Castro Mocks Bush Visits To Albania And Bulgaria

By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, June 13, 2007

MEXICO CITY, June 12 -- Convalescing Cuban leader Fidel Castro on Tuesday mocked President Bush's trips to Albania and Bulgaria this week in an editorial headlined: "The Tyrant Visits Tirana," a reference to the capital of Albania.

The opinion piece, in the Communist Party newspaper Granma, was the latest in a string of Castro musings, broadsides and political analyses published in recent months, fueling speculation he is taking a more active role in the island's affairs, despite having not appeared in public since intestinal surgery more than 10 months ago. During a 50-minute, taped interview broadcast June 5, Castro appeared stronger and healthier than he had shortly after the surgery.

In Tuesday's Granma, Castro wrote that "Bush is eager for affection" and "greatly enjoyed his protest-free reception in Bulgaria" after being hounded by angry demonstrators in Italy and Poland during his European trip.

"He made a resounding declaration in favor of Kosovan independence with no respect whatsoever for the interests of Serbia, Russia and several European countries," Castro wrote of Bush. "He lectured Serbia that it would receive economic aid if it supported independence for Kosovo, where the culture of that country was born. Take it or leave it!"

Castro also said that thousands of troops "will constantly rotate around the three military bases installed by the [U.S.] empire in Bulgaria. As if we were living in the happiest of all worlds!"

Bush has long been a favorite target of Castro, 80, who temporarily turned over power to his brother, Raúl Castro, on July 31. The Castro brothers frequently criticize the Iraq war and accuse the United States of "imperialism."

Before Bush's European trip, Fidel Castro wrote in a Granma editorial that "Bush is trying now to deceive Pope Benedict XVI" and that Bush would tell the pope, "The Iraq War doesn't exist, it hasn't cost a cent, there's not a single drop of blood, and hundreds of thousands of innocent people have not died in a shameful exchange of lives for oil and gas."

Castro's latest remarks were published on the same day that his most prominent ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, made a surprise visit to Havana. Another staunch ally, Bolivian President Evo Morales, met with Castro five days ago.

When Chávez arrived at Havana's airport Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that he shouted: "Long live Cuba, long live Fidel!"

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