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Fidel Castro: U.S. is on offensive

By Shasta Darlington, CNN
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shows former Cuban President Fidel Castro's letter during the closing ceremony of the ALBA Summit in Havana on Monday.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shows former Cuban President Fidel Castro's letter during the closing ceremony of the ALBA Summit in Havana on Monday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Fidel Castro refers to United States as "empire" in letter read by Chavez
  • Leftist trade group ALBA wraps up two-day summit in Havana
  • Latin American experts say ALBA is fighting to remain relevant
RELATED TOPICS
  • Cuba
  • Fidel Castro
  • Barack Obama
  • Havana
  • Raul Castro

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Latin America's leftist leaders ended a two-day summit in Havana with some tough words for the United States.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez read aloud a letter from ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who insisted that the United States is again on the offensive in Latin America.

"The real intentions of the empire are obvious," Castro wrote, "this time, hidden behind the friendly smile and the African-American face of President Barack Obama."

Presidents and ministers from across Latin America and the Caribbean converged in Havana for the summit of the leftist trade group Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA in its Spanish acronym.

Launched five years ago by Chavez and Castro as an alternative to free-trade blocs promoted by the United States, ALBA is fighting to remain relevant in the new political context, according to Latin American experts, in part because the "evil empire" to the north has a new, more liberal president in the White House.

At the summit, Cuban President Raul Castro warned that old frictions with Washington will not disappear.

"The times we live in reflect that in Latin America and the Caribbean the confrontation between historic forces is getting worse," he said.

He also condemned U.S. plans to use military bases in Colombia to fight drug trafficking.

"It constitutes an act of aggression against all of Latin America and the Caribbean," Raul Castro said.

A drop in oil prices also has hurt Chavez's influence in the region. Through ALBA, Venezuela has used its oil revenues to fund literacy programs and eye operations for the region's poorest.

But the rhetoric has not diminished.

In Havana, leaders slammed Washington's handling of the Honduras crisis.

They accused the Obama administration of supporting an "electoral farce" in Honduras after leftist President Manuel Zelaya was toppled in a military coup.

During the summit, ALBA members produced their own declaration on climate warming and a number of regional proposals.

But much of the meeting was used to air grievances and keep ideological fires burning strong.

The ALBA summit was attended by a mix of presidents, prime ministers and ministers from Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and several Caribbean nations.

 
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