Paris irate over Castro claims of 'Roma holocaust'

French FM spokesman proclaims shock at former Cuban leader's interest in human rights after he dubs French expulsion policy a "racial holocaust."

By JPOST.COM STAFF, GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER
September 11, 2010 14:48
1 minute read.
Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro AP 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

France on Saturday responded to former Cuban leader Fidel Castro's comment that it was committing a "racial Holocaust" against Roma living in the country.

Paris has been criticized by many within Europe and elsewhere for its recent deportations of 1,000 Roma from French territory.

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"The use of the word 'holocaust' by Mr. Castro demonstrates his ignorance of history and disdain towards its victims," French foreign ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero was quoted by AFP as saying.

He added, "What it is truly revolutionary is that Fidel Castro is showing an interest in human rights."

Castro's original comments came during a Havana event to promote the second volume of his autobiography, Strategic Counteroffensive.  He said at the event that, "The last thing one would expect is the news of the expulsion of French gypsies, who are victims of the cruelty of the extreme right wing in France."

Castro's pro-Roma, holocaust comment came days after his entirely unexpected defense of the Jewish people and Israel. On Tuesday, the retired dictator criticized strongly Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust and supported Israel's right to exist.

In a rare interview with Jewish-American reporter Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, the ailing 84-year-old leader said he sympathized with the Jews who have suffered from repeated persecution over the course of history.

"The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours," Castro said. "There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust."

Asked by Goldberg if he could relay the message to Ahmadinejad, who has denied the Holocaust and called for Israel to be wiped off the map, he was quoted as saying: "I am saying this so you can communicate it."

Castro also spoke lengthily about his first experience with anti-Semitism as a youth growing up in Catholic Cuba.


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