May 12, 2009 / 5:43 PM / 10 years ago

Castro upbraids Mexico as Cuba reports 1st flu case

* Castro says Mexico delayed flu alert due to Obama visit

* Cuba reports first case of H1N1 flu, a Mexican student

By Jeff Franks

HAVANA, May 12 (Reuters) - Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has accused Mexico’s government of keeping an outbreak of H1N1 flu under wraps during a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama, after the Caribbean island reported its first confirmed case.

The Cuban government reported late on Monday a Mexican student in Cuba was found to have the new flu virus. Cuban state television said the student at a Cuban medical school became ill after returning from a trip home in late April. No more details were given of the student’s condition.

The Public Health Ministry said that it had found 84 people from eight countries with flu-like symptoms and that they and 511 other people who had contact with them had been tested for swine flu.

On April 28, Cuba suspended flights from Mexico, epicenter of the flu outbreak that has spread to at least 30 countries, in a move that upset Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

Calderon said in a television interview last week that he might cancel a planned trip to Cuba "as one of the unforeseen consequences of decisions that have no technical basis."

In an Internet column published late on Monday, Castro took offense at Calderon’s threat and said Mexico had not disclosed the flu outbreak as soon as it knew about it.

"The Mexican authorities did not inform the world of (the outbreak), awaiting the visit of Obama. Now they threaten us with suspending Calderon’s trip," he said.

Obama visited Mexico in mid-April on his way to the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. A federal agent who traveled with Obama was later reported to have come down with a mild case of swine flu.

"We and dozens of other countries are paying for the broken dishes (consequences) and on top of that they accuse us of harmful measures against Mexico," Castro wrote.

"The only thing that can be confirmed now is that (the flu) wasn’t brought here by the CIA. It came from Mexico," he said.

Calderon has rejected suggestions from critics that his country was slow to confront the H1N1 flu outbreak and has accused governments that restricted the movement of Mexican citizens and goods of discrimination.

Fidel Castro, who is 82, was replaced as Cuban president last year by his brother, Raul, but he retains a powerful voice through columns published in state-run media.

Mexican diplomats in Havana declined to comment on Castro’s comments in the column. (Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Bill Trott)




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