Castro: Bush and Gore are BOR-ING

PINAR DEL RIO, Cuba - President Fidel Castro celebrated the communist revolution he began more than 40 years ago by offering his analysis Saturday of the American presidential race, saying both George W. Bush and Al Gore are ''boring and insipid'' candidates.

Speaking to about 200,000 people massed for a speech in this western tobacco-growing province, Castro focused his remarks on the Texas governor. If Bush reaches the White House, Castro said, he should not waste his time becoming the 10th American president to try to change Cuba's political system.

''Cuba, yes! Yankees, no!'' the crowd chanted in the provincial capital of Pinar del Rio, located about 90 miles west of Havana.

Forty-seven years after his attack on a military barracks that launched the Cuban Revolution, Castro's mission is getting the United States to ease off this communist island.

On Saturday, the Cuban leader focused mostly on Bush, who accepted the Republican presidential nomination Thursday, and on the GOP.

Castro warned Bush that if he wins, it would be pointless to try to use the Central Intelligence Agency to assassinate Cuban leaders - as was done in the 1960s.

''I exhort you to not forget that for each one of those revolutionary leaders you decide to eliminate in that way, there will remain in Cuba millions of men capable of occupying their place,'' he said.

Castro, who turns 74 later this month, blasted a stance the Republican party adopted during its national convention in Philadelphia this week, saying it catered to the ''terrorist and annexationist mafia of Miami'' - a reference to Cuban-American exiles.

Castro also said Bush's support for a missile defense system could take the world on a ''new, dangerous and extremely costly arms buildup.'' Americans who are unaware of the possible risks involved will simply think that Bush is ''a strong, forward-looking and tough man who the United States needs in the face of all dangers imagined or real,'' he said.

Russia and American allies oppose creating the new system, saying it could launch a new nuclear arms race. Vice President Gore, the presumptive Democratic nominee, supports building a limited missile defense system.

The Republican platform's plank on Cuba sets tough conditions at a time when the Clinton administration and some lawmakers are trying to ease sanctions. The platform says no trade or travel restrictions should be eased until Castro releases all political prisoners.

It also has new language calling for ''active American support for Cuban dissidents'' and says sanctions will be lifted when Castro also legalizes opposition political parties and commits to democratic elections.

The U.S. government has been backing off on some sanctions, and a measure has passed the House easing 38-year-old restrictions on exporting food and medicine to the country.

Proponents of the embargo worry that if Gore wins the presidency in November, sanctions would be further eroded.

Even so, Castro did not spare Gore in his comments.

''Perhaps never in times so complex and chaotic ... has there been a competition between two candidates more boring and insipid,'' he said.

Castro spoke during the last of this year's national events to commemorate the 1953 beginning of his revolutionary fight.

The attack that Castro led on the barracks in the eastern city of Santiago was against the dictatorship of then-President Fulgencio Batista. Although the attackers were either killed or jailed, the movement regained strength and triumphed in 1959 after Batista fled the country.


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