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Castro rejects aid plan
Castro denounces a proposal that offers humanitarian aid for Cubans but maintains the economic embargo against the country
Would keep embargo but allow food, medicine
February 3, 1998
Web posted at: 9:53 a.m. EST (1453 GMT)
HAVANA (CNN) -- Cuban President Fidel Castro on Tuesday emphatically rejected a proposal by a Cuban exile group that would allow food and medical aid to be sent to Cuba but keep intact the U.S. economic embargo against the country.
In a four-hour state television and radio address that began late Monday night, Castro, 71, said the proposal would be like asking Cuba "to lick the hand that is stabbing it with a dagger."
"How can one conceive of something so repugnantly cynical?" he said.
The plan was proposed last week by a Miami-based exile organization, the Cuban American National Foundation. It is supported by Republican Senator Jesse Helms, a long-time Castro critic and proponent of the embargo.
Castro said the proposal, which excludes any of the aid going to or through the Cuban government, is aimed at stopping another movement in the U.S. Congress, which would lift all restrictions on the sale of food and medicine to Cuba on humanitarian grounds. Legislation advocating that stance has been introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate.
The plan would allow some food and medicine to be sent to Cuba
The proposal came after Pope John Paul II's January 21-25 visit to Cuba in which he condemned the 35-year-old U.S. economic embargo against Cuba.
Castro said the plan's proponents knew it would be unacceptable, and offered it knowing it would be rejected beforehand, just to make the communist government seem uncaring.
"It (the plan) is a repugnant and immoral maneuver, a rude reply to the pope's proposals... an insult to the Cuban religious institutions and a challenge to the (Cuban) people who resist and will resist with honor," Castro said.
An aide to Helms, Marc Thiessen, said last week while visiting Cuba that there is no question of the embargo being lifted. Thiessen said Helms is trying to help the Roman Catholic Church "expand the space that the pope has opened."
In his recent visit to Cuba, Pope John Paul II condemned the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba
Castro also said the pope's visit was "perfect," and that the communist state passed the inspection by the international media with flying colors.
He said he and the pope share common goals, including the desire to see a more just distribution of wealth in the world and a "globalization of solidarity".
During his visit, the pope criticized not only the U.S. economic embargo but Cuba's political system, and called for more room for religion in Cuban society.
On his speech, Castro, in power since the 1959 revolution, also offered President Bill Clinton some unexpected words of support, saying he hoped he overcame his current "personal
"We truly think the actions his adversaries are waging against him are dirty," he said.
Castro did not mention the details of the scandal. But he did note that the news of the scandal, in which Clinton allegedly had an affair with a White House intern, broke during the pope's visit to Cuba.
"To a certain extent, the scandal took space away from the news about the pope's visit to Cuba," he said.
Reuters contributed to this report.