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Castro attacks Harper over oilsands

Cuba's former leader Fidel Castro is criticizing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government for environmental damage caused by the extraction of crude from the Alberta oilsands.

The father of Cuba's communist revolution of more than half a century ago offered the observation in a characteristically rambling new essay on the state of hemispheric affairs that was published over the weekend.

The ailing octogenarian handed the Cuban presidency to his brother, Raul, four years ago, but still periodically offers up his musings on the world in postings on his government's website.

"Stephen Harper's Illusions" is his latest instalment.

In it, Castro claims that the United States, a country he loathes because of its economically crippling embargo, is forcing Canada to extract oil, which is causing irreparable damage to the environment.

"I knew about the damage caused by the Yankees to the people of Canada," the essay said. "They forced the country to look for oil by extracting it from huge extensions of sand that are impregnated with that fluid, thus causing an irreparable damage to the environment of that beautiful and extensive country."

He also accuses Canadian mining companies of harming millions of people throughout Latin America.

At 1,200 words, Castro's latest screed is mercifully short, compared with the day-long marathon speeches of his heyday.

But as always, the dictator lacks a decent editor.

Of Canada's mining companies, he references a previous article that he says, "provides further details about an issue that has been identified innumerable times as one of the main scourges that affect millions of persons, stated that mining companies, 60 per cent of which are financed with Canadian capital, worked following the logic of maximum yield at a low cost and in a short time; and that these conditions turn out to be all the more advantageous if in the places where they are stationed, tax revenues are minimal and there are very few environmental and social commitments..."

Castro covers several topics, from Argentina's claim on the Falkland Islands to Cuba's continued exclusion from the Organization of American States.

Without naming John Baird, he wonders how Canada's top diplomat views the disagreement over the Falklands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas.

"The honourable foreign minister of Canada does not dare to say whether or not he supports Argentina in the thorny issue of the Malvinas Islands. He has only expressed beatific wishes for peace to prevail between the two countries."

Castro remains troubled by Cuba's continued exclusion from the OAS, the 35-member bloc that includes Canada and the United States. Harper is to attend an OAS summit in Colombia later this week.

Cuba has been suspended from the group since the early 1960s.

Castro finds an apparent irony in the fact that traditional Cuban-designed guayabera shirts will be worn by OAS leaders at the summit.

"The Caribbean shirt was first made by the banks of the Yayabo River in Cuba; that is why they were originally called yayaberas," Castro writes.

"The curious thing about this, dear readers, is that Cuba has been forbidden to attend that meeting, but not the guayaberas. Who could hold back from laughing? We must hurry up and tell Harper."

Harper's new chief spokesman, Andrew MacDougall, read Castro's missive Monday afternoon, and said:

"I'll take a pass. No comment."

The Canadian Press
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