San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

President’s Feud with Cuban Press Continues

President Oscar Arias received harsh criticism over the holidays – not from journalists or politicians in his own country, but from the Cuban government.

In response to comments in which Arias had compared ailing Cuban President Fidel Castro to recently deceased Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, Cuba’s government daily, Granma, published a front-page statement Dec. 27 from that country’s Foreign Relations Ministry lambasting the Costa Rican head of state. The ministry called Arias’ comparison “disrespectful and lacking a minimum of ethics.”

It didn’t stop there. The ministry also called Arias “a servile parrot of Yankee imperialism,” a “vulgar mercenary,” an “egomaniac,” and “a vain, mediocre person sick with prominence.”

Arias’ relations with the Cuban government have been strained since August, when he cancelled a meeting with Cuban Vice-President Carlos Lage when both were in Colombia for the inauguration of President Carlos Uribe. Arias said he wouldn’t meet with Lage because he tried to “place conditions on the issues I want to talk about” (TT, Aug. 11, 2006), though Lage later accused Arias of lying about their exchange.

The Granma article also cited Arias’ public criticisms of Castro on several occasions, including his meeting last month with U.S. President George W. Bush (TT, Dec. 8, 2006).

According to the daily La Nación, the Cuban ministry’s comments were published in newspapers in Miami and throughout Latin America.

Arias responded quickly, telling La Nación “he had never heard so many rude epithets together” and reiterating his opposition to Castro’s regime.

Castro and Pinochet, who died Dec. 10, have both used the same methodology, Arias added: “execute, terminate or liquidate, murder their adversaries. That’s what I said and I maintain it.”


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