HAVANA (Reuters) - Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro predicted that Latin America would be swept by a wave of military coups if Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was not returned to power after his ouster in a June 28 coup.
Castro, in a column published late on Friday on an Internet site run by Cuba’s communist government, said right-wing military leaders trained by the United States could be encouraged to take up arms against their governments, depending on how the Honduras crisis turned out.
“If President Manuel Zelaya is not returned to his post, a wave of coups threatens to sweep many Latin American governments, or they will be left at the mercy of military men of the extreme right, educated in the security doctrine of the School of the Americas,” he wrote.
Castro was referring to a since-renamed U.S. military school where thousands of Latin American soldiers and officers have been trained since the early days of the Cold War.
Zelaya, Castro wrote, has insisted on returning to power because he believes “the right of the people of Latin America to elect their leaders” is at stake.
Zelaya’s replacement, Roberto Micheletti, has said that if Zelaya returns, it will be to face justice, arguing the deposed president violated the constitution by trying to scrap presidential term limits.
Representatives of Zelaya and Micheletti have begun talks in Costa Rica to seek a solution to the coup crisis.
Castro’s close socialist ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, has condemned the talks and said the coup must be reversed. On Friday, Chavez called for a trade embargo against Honduras. [nN10383912]
Zelaya is one of a host of Latin American leaders with leftist leanings who have become allied with Chavez.
U.S. President Barack Obama has also called for Zelaya’s reinstatement, but is backing the Costa Rica talks, mediated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.
Castro said Honduras was “occupied by the armed forces of the United States” because of a U.S. military base that has been in the country for years and played a role in fighting leftist rebellions in Central America in the 1980s.
Castro, 82, ruled Cuba for 49 years until turning over power to his brother Raul Castro last year. He has not been seen in public since intestinal surgery three years ago, but maintains a strong presence with writings published in Cuba’s state-run press.
Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by Peter Cooney