November 4, 2008 / 6:31 PM / 10 years ago

Fidel Castro praises Obama but says he is neutral

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban’s former communist leader Fidel Castro on Tuesday praised Democrat Barack Obama as “more intelligent” than “old, bellicose” Republican John McCain, but said that he was officially neutral in the U.S. presidential election.

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro talks during a meeting with his brother Cuban President Raul Castro and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez in Havana June 17, 2008. REUTERS/Estudios Revolucion/Handout

The ailing Castro, 82, said in a column published in state-run media that neither of the candidates running in Tuesday’s election was concerned with the world’s most pressing problems as they campaigned to lead what he called “a parasitic and plundering empire.”

Obama, Castro wrote, is “without doubt more intelligent, cultured and calm than his Republican adversary.”

McCain, he said, is “old, bellicose, uncultured, not very intelligent and not healthy.”

Quoting from a letter he wrote to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Castro said if McCain wins “the danger of war will increase.”

“When this opinion (is published), no one will have time to say that I wrote something that can be used by one of the candidates in favor of his campaign,” Castro wrote.

“I had to be and have been neutral in the electoral contest,” said Castro,

Castro also said the U.S., which has imposed a trade embargo against Cuba for 46 years, had a long history of racism and that Obama’s selection as the Democratic presidential nomination had “astonished” many because he is black.

He warned that Obama “will run growing risks in the country where an extremist can legally acquire a sophisticated modern weapon on any street corner.”

Castro has not been seen in public since he had intestinal surgery in July 2006 but maintains a high public profile by writing columns published in state-run media.

Reporting by Jeff Franks; editing by Michael Christie and David Storey

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