Castro blames U.S. for recent executions

Associated Press

HAVANA — President Fidel Castro on Friday claimed that a conspiracy between the U.S. government and Cuban exiles in Miami was to blame for his dissident crackdown and the executions of three hijackers.

In a nationally televised address that lasted more than three hours, the communist leader also accused America's top diplomat in Cuba, James Cason, of fomenting unrest among opponents of his government.

"The arrest of various dozens of mercenaries who betrayed their homeland for privileges and money from the United States, and the death penalty for common criminals ... were the result of conspiracy stirred up by the government of (the United States) and the terrorist mafia," he said. Castro frequently uses such terms to refer to Cuban exiles living in the Miami area who actively oppose his rule.

Cuba has come under heavy world criticism in recent weeks for holding rapid tribunals and giving the dissidents sentences ranging from six to 28 years on charges of collaborating with American diplomats to subvert the socialist system — charges that the opponents and U.S. officials deny.

The American government and various Cuban exiles living in the United States have been especially critical of the Cuban actions, expressing outrage and dismissing suggestions of causing dissent in Cuba.

The communist island has received even harsher criticism for the firing-squad executions on April 11 of three men convicted of terrorism charges in the attempting hijacking of a ferry filled with passengers. No one was injured.