March 4, 2008 / 1:48 PM / 11 years ago

Fidel Castro wades into South American fray

HAVANA (Reuters) - Former Cuban President Fidel Castro waded into the growing dispute between Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela on Tuesday, backing Ecuador but aiming his fire mainly at arch-enemy the United States.

A TV shows Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez as he speaks during his weekly broadcast 'Alo Presidente' in Caracas March 2, 2008. REUTERS/Edwin Montilva

Cuban allies Ecuador and Venezuela broke diplomatic ties with Colombia after its forces killed a rebel inside Ecuador in a raid that sparked troop deployments and warnings of war.

“Imperialism has just committed a monstrous crime in Ecuador,” Castro wrote in his latest column for Cuban state-run media, this one on his relations with Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa.

“Deadly bombs were dropped in the early morning against a group of men and women whom, with few exceptions, were sleeping ... they were Yankee bombs, guided by Yankee satellites.”

The crisis erupted when Colombia flew troops into Ecuador on Saturday to kill a senior rebel of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and 21 of his fighters.

It was a major blow to Latin America’s oldest rebel group and also eliminated a key contact for governments, such as France, Venezuela and Ecuador, in talks to free hostages held by FARC for years in jungle camps.

Castro, who had a series of abdominal operations over the last 19 months from which he has never fully recovered, resigned as president two weeks ago.

The Cuban government, now headed by his brother Raul, has yet to comment on the Latin American crisis.

Fidel Castro on Tuesday blasted the Colombian and U.S. rationale for Saturday’s attack — that the FARC is a terrorist organization.

“The concrete accusations against these human beings do not justify the action ... Absolutely no one has the right to kill in cold blood,” he said.

“If we accept this imperial method of war and barbarity, Yankee bombs guided by Yankee satellites could fall on any group of Latin American men and women in the territory of any country,” Castro said.

He insisted Cubans “are not enemies of Colombia” but said “to remain silent would make us accomplices ... Ecuadorean territory was occupied by troops that crossed the border.”

Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by John O'Callaghan

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