Castro's arrival irks Chilean right at summit

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Associated Press

Posted on January 25, 2013 at 6:02 PM

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Cuban President Raul Castro's participation in a 60-nation summit was causing debate even before his plane landed in this Andean country.

The Independent Democratic Union, the far-right party in President Sebastian Pinera's coalition, accuses Castro of harboring members of a Chilean leftist guerrilla movement that assassinated the UDI's party leader, Sen. Jaime Guzman, in 1991. The judge investigating the case has demanded the extradition of a couple living in Cuba who were allegedly involved.

Guzman had been the intellectual mastermind behind the dictatorship that ruled Chile for 17 years after Gen. Augusto Pinochet brought down the democratically elected government of Marxist President Salvador Allende in 1973. But his death a year after democracy returned to Chile has always been a sore point for Chile's right.

Pinera's alliance of the conservative UDI and the center-right National Renovation party is the first conservative government since Chile's return to democracy in 1990. Members of both parties supported Pinochet's dictatorship and several Pinochet-era officials, including Interior Minister Andres Chadwick, are among Pinera's appointees.

To mollify them about the Cuban leader's attendance at the Santiago summit, Pinera agreed to give Castro a folder containing "new evidence" in the case, his foreign minister said. Meanwhile, party members clashed with leftists Thursday outside Cuba's embassy, with the support of some Chilean politicians who say Cuba has no place in the summit's alliance of democracies.

UDI members said they had hoped to give a letter to the embassy urging Castro to cooperate in solving Guzman's murder. They finally opted to toss it through the gates, where a sign was hung saying: "Closed for UDI protest."

Riot police guarded the embassy Friday anticipating more clashes.

Before the summit wraps up, Castro will formally succeed Pinera as the rotating president of the CELAC group of Latin American and Caribbean nations.

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Associated Press writer Luis Andres Henao contributed to this report.

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