of the United States over its reprisals for his crackdown on dissidents.

A state-sponsored protest rally is due to be held outside the Spanish and Italian embassies in Havana on Thursday.

The EU has said it will review its ties with Havana in the light of Cuba's recent human rights record.

In a speech, Castro said this policy "must have been written in a drunken state, if not with alcohol, in a state of Euro-centric drunkenness."

The Spanish and Italian prime ministers, Jose Maria Aznar and Silvio Berlusconi, were "fascists" and "bandits", he added.

The EU has said it will be restricting political and cultural contacts with Cuba.

But Castro said this was "gross and insolent".

'Cowards and clowns'

He claimed Thursday's rally, to protest against these measures, would attract more than a million people.

State television has billed the protest as Cuba's "first answer to the scandalous and treasonous position of the EU against Cuba".

The Spanish and Italian embassies had been singled out because Aznar's conservative government had been the main driving force behind the sanctions, Castro said, and Berlusconi's government had cut off 40 million euros in aid.

"From a political and moral point of view, Aznar is a coward," Castro said, terming him "the little Fuhrer with the moustache," while he said Berlusconi was "a clown".

Spanish Cultural Centre in Havana
Spain is accused of encouraging dissidents
"What bothers us most in all this, is that those who signed on to this statement are co-operating with the US government's Nazi-Fascist policy," Castro added.

Cuba has come under widespread condemnation since Castro ordered a crackdown on political dissidents on the island.

Seventy-five dissidents were jailed in April for up to 28 years, and three men who had tried to hijack a commuter ferry to Florida were summarily executed, ending a moratorium on the death penalty.

Earlier Castro's Foreign Minister, Felipe Perez Roque, had warned Cuba would not tolerate "provocations or blackmail."

He warned EU states against contacts with Cuban dissidents "conspiring against the revolution".

Much to lose

The BBC's Stephen Gibbs reports from Havana that only recently relations between the EU and Cuba seemed to be distinctly warming, with the EU becoming Havana's largest trading partner.

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EU accounts for 34% of its foreign commerce.
Also responsible for most of the 1.7 million foreigners who visited in 2002

Hundreds of thousands of Europeans travel to the island every year on holiday, and in March the European Commission opened its first office in the Cuban capital.

But since then, Cuba has instigated its harshest political clampdown in decades and Europe has joined much of the rest of the world in condemning it.

Cuba, our correspondent says, looks quite prepared to take the political and economic risk of falling out with Europe in its determination to pursue its own path.




SEE ALSO:
Italy moving against Cuba
29 Apr 03  |  Americas
Cuba's phoney war
25 Apr 03  |  Americas
EU opens first Cuba office
11 Mar 03  |  Americas
Country profile: Cuba
04 Jun 03  |  Country profiles


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