HAVANA – Cuban President Fidel Castro denounced a Forbes magazine report naming him one of the world's wealthiest rulers, putting in a special television appearance on Monday to rebut the story he called "rubbish."
In its May 5 article, "Fortunes Of Kings, Queens And Dictators," Forbes put Castro in 7th place in a group of 10 world leaders with "lofty positions and vast fortunes." The magazine estimated Castro's personal wealth to be $900 million — nearly double that of the $500 million of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and just under Prince Albert II of Monaco's estimated $1 billion.
The article also referred to rumors of Castro having "large stashes in Swiss bank accounts."
"All this makes me sick," Castro responded Monday on the communist government's daily public affairs program Mesa Redonda, or "Round Table." "Why should I defend myself against this rubbish?"
Later on the program, Castro pounded the table, saying, "If they can prove I have an account abroad ... containing even one dollar I will resign my post."
Castro also gave the floor to several top officials, including Central Bank President Francisco Soberon, to deny the claims and defend his integrity.
"It is absolutely impossible that someone in the upper levels of government — and especially not a leader (like Castro) ... who is recognized by the Cuban people as an example of humility and self-discipline — could maintain personal accounts abroad," Soberon said.
Soberon called the Forbes article "grotesque slander," and blamed the CIA and a U.S. press controlled by "the empire" for the magazine's "vulgar and ridiculous" claims.
In explaining its calculations, Forbes said it assumed Castro has economic control over a web of state-owned companies including a convention center, a retail conglomerate and an enterprise that sells Cuban-produced pharmaceuticals.
Soberon said, however, that all the money made from those companies is pumped back into the island's economy, into sectors including health, education, science, security, defense and solidarity projects with other countries.
Forbes acknowledged in its article that the estimates for all the leaders are "more art than science."