UPDATE 2-Cuba challenges neighbors on poverty, then faces own critics

Tue Jan 28, 2014 8:51pm EST
 
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By Daniel Trotta

HAVANA Jan 28 (Reuters) - Cuban President Raul Castro challenged Latin American leaders to show the political will to improve health care and education, then heard from his own critics after Cuban authorities stifled a protest outside the confines of a regional summit.

Castro's speech also listed a series of Latin American grievances that directly or indirectly involve the United States, attempting to unify the 33 countries at the summit against their neighbor to the north, which was not invited.

"We have every possibility to abolish illiteracy," Castro told leaders of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). "We should have the political will to do it."

While Castro advised fellow leaders on how to manage their economies, Cuban dissidents and the United States admonished the Cubans for thwarting a protest.

Cuban dissidents were expected to raise issues of human rights at an ad hoc democracy forum at a park in central Havana, but were apparently foiled after complaining that Cuban authorities detained at least 40 activists in recent days as a part of a campaign of harassment before the summit.

With dissidents blocked from leaving their homes, only a smattering of state security agents were present where the forum was to have taken place.

"Critical voices are silenced during the CELAC summit: arrests, threats, mobiles cut," tweeted dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez.   Continued...