Sunday, May 20, 2007

Costa Rica accuses Castro of meddling in its internal affairs

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AFP): Costa Rica accused Cuba Thursday of meddling in its internal affairs after Cuban leader Fidel Castro criticized free trade agreements between Latin American nations and the United States.

The Central American nation charged that Cuba was attempting to "mar" a referendum on its free trade deal with the United States scheduled for September 23.

"The government of the Republic of Costa Rica expresses its concern and unease over a foreign government's interference in the internal affairs of Costa Rica," President Oscar Arias' office said in a statement.

"The declarations of the president of Cuba ... fomenting an external interventionism and insinuating the possibility of 'fraud' in the referendum ... represent a serious affront on the residents of a sovereign, democratic, free and independent Costa Rica," the statement said.

The statement was issued a day after the convalescing Castro denounced in a newspaper article the "bitter reality" left by free trade agreements between Latin American nations and Washington.

In his eighth article in two months, the 80-year-old leader also cited Costa Rican, Mexican and Chilean delegates who criticized free trade deals during a forum in Havana.

Castro handed power to his brother Raul on a temporary basis in July while he recovers from intestinal surgery.

While he has not been seen in public for since then, Castro has used articles published in Cuba's daily Granma newspaper to convey his thoughts on several issues.

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