Ambassador Andrew Young, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, in an informal conversation Thursday, compared the work of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers with the activities of "20,000 Cubans in Angola."
Young's remarks were made to volunteers during a visit to Peace Corps projects in the northern part of the Dominican Republic. Discussing what he termed increased U.S. "isolationism" and lack of willingness to increase foreign aid funding, Young said he favored an expansion of Peace Corps-like aid. There are now about 6,000 Peace Corps workers stationed around the world, Young said, adding "we ought to have 50,000."
Most Americans, he said, are "concerned with their own short-term goals" at a time "when most of the world is crying for help."
Noting that "we complain that there are Cubans in Africa," Young said, "there are 20,000 Cubans in Angola doing the kind of thing that you (the Peace Corps) are doing."
Questioned later by reporters, Young explained that this comments did not refer to Cuban soldiers, but rather to Cuban "doctors, technicians and teachers." Young said he mistakenly used the world Angola rather than Africa. Informed sources estimate that there are more than 20,000 Cubans in Angola, the majority of which are troops.
The State Department has said more than 40,000 Cuban civilian and military personnel are stationed throughout Africa.
"I always condemn what they [the Cubans] are doing militarily," Young said. "But I always praise those who are sending doctors and technicians. That's what we should be doing more of."
Young was criticized last year for his assertion that the Cuban presence in Angola, which official U.S. policy opposes, provided a "stabilizing" influence.
Young returned to the United States Thursday night following a four-day trip here as part of the U.S. delegation to the inauguration of new Dominican president Antonio Guzman.