HAVANA -- Fidel Castro will rub elbows with Spanish royalty and Latin American presidents during an international gathering on his home turf this week, further easing Cuba's isolation.

But the two-day Ibero American summit of heads of state starting Monday also threatens to shine a harsh spotlight on Cuba's human rights record as government opponents try to use the meeting as a stage."There are great expectations" by dissidents for the summit, leading opponent Hector Palacios wrote recently in an open letter to the heads of state. "It would be great for us to greet you in our own land and sincerely share with you our point of view."

Elizardo Sanchez, another human rights activist, said he had been contacted by the delegations of four countries that want to meet with dissidents. Uruguayan President Julio Sanguinetti said he would bring with him "a little light of hope" for a democratic opening in Cuba.

Castro has tried to shift the attention from his country's human rights record to the summit itself, saying that the gathering is not about Cuba but about Ibero-American identity and unity.

Cuba on Saturday accused the United States of interference, saying Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had sent a letter to leaders at the summit urging them to denounce Cuba's human rights situation.

Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque called the letter "a shameful example of interference."

"Those who are not invited to the party should keep silent and take their music elsewhere," Perez Roque said.

The heads of state and government of Spain, Portugal and 14 Latin American nations are coming to Havana for the summit. Spanish King Juan Carlos, accompanied by Queen Sofia, is making the first visit ever by a Spanish monarch to the island nation.

The summit -- like the Cuban visit by Pope John Paul II in January 1998 -- is a diplomatic triumph for the Western Hemisphere's only communist state. While Cuba has resumed relations with dozens of countries over the past decade, it remains somewhat isolated politically and economically by a nearly 4-decade-old trade embargo imposed by the United States.

The central theme of the summit will be international finance and the effects of economic globalization on developing countries, especially those in Latin America.

Cuba's human rights record was mentioned by several of the presidents from five Latin American countries who are not coming: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Argentina and Chile.

The government bristles at charges of rights abuses, noting there are no death squads in Cuba and saying physical torture is virtually unheard of. The real abuses are the socioeconomic inequalities and lack of decent schooling and health care in non-socialist nations, communist officials say.

Cuba drew harsh criticism this year for its handling of four opponents charged with incitement to sedition. The four were tried behind closed doors and sentenced to jail terms ranging from 31/2 to six years for criticizing the communist government.

Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodriguez announced he would not come to the summit because Castro's government refused to assure him he could meet freely with opposition and human rights activists.

Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Aleman, who has long-standing ties to the Cuban exile community in Miami, said he was skipping the summit to protest Cuban policies. Salvadoran President Francisco Flores said he would not attend because his country does not have diplomatic ties with Cuba.

President Eduardo Frei of Chile pulled out to protest the arrest in Britain of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet on an extradition request from Spain. Argentine President Carlos Menem followed suit in solidarity.