Castro: U.S. Would Fail in Colombia

By John Rice
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, August 19, 1999; 6:23 a.m. EDT

HAVANA (AP) -- Cuban President Fidel Castro said the United States would fail if it tried to intervene in Colombia's guerrilla war and predicted capitalism's collapse in remarks at a youth conference that lasted more than four hours.

Those who advocate U.S. intervention ``have no idea of what a war is or what an intervention of that type would signify when all patriotism and national spirit is aroused,'' he said Wednesday, responding to a question from a Colombian student.

Some analysts in the United States have speculated that growing guerrilla activity in Colombia could eventually draw a U.S. intervention, but American policymakers have strongly denied such intentions.

``It is asking to put the United States into a very big conflict and a very great risk,'' Castro said.

Castro spoke to some 2,000 people at Havana's National Theater during the close of a youth conference called to denounce ``neo-liberalism,'' a term for free-market, anti-government policies.

Such policies have added to inequality and poverty around the world, Castro said.

Sometimes playful, sometimes bombastic, Castro wandered from the history of the French Revolution to details of guerrilla battles in Namibia to the difficulty of signing baseballs.

``In the United States they would like me to dedicate myself to baseball,'' he said in a joking complaint about U.S. visitors who ask him to sign baseballs in remembrance of his youthful days as a promising pitcher.

The 73-year-old president, who has been in power since 1959, also referred to his place in history.

``I am of this century which is ending,'' he said, saying that the youths in the audience would be the ones facing the problems of the future.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press