Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Castro Not a Greedy Dictator

that's what he says. here's an interesting light on Cuba's leader:
By Ian Katz
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

May 16, 2006

HAVANA � Cuban President Fidel Castro lashed out Monday night at a report in a U.S.-based magazine putting his net worth at $900 million, calling it "garbage" that "disgusted me."

At a nationally televised roundtable to rebut Forbes magazine, which this month released a wealth ranking of "Kings, Queens & Dictators," Castro said he reacted viscerally to the article. "I have to confess, the subject disgusted me," Castro said.

Referring to government social projects, he asked: "We did all this to make a personal fortune?" Castro started by speaking less than an hour before asking other top officials, including the Central Bank president and minister of culture, to weigh in. Previously, Castro has said he considered suing Forbes for its annual list. Last year the magazine put his net worth at $550 million.

Opinions about Castro's wealth vary widely among Cuba analysts. "I have no doubt that Castro has some money salted away," said Mark Falcoff, a Cuba and Latin America specialist formerly with the American Enterprise Institute. "Every dictator does. But $900 million strikes me as a rather large number. I would have expected that number for a leader of a larger country, like Peru or Venezuela."

Castro is known to have at his disposal several homes including hunting ranches, a fleet of Mercedes vehicles and private planes, said Antonio Jorge, a Cuba specialist and professor of economics and international relations at Florida International University. "If he has that kind of luxurious lifestyle, I would think it's not past him to take money for any eventuality," he said. "I find it hard to believe that over almost 48 years he has only skimmed $900 million."

Given that longtime dictators such as the Shah of Iran and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines were reported to have fleeced their countries for billions of dollars, "I would not be surprised if Castro had $4 billion to $5 billion," he said.

Forbes "misses the point of what he really stands for," said Paolo Spadoni, an expert on the Cuban economy at Stetson University in DeLand. "I'm not saying he doesn't have money, but for him the main point is about having control. Money has never been his priority."