Castro Criticizes U.S. in Weekend Speeches

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

( - Cuban Leader Fidel Castro Sunday attacked the United States during the opening session of the Interparliamentary Union, a world organization of parliaments in Havana.

Castro criticized the United States for not sending a delegation to the meeting, saying American politicians were missing a "good chance" to find out what the rest of the world is thinking. As many as 1,400 parliamentarians from more than 120 countries were expected to attend the conference, which runs all week in Havana.

Women's issues, human rights and the Middle East situation are among the items on the agenda.

IPU President Najma Heptuallah told reporters in Havana the non-attendance of American politicians had nothing to do with the United States' differences with the Castro government. The United States has not sent a delegation to an IPU conference since 1994.

Heptuallah, who's from India, had no qualms about holding the conference in Cuba because she believes the Castro government has fulfilled the organization's criteria for a democratic country.

Before the IPU meeting, Castro delivered a speech criticizing the United States, according to a Radio Havana broadcast. He called on the U.S. to eliminate the "Cuban Adjustment Act," which controls Cuban immigration to the United States, and end the economic blockade against the communist nation.

Castro called it a "great privilege" for him to have declared the "socialist character" of the Cuban Revolution in 1961, just before the U.S.-led invasion at the Bay of Pigs. He believed the attack was "aimed at installing a foreign government on the island to open the way to bloody intervention."

Castro vowed the Cuban people will never give up their struggle to end exploitation through the socialist system, which he called the only way to create a "just and humane society." He recalled that the Cuban people shed their blood for the socialist cause in the Bay of Pigs as well as fighting against colonialism and apartheid in Africa.

Castro also mentioned Elian Gonzalez in his Saturday speech, saying that it was just 15 months ago that mass rallies began in Havana to protest Elian's "kidnapping" in Miami. He called Elian the "spark" who ignited "a battle of ideas" between the two nations.

Castro had promised not to use Elian as a political pawn after he returned to Cuba with his father after court battles in the United States.

Castro also criticized President Bush for pulling the United States out of the Kyoto global warming treaty, saying that decision makes a new arms race inevitable and comes at a most inopportune moment -- the beginning of a new century.