Castro's Marathon Speech

ByABC News
September 9, 2000, 4:57 AM

N E W   Y O R K, Sept. 9 -- Cuban President Fidel Castrosaid all he could not say at a summit of world leaders in a 4hour and 16 minutes speech to an audience of fervent New Yorksympathizers on Friday night.

The bearded Communist leader joked, gesticulated andlectured on subjects that ranged from the AIDS pandemic inAfrica and the calorie intake of Cubans to his first handshakewith President Clinton.

Dressed in his trademark olive green military fatigues,Castro was warmly received by a crowd of 2,000 Americans whosupport rapprochement between the United States and Cuba, whichhave been ideological enemies for four decades.

In a neogothic church built in 1930 by millionaire J.D.Rockefeller Jr, he denounced growing poverty and disease inThird World countries as a product of economic globalization.

Organized by Activist Groups

The event was organized by dozens of religious, political,labor and student activist groups who want Washington to liftits 38-year-old trade embargo of its Caribbean neighbor.

The crowd waved Cuban flags and chanted Blockade, no;Cuba, yes in Spanish, and sang Happy Birthday for Castro, whoturned 74 on Aug. 13.

A banner at the front of the packed church on the upperwest side of Manhattan said: Welcome, Comandante Fidel.

Castro was in New York to attend the three-day MillenniumSummit of 150 leaders at the United Nations that focused onalleviating poverty in the world.

Catastrophic Situation

Legendary for his lengthy speeches, Castro chided theUnited Nations for restricting the leaders time at the podium,and said he had spoken for just seven minutes at the summit,two minutes over the allotted time.

It was an important meeting, because the world is in areally catastrophic situation, he said.

Castro produced a wad of documents with statistics andexpounded at length on social conditions in the world and inthe United States, saying the gap between rich and poor wasgrowing, echoing his words to the summit.