Castro Fears U.S. InFLUence
Will Weissert, AP
The 83-year-old ex-president wrote in state-controlled newspapers on Saturday that many of Cuba's early cases of the virus were visitors from the United States. “We had the strange case where the United States, on one hand, authorized more trips for a large number of people carrying the virus, and on the other prohibited us from obtaining equipment and medicine to combat the virus,” Castro said.
He added, however, that President Barack Obama was not plotting to infect Cubans with the flu when, in April, he eased restrictions on Cuban-Americans who want to travel or send money to Cuba. “I don't think, of course, that it was the intention of the United States,” Castro wrote.
Cuba's government blames Washington's 47-year-old trade sanctions for shortages of medical supplies, though U.S. law allows direct sale of American medical equipment to this country, where health care is free for all citizens.
Cuba tried to halt the outbreak of swine flu early this year by grounding all flights to Mexico, where the virus was spreading rapidly, and by imposing quarantines on those who were ill. Medical personnel went door-to-door to keep the virus contained through the summer. Most early cases were visitors from the United States or other countries. But health officials say that that swine flu is now spreading at a much faster rate and Castro said it has already infected patients in every Cuban province.
Cuba has reported seven deaths and 793 confirmed cases. The World Health Organization says there have been more than 4,500 swine flu fatalities worldwide.