Hundreds cheered Fidel Castro when he arrived Sunday in Grenada, the Caribbean island that is the only place where U.S. and Cuban forces battled it out directly in a bloody Cold War confrontation.
Leaving his airplane, Castro clasped his hands over his heart as the audience began singing a revolutionary hymn, "Forward march, forward march against imperialism!" Some unfurled a gigantic banner reading in Spanish, "Long live the ideas of the Cuban revolution," while others waved small Cuban and Grenadian flags.The visit to Grenada - a former French and British colony of three islands tucked between Trinidad and St. Vincent - signals Castro's renewed acceptance among former foes in the Caribbean and their frustration with Washington's economic policies.
At the airport, Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, once outspoken against Castro, called the early 1980s when Cuba and the United States competed for influence on the island a time of "hatred and divisiveness."
Castro said it was time for the two countries to put the invasion behind them.
"It is a source of special satisfaction for the Cubans to observe the Grenadian people's willingness to leave behind that chapter of their history and to look with their eyes to the future," he said. "We are, and will forever, be brothers."
The most visible protests to Castro's Caribbean tour have been in Grenada. Opposition politicians, who were persecuted and jailed after the 1979 revolution installed the pro-Cuban government of Maurice Bishop, protested against alleged human rights abuses in Cuba.
Castro left for Grenada Sunday after meeting with business leaders in Barbados.
Castro began his visit to Grenada by unveiling a plaque in the airport's arrival hall commemorating Cuba's help in building Point Salines International Airport, where he arrived.