Cuban leader Fidel Castro accused wealthy nations of tolerating the "genocide" of starvation and denounced Western sanctions as criminal in a speech today at the World Food Summit.
Castro's address came as the United Nations was organizing a multinational force to aid 1 million Rwandan refugees in eastern Zaire, where rebel fighting has cut off food supplies."Intervention forces are organized to prevent the death of hundreds of thousands of people in eastern Zaire," Castro told delegates at the conference. "What are we going to do to prevent the starvation of 1 million people every month in the rest of the world?"
"Why is it (the world) not equally moved by that genocide which is taking place every day in front of our eyes?"
Speaking in Spanish, Castro, who wore a dark blue suit and red tie, condemned economic sanctions such as those the United States has imposed on Cuba since 1962.
"Why is it that criminal policies and absurd blockades that include food and medicines are being added . . . with the purpose of annihilating whole populations with hunger and diseases?" Castro said.
"Where is the ethic, the justification, the respect for the most basic human rights and the common sense of such policies?"
Castro, saying the rich "do not know hunger," lashed out at some of the principles endorsed by the United States and allies at the conference, particularly free trade.
"The bells that are presently tolling for those starving to death every day will tomorrow be tolling for all mankind," he said.
Security was exceptionally tight when Castro arrived at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization near the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus. Helicopters patrolled overhead, and police scrutinized credentials by participants and journalists.
Castro walked quickly into the main hall. Some delegates from other nations came up to chat with him and seek autographs.
Castro is scheduled to meet Tuesday with Pope John Paul II.
The encounter between the long-ruling Communist leader and the stalwart anti-communist pope would be a major step toward a historic papal visit to Cuba, the only Latin American country John Paul has not visited during his 18-year pontificate.
Castro is one of the few world leaders the pope has not met. They are among the last giants of the Cold War era: the pope, a staunch anti-Communist; and Castro, a Marxist who has held power since his 1959 revolution.
The pope opened the summit on Wednesday by denouncing the use of economic embargoes and sanctions.
Italy's president and other officials planned to meet Castro. Italy's well-established leftist parties planned celebrations, while anti-Castro groups prepared protests.