'Take care of the salmon,' Castro advises during Vancouver stopover

Sleepy Cuban leader forgets to call PM

Derrick Penner
The Vancouver Sun

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada -- Amidst expressing his hopes to avoid war in Iraq, vowing to continue resisting the United States trade embargo against his country and lamenting that hosting Olympic games has become the purview of the privileged, Fidel Castro advised Canadians to take care of their fish.

Mr. Castro was in Vancouver yesterday for a short stopover on his way home to Havana from an 11-day trade mission to Asia. He took a brief respite at the Delta Vancouver Airport Inn while the three planes his 175-member delegation travelled on were refuelled.

Before departing, a genial Mr. Castro, bundled up in a black wool overcoat and scarf, stopped for the press, who had compliantly crushed themselves against a wall behind a velvet rope stretched out to make a lane in front of the elevators.

He entertained reporters for about 10 minutes, and in departing advised them "to take care of your city.

"And take care of the salmon," Mr. Castro said in parting. "You have the very few natural salmon that still remain in the world. It has been a pleasure, thank you so much for being here."

The Cuban leader said he did mean to have a few words with Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, but began to work as soon as he arrived and later fell asleep. "It is possible I can talk to him before I go. I'll try to because we really had agreed upon talking," Mr. Castro said. "Thank you for reminding me."

When asked about Iraq, Mr. Castro said while "99 people out of 100" believe war is inevitable there is "still the remotest possibility" a U.S. attack can be avoided. He said that even within the countries that support the U.S., such as Britain and Spain, the people are opposed to war.

Mr. Castro also noted the economic costs of war. "Even the United States economy is being harmed by the threat of war," he said. "The political price of a war under such circumstances would be too high for any country to pay.

"I believe it would be convenient for even the U.S. to avoid such a war, let's say, in a way that's acceptable to all parties involved."


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