Castro skips WTO to avoid 'humiliation'
November 30, 1999
HAVANA, Cuba (CNN) -- President Fidel Castro says he decided against trying to attend the World Trade Organization summit in Seattle, Washington, to avoid the "humiliation" of being denied a visa by the State Department, or other U.S. "acts of provocation."
In a letter to U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Washington), Castro said he is convinced the U.S. government did not want him to attend the conference, which begins Tuesday.
"The most important thing for me was the U.S. position on my right to participate in an international meeting of the World Trade Organization, of which Cuba is a founding member," he said.
"It was evident from the start that the U.S. government was opposed to my presence in the Seattle meeting. I was certain that the State Department would not grant me a visa. That's why I did not bother to apply for it. I did not want to be submitted to that kind of humiliation."
Castro said he had been "motivated" to attend the summit by the opportunity to meet with students, academics and professionals and discuss with them his points of view "on the vital problems of our time."
"But I could not travel to the United States if the government's official spokesmen labeled my visit 'inappropriate' or -- even worse -- consciously participated in any acts of provocation during my stay in Seattle."
Castro was referring to efforts led by Cuban-born U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Florida), supported by U.S. anti-Castro groups including the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation to prosecute him for the deaths of three Cuban-Americans and one Cuban exile pilots shot down by Cuba in Brothers to the Rescue planes February 24, 1996.
"I put aside the hysteria and threats of the whiners of the terrorists' Mafia in Miami, always wishing to provoke a bloody armed conflict between the U.S. and Cuba, that in this case would be an inevitable conclusion of any intent to detain me by force in Seattle," Castro said.
A Cuban delegation led by the foreign minister left for Seattle on Monday.
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