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Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Sorry, here is the article. AOL is so exclusive.

Castro Denies Sex Tourism Allegations

SANTA CLARA, Cuba (July 27) - Fidel Castro rejected charges by President Bush that he promotes sex tourism in Cuba, then went on the offensive to dredge up old reports about his American nemesis' alleged past drinking habits.

Castro vigorously denied Bush's recent allegations, saying that what the White House believes is ''that which the president makes up in his head, whether it corresponds to reality or not.''

''There are many in the world who know very little about the Cuban revolution, and could fall prey to the lies diffused by the United States,'' the Cuban president said Monday night at the island's annual Revolution Day celebration in the central city of Santa Clara.

During a speech in Tampa, Fla., earlier this month, Bush accused Castro of turning Cuba into a major destination for sex tourism, which is ''a vital source of hard currency to keep his corrupt government afloat.''

''The regime in Havana, already one of the worst violators of human rights in the world, is adding to its crimes. Castro welcomes sex tourism,'' Bush said at the July 16 conference on ''human trafficking'' - forced labor, sex and military service.

Although prostitution exists in Cuba, it is unorganized and has been far less visible since Castro launched a massive crackdown on street crime in early 1999.

Castro said someone should have told Bush that before Cuba's 1959 revolution about 100,000 women were involved in prostitution because of poverty, discrimination or unemployment. The were all educated and given other jobs, he said.

Castro then lashed out at Bush in a more personal manner, summarizing arguments made in Justin A. Frank's book, ''Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President,'' and saying that Bush apparently had replaced his drinking with religious fundamentalism.

''He depends on religion as a defense mechanism, substituting thought,'' said Castro, paraphrasing from the book by the Washington, D.C.-based psychoanalyst and professor of psychiatry during the island's Revolution Day celebration in the central city of Santa Clara. ''In some ways, he doesn't even have to think.''

In an autobiography when he was Texas governor, Bush wrote about swearing off alcohol in 1986, when he was 40, after a spiritual awakening.

Earlier Monday, Communist Party faithful gathered for the speech in this provincial capital, where red, white and blue Cuban flags hung from the sides of buildings in observance of the 51st anniversary of the failed July 26, 1953, attack on a military barracks that launched the Cuban revolution.

The top leaders of Cuba's ruling Communist Party were among about 1,000 people attending the annual event in Santa Clara, home to a major monument housing the remains of revolutionary icon Ernesto ''Che'' Guevara.

About 30,000 people originally were scheduled to attend an outdoor event outside, but it was moved inside due to threat of rain. The event was also broadcast live on Cuba's state-run television and radio.

Castro ended his comments to Bush saying he hoped God does not ''instruct'' him to invade the island, a fear the Cuban leader often repeats.

''He had better check on any divine belligerent order by consulting the Pope and other prestigious dignitaries ... asking them for their opinion,'' he said.

After the speech, Castro hugged Elian Gonzalez - the 10-year-old boy made famous after a high-charged custody battle between his Cuban family and relatives in Miami - and Gonzalez's younger half-brother.

Elian was found clinging to an inner tube off Florida's coast in November 1999 after a shipwreck that killed his mother and others leaving Cuba. He returned with his father to the island in July 2000.

AP-NY-07-27-04 0306EDT

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