Cuba's Castro, Bolivian's Morales say co-op to bloom
Updated: 2006-01-01 09:28
Cuban President Fidel Castro and Bolivian President-elect Evo Morales say
cooperation between their countries will bloom despite U.S. worries about more
nations allying with Cuba and a growing leftward tilt in Latin American
Morales on Saturday ended a visit to Cuba that lasted less than 24 hours but
underscored his desire to boost ties with Castro and other left-leaning leaders
in the region.
During the visit the two men announced a 30-month plan to erase illiteracy in
the South American nation as Cuba moves to increase hemispheric cooperation
without U.S. influence.
Cuba also agreed to offer free eye operations to up to 50,000 needy Bolivians
with vision problems, as well as 5,000 full scholarships for young Bolivians to
study medicine on the island.
Castro anticipated that
Washington would not welcome him gaining another close ally in South America,
where he already boasts a strong friendship with Venezuelan President Hugo
Bolivian President-elect Evo Morales (L) and
Cuban President Fidel Castro greet the audience during a meeting with
Bolivian students in Havana December 30,
"Could it be that the government of the United States feels hurt that Cuba
cooperates with a brother nation?" Castro asked. "Does that offend the U.S.
government ... is it antidemocratic, is it a crime?"
Morales said he would not allow himself to be pressured by the United States
while in power.
"I never had good relations with the United States, but rather with the
American people," the Bolivian president-elect said.
Morales, a coca farmer, says he won't resume the U.S.-backed coca eradication
campaign in Bolivia. He has vowed to crack down on drug trafficking while
promoting legal markets for coca leaf, which is used to make cocaine but has
many legal uses in Bolivia.
Castro and Venezuela's Chavez over the past year have launched plans to share
programs in social cooperation among countries in the region while rejecting a
U.S.-backed plan for hemispheric free trade. Washington has expressed concern
about their growing political alliance.
Speaking to about 400 young Bolivians already studying here under full
scholarships from Cuba's communist government, the two leaders did not spell out
the details of the literacy plan.
But in the past Cuba has launched similar programs in poor areas of other
countries, most recently Venezuela, sending Cuban advisers with educational
materials to work with local instructors to teach reading and writing to
Cuba carried out its own literacy program in the first years after the 1959
revolution that brought Castro to power, sending young teachers into poor
regions in the island's mountains and other remote areas.
"We have agreed to the first measures of cooperation," Morales said, adding
that his meetings with Castro had been "an encounter of two generations in the
struggle for dignity ... of two revolutions."
Castro is the first head of state the Morales has visited as he starts
reaching out to other leaders even before taking office on January 22.
Morales won the presidency December 18 with nearly 54 percent of the vote _
the most support for any president since democracy was restored to Bolivia two
The 46-year-old president-elect left Cuba to be back in Bolivia in time for a
New Year's Eve celebration in his hometown of Orinoca. On January 3, he departs
on a world tour that will include visits to Spain, France, Brussels, Holland,
South Africa, China and Brazil. He will hold his first meetings in Spain on