Saturday, December 23, 2006

Costa Rica's Arias says Castro like Pinochet

(FILE/Photo by Roger Cordoba - Diario Extra)Costa Rica's president on Friday compared Cuba's leader Fidel Castro to the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, an ideological foe, saying each was "savage, brutal and bloody" in his own way.

President Oscar Arias, a Washington-friendly conservative who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for brokering deals to end Central America's civil wars, has traded barbs with Cuban officials since his election in February.

"Fidel Castro began with the (execution) wall, killing people those who opposed him," Arias said in radio interview. "There is no difference. The ideology is different but both were savage, brutal and bloody."

Nearly 3,200 people in Chile were killed in political violence and close to 28,000 people were tortured during the 1973-1990 right-wing rule of Pinochet, who died on December 10 at age 91.

Castro, one of the world's last communist leaders, overthrew Cuba's government in 1959 and ruled uninterrupted until July this year, when he temporarily handed power to his brother Raul following intestinal surgery.

Castro was last seen in public on July 26. Havana denies he is terminally ill, but Cuban officials no longer insist he will return as president of the country and leader of the party.

His prolonged absence has fueled uncertainty about the future of the Western Hemisphere's only communist state.

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