Hispanic leaders challenge Castro on dissidents

A SUMMIT of 16 Spanish-speaking countries in Havana, Cuba, has become a focus for human rights dissidents, despite the best efforts of President Fidel Castro to sweep the issue under the carpet while attempting to polish his own image.

"This government is not for the corrupt nor for cowards," Mr Castro, one of the world's last surviving Communist leaders, declared at a formal state banquet on Monday evening as the ninth Ibero-American summit got under way.

King Juan Carlos of Spain raised his glass in return and saluted "authentic democracy, liberty, and scrupulous respect for human rights".

Even though there was a crackdown on street demonstrations ahead of the summit - including the arrest of 15 "counter-revolutionaries" - the Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, openly met opposition spokesmen, as did the heads of state of Portugal and Uruguay. This was one condition set before a visit by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, the first time in more than 50 years that Spain's reigning monarchs have visited the former colony.

After Miami, Madrid is the most important refuge for political exiles from Cuba. Spain's active participation in the conference sparked a boycott by Chile and Argentina, which oppose the campaign by the Spanish judge, Baltasar Garzon, to extradite the former Chilean military dictator General Augusto Pinochet from Britain to Spain.

One of the controversial points included in the summit's final declaration is a condemnation of "the unilateral and extra-territorial application of laws which infringe on international rights and intend to impose their own laws and ordinances on third countries".

The highlight of this gathering is expected to be tomorrow's face-off between a baseball team captained by the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, a former professional player, and a crack Cuban squad led by 73-year-old Mr Castro. Mr Chavez is already warming up and perfecting his "wicked curve ball" in front of spectators.

With world attention focused on Havana, the United States presidential candidate Donald Trump campaigned in Miami before audiences of Cuban exiles who cheered when he decried recent calls to ease the American blockade of the Communist island.

Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, a trial of six Cuban exiles who allegedly plotted to assassinate President Castro two years ago started in a San Jose courtroom. Among the accused is the head of the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation, Jose Antonio Llamas. A US Coast Guard cutter stopped Llamas's yacht, La Esperanza, for a routine check off Puerto Rico in October 1997, when Mr Castro was attending a meeting on a nearby Venezuelan island.

On Monday, Coast Guard Lieutenant-Commander Brendan McPherson testified that the six businessmen, who all fled Cuba's revolution, told him they were on a fishing holiday. His officers then discovered two .50-calibre sniper rifles, ammunition, night-vision goggles, radios and satellite navigation equipment.

Mr Castro has accused the Cuban American National Foundation of trying to kill him - a charge the organisation denies. In his opening arguments at the trial, Ricardo Pesquera, a lawyer for the defence, said: "The only evidence of any murderer that you will hear about in this trial is Fidel Castro himself.''

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
News
news
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all