Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

Castro Reportedly Cancels Trip to Argentina

PA0207162889 Madrid EFE in Spanish 1557 GMT 2 Jul 89

[Excerpts] Havana, 2 Jul (EFE)-EFE has learned from reliable sources that
the drug-trafficking scandal will prevent Cuban President Fidel Castro from
attending the presidential inauguration of Peronist Carlos Menem in Buenos
Aires on 8 July.

The court-martial of 14 members of the Armed Forces and the Interior
Ministry who are implicated in drug trafficking with the Medellin Cartel
seems to be the main reason for this almost certain cancellation.

The sources indicated that the commotion created in Cuba by the
drug-trafficking scandal and the development of the investigations, which
Castro is personally following, led the president to cancel, for the time
being, his scheduled trip to Buenos Aires.

The court-martial sessions will end with the publication of the sentence
and the transfer of the decision to the political sector [instancias
politicas] on a date close to 8 July, the day when Menem will take office.

Fidel Castro's absence or presence in Argentina has not been officially
confirmed.  However, this lack of information is common with presidential
trips. [passage omitted]

If the court issues a death sentence, the verdict will pass to the Council
of State-headed by Fidel Castro-which will make the final decision:
commute or confirm the sentence.

The sources stressed that "this is not the time for trips, because all of
the president's attention is focused on what is occurring in Cuba, whose
population is closely watching the development of events."

According to EFE's information prior to the disclosure of the scandal,
Castro had planned to attend the presidential inauguration in Argentina, a
country with which Cuba maintains good relations.

Argentina and Cuba, which have greatly increased their economic trade in
recent years, consolidated their good relations with the visit that
outgoing President Raul Alfonsin paid to Havana to meet with Castro.

In any case, the Cuban leader's absence from Carlos Menem's inauguration
seems to be solely a result of the delicate domestic situation in Cuba and
will not influence his possible trips to other countries of the continent
that will hold elections or presidential inaugurations.

Castro has confirmed his presence at the nonaligned countries summit in
Belgrade in September, and he accepted the invitation from the socialist
group in the European Parliament to address that forum.