Castro’s visit comes amid a busy time for U.S.-Cuban relations. A growing contingent in the U.S. Congress is pressing for an easing of the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba. Cubans continue to risk dangerous journeys across the Florida Straits to enter the United States. And then there’s Elian Gonzalez — the Cuban-American electorate is still reeling from Castro’s victory in the international custody battle over the boy.
Castro has already met with many leaders on this visit, including Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, President Tran Duc Luong of Vietnam and Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
Castro is among 18 dignitaries provided with extra security during his visit. Several U.S. lawmakers have made it clear they’re less than happy to have him here.
In a Sept. 1 press conference on traffic and security arrangements for the U.N. summit, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said the U.N. delegates would receive top-notch protection, but added “as far as I am concerned some of them I think are despicable, horrible human beings and you should always make that point every time you get a chance to make that point.” Regarding Castro, Giuliani said, “If you want me to make the point that Fidel Castro is a murderer, I’m more than willing to make the point that Fidel Castro is a murderer.”
And last week Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., demanded that neither Castro nor any other high-ranking Cuban official be allowed into the country for the U.N. summit. Under U.N. conventions, however, the United States can only deny visas for issues of national security.
Castro Addresses the U.N. Summit
Meanwhile, Castro, renowned for his marathon speeches, took to the U.N. Assembly Hall podium on Wednesday, decked out in a dark blue suit — a change from his usual combat fatigues. Staring up at him was a yellow light that warns speakers when their five-minute limit is approaching.
Castro pulled out a white handkerchief and covered the light, and the audience of kings, presidents and prime ministers burst into laughter.
But as he did at the U.N. 50th anniversary celebration five years ago, Castro stuck to the five-minute limit.
Without mentioning the United States by name, Castro told the U.N. Millennium Summit that the principle of sovereignty could not be sacrificed “to an abusive and unfair order that a hegemonic superpower” uses “to try to decide everything by itself.”
Castro, viewed by many developing countries as their premier spokesman, said rich nations use their power “to make us poorer, more exploited and more dependent.” ABCNEWS' Rogene Fisher and John Cochran, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.