Castro Calls Colin Powell Leader of 'Lackeys'

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

(Editor's note: 1st add includes additional comments by Secretary of State Colin Powell and the Cuban American National Foundation)
( - Cuban leader Fidel Castro has "done some good things for his people," said Secretary of State Colin Powell on Thursday. "He is no longer the threat he was," Powell said in response to a question at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing.

However, the Cuban Communist Leader doesn't have a very high opinion of America's secretary of state.

Radio Havana reported Thursday that Castro during an unexpected nationwide television appearance called Powell, "the commander in chief of Latin America's lackeys."

What Castro was upset about, according to the broadcast, was the recent United Nations Human Rights Commission resolution condemning Cuba's human rights record. The resolution was narrowly approved.

Castro said the most appropriate place for that resolution was, in his words, "the toilet."

He accused several Latin American nations of lacking dignity, a sense of independence and honesty in their vote against Cuba on that U.N resolution. Castro was particularly angry at Argentina.

Castro said, "Argentine Foreign Minister Rodriguez Giavarini closely cooperated in lobbying against Cuba with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, the commander in chief of Latin America's lackeys."

A State Department official reacted Friday, "That is absolute poppycock. It's extraordinary that Castro continues to use this outmoded Marxist idiom."

Castro thanked Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Brazil for abstaining from voting on that resolution, and he praised Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for Venezuela's vote against the resolution.

Some members of Congress find it hypocritical that the United States continues to enforce a forty-year-old economic embargo against communist Cuba, while actively courting trade agreements with communist China.

At Thursday's hearing, Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) said the U.S. policy toward Cuba makes no sense. "It is bad for them and it is bad for us," Serrano said.

President Bush has said unequivocally that he supports the U.S. embargo against Cuba, and at Thursday's hearing, Powell gave no indication that the long-standing policy is about to change.

Powell said, in China, Russia and Vietnam "you can see leaders who the world is changing. But in Cuba, Castro is a leader trapped in the past. He hasn't changed his views in any way."

Powell told the committee, "For most of those 42 years and the part of my career when I was in the military, he was fomenting revolution, he was fomenting insurgencies, he was trying to impose a system that was not a system of freedom, a system that would have been disastrous for many of the nations in the region. And we had to meet him; we had to respond to that. He's no longer the threat he was. But 12 years ago, he was a real threat trying to destabilize the region."

But Powell's comment praising Castro didn't please the Cuban American National Foundation. It's director, Jose Cardenas said in Washington that what Powell said is "profoundly regrettable."

"The death and misery that Fidel Castro has caused trumps a thousand times over any good he has done for the Cuban people," Cardenas said.

Powell also described Castro as an "aging starlet" and has said on several occasions he still supports the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba.

President Bush said the embargo and overall anti-Cuba policy will not change as long as Fidel Castro remains in power.