Bolivia’s Morales Feted in Cuba

From Associated Press

Bolivia’s socialist president-elect received a greeting reserved for heads of state Friday when he arrived in Cuba: a red carpet, a military band and a beaming Fidel Castro.

Stepping off the Cuban plane sent to pick him up in Bolivia, Evo Morales said his trip to the Caribbean island nation was “a gesture of friendship to the Cuban people.”

Castro embraced Morales, who previously had visited the island as one of Latin America’s leading protest organizers. The Cuban government has welcomed the election of the nationalist Indian activist as an important triumph over U.S. influence in the region.

Morales’ electoral victory “has moved the world,” Castro told reporters. “It’s something extraordinary, something historic. The map is changing.”

The 79-year-old Castro has been one of the U.S. government’s biggest headaches in the region during his 47 years in power. Morales has repeatedly declared himself an admirer of Castro and vowed to be a “nightmare” for Washington.


But since his victory last week, Morales has offered a more conciliatory message, telling business leaders he will create a favorable climate for investment and jobs and will not “expropriate or confiscate any assets.”

Morales, who will be inaugurated Jan. 22, won the presidency with nearly 54% of the vote -- the most support for any presidential candidate since democracy was restored in Bolivia two decades ago.

He joins a growing number of left-leaning elected leaders in Latin America, some of whom are not shy about criticizing the United States.