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Cuban state media criticizes Nobel winners

Cuban state-controlled media says it is disappointed with the Nobel prizes awarded to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo and Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, an outspoken critic of dictatorships across Latin America.

The website Cubadebate, where Fidel Castro posts his opinion columns, carried an article over the weekend saying, "Let's hope to God this is just one of those ideological strikes that this once-prestigious honor has delivered over its long history, and not a new rule."

The opinion was signed by M. H. Lagarde, a longtime commentator for Cuban government media.

Liu, a 54-year-old literary critic who is in the second year of an 11-year prison term for inciting subversion, was picked for the Noble Peace Prize last week.

China has become a major trading partner and ideological partner of Cuba since the collapse of the Soviet Bloc deprived Cuba of its main foreign supporters. China and Cuba are both governed by Communist Parties that tolerate little organized opposition.

Lagarde compared Liu to the sort of dissidents here that Cuba's government considers agents of Washington. "The curriculum vitae of Liu Xiaobo is, as a matter of fact, not the least bit different from the type of 'dissident' the United States has for decades employed."

Another ally of Cuba and China, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, expressed solidarity with China on Sunday and criticized his country's opposition media for alleging that Chinese failure to broadcast news of Liu's award showed "the repressive character" of the government there.

"They are lackeys. They are worse than the Yankees," he said of critics.

Vargas Llosa once sympathized with Castro but became a critic of Cuban politics in the early 1970s. The 74-year-old often criticizes what he views as threats to democracy and freedoms in Latin America.

As he basked in praise for winning the literature prize last week, Vargas Llosa singled out Venezuela and Cuba, saying they represent a step backward for a hemisphere emerging from an era of strongman leaders.

Lagarde said that Vargas Llosa's agreement "with the most-reactionary of the international right is as unquestionable as his silences on the unjust war brought by the United States against Iraq and tortures in the concentration camp of Guantanamo," a reference to the U.S. naval base in eastern Cuba where the U.S. houses terror suspects.

He "should have received the award many years ago, when ... he was more of a writer than a politician," Lagarde wrote.