Venezuela Confirms Castro Invited To Presidential Inauguration
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ The government confirmed Tuesday that Cuban leader Fidel Castro has been invited to the inauguration of President-elect Carlos Andres Perez. It would be Castro’s first visit in nearly 30 years.
Foreign Minister German Nava Carrillo said Castro has not responded to the invitation, contrary to previous press reports.
″We have sent out a general invitation to all the countries Venezuela has relations with,″ said Nava Carrillo. Venezuela has no formal diplomatic relations with Cuba but both countries maintain informal contact.
When asked if the invitation included Cuba, Nava Carrillo answered ″Yes.″
Rumors of Castro’s visit have awakened controversy, the first for Perez since his victory in presidential elections Dec. 4.
″Neither Fidel Castro or (Chilean military President) Augusto Pinochet should be invited to Venezuela,″ said Vladimir Gessen, ex-presidential candidate for the New Generation party, the fourth-largest party in the country.
″Neither of them have anything to teach us about democracy,″ he added.
Perez has said he will push for normalization of relations with Cuba, starting with Castro’s presence at the inaugural ceremonies Feb. 2.
The Cuban leader last visited Venezuela in 1959, shortly after he took power in Cuba.
Cuban-Venezuelan relations cooled in the 1960s while the Caracas government struggled to crush a Castro-backed guerrilla insurgency. The countries cut off relations in 1980 when Cuban militant exiles were found innocent in a Caracas court of alleged terrorist activities against the Castro regime.
Dozens of Latin American and European dignitaries are expected for the inauguration, including Presidents Rodrigo Borja of Ecuador, Raul Alfonsin of Argentina, Julio Maria Sanguinetti of Uruguay and Felipe Gonzalez of Spain.
Perez and Castro attended Borja’s inauguration in August. Castro also recently attended the inauguration of Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.