Cuba’s Castro says he warned Venezuela’s president about US-backed

By WILL WEISSERT
Associated Press Writer
HAVANA (AP) – Fidel Castro said Friday he has warned Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez to watch out for U.S.-backed assassination
attempts, telling his close friend and socialist ally to avoid
open-top vehicles that could be targeted by snipers.
The 81-year-old Castro said Venezuela is facing “a world
tyranny” as voters decide Sunday on constitutional changes that
would give Chavez unchecked power to further transform the South
American country into a socialist state.
“The empire has created conditions conducive to violence and
internecine conflicts” in Venezuela, Castro wrote in an essay
published in Cuba’s two leading official newspapers, referring to
the U.S.
Castro has not been seen in public since emergency intestinal
surgery forced him to cede power to his younger brother Raul in July
2006. Since then, no foreign head of state has visited the ailing
revolutionary more than Chavez, who was last in Cuba less than two
weeks ago.
“On Chavez’s recent visit last Nov. 21, I seriously discussed
with him the risks of assassination as he is constantly out in the
open in convertible vehicles,” wrote Castro, who himself survived
dozens of CIA-backed attempts on his life since leading the Cuban
revolution in 1959. Castro noted his own experience as a combatant
trained in the use of automatic weapons with telescopic sights.
The Cuban leader said the U.S. should consider that if Chavez
were killed or a civil war broke out in Venezuela, the world economy
would “blow up” because of the importance of that country’s huge
oil reserves.
His comments came a day after more than 100,000 people flooded
Venezuela’s streets to oppose 69 proposed constitutional changes to
the nation’s 1999 constitution that would, among other things,
create forms of communal property, eliminate presidential term
limits, and increase presidential authority.
Critics claim the reforms would give Chavez dictatorial power.
The Venezuelan president, who has for weeks denounced vague,
U.S.-backed plans to destabilize his government, counters that the
revisions are necessary to give the public a greater voice in
government.
Castro said threats against Chavez will not end with Sunday’s
vote.
“A victory of the ‘yes’ vote on Dec. 2 would not be enough. The
weeks and months following that date may very well prove to be
extremely tough for many countries, Cuba for one,” he wrote.
Venezuela has been instrumental in Cuba’s recovery after the
collapse of the Soviet bloc brought the island to the brink of
economic collapse in the early 1990s.
Chavez’s government sends nearly 100,000 daily barrels of oil per
day to Cuba in exchange for social service assistance. Castro said
Friday that trade between both countries has now reached US$7
billion (euro5 billion) annually.

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