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Published: Saturday, 4/27/2002

Castro tells Kaptur he'll help return remains of Morgan

BY MICHAEL D. SALLAH
BLADE NATIONAL AFFAIRS WRITER

Two weeks after a meeting with Fidel Castro, the Democratic congresswoman visited the home of Olga Goodwin to assure her the Cuban president has promised his assistance. (Read more from The Blade on William Morgan)

“Mr. Castro said he is willing to find a way to achieve this,” said Miss Kaptur. “He was very open about this.”

The veteran lawmaker met privately with the 65-year-old widow and her family for more than an hour in the afternoon to discuss her request that her husband's corpse be returned to his hometown.

For Mrs. Goodwin, it was the first time she had received any assurances that her plea would be answered.

“This is wonderful,” said the Cuban native who now lives in Toledo. “I did not expect this, but I'm grateful.”

The request to the Cuban president, the longest-serving Communist leader in the Western Hemisphere, marks the first time in many years the Cuban government has promised to return the body of an American to U.S. soil.

Morgan was a high school dropout from Toledo who stunned his family by leaving Toledo in 1957 to join the rebel forces in Cuba trying to overthrow the dictator Fulgencio Batista.

But after the rebellion succeeded in 1959, the stocky solider of fortune became openly critical of the Castro government's ties to Communism and was executed by a firing squad in 1961 for allegedly running guns to anti-Communist guerillas.

Morgan's widow, 65, who was born in Cuba, was imprisoned for nearly 12 years on the same charges. She left her country in 1980 during the Mariel boatlift and came to Toledo, where she has lived for 20 years.

She hugged Miss Kaptur yesterday when the two women met. “For her to do this for me - it means so much,” said Mrs. Goodwin.

The congresswoman said she decided to raise the issue of Morgan's widow after reading of her story in a three-part series in The Blade last month. “It seemed to me that she needed help, that she wanted to reach the Cuban government,” but was unsuccessful, said Miss Kaptur.

She traveled to Cuba on April 12 as part of a congressional delegation to explore potential American business opportunities and to look for ways to sell Ohio produce and grains to the impoverished island nation.

It was during her audience with Castro that she decided to broach the subject of Morgan's remains, she said. “I didn't know how he would react, but he was very gracious and forthcoming in his response,” she said, adding that he was already well aware of the topic.

“We had informed the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., before we left that we wanted to talk about this,” said Miss Kaptur.

She said that during a three-hour meeting with the Cuban president, they discussed a wide variety of issues, including food sales to Cuba - a source of controversy with the Bush administration - and even Toledo.

“We talked about an exchange of baseball teams, the Mud Hens playing over there and Cuban teams coming here. We even talked about a possible art exchange with the Toledo Museum of Art.”

She said she invited Castro to visit Toledo. “But he told me that he couldn't go beyond 25 blocks of the United Nations and that he could visit the Cuban Interests Section. I told him that I would make the request for him.”

Though the Cuban president agreed to consider returning the remains of Morgan to the United States, that may be a difficult task. Though the freedom fighter was buried in the massive Colon Cemetery in Havana, workers there have said they've been unable to find his grave.

Miss Kaptur said she was assured they would search again, and eventually DNA testing may have to be utilized. “We will follow up on this. If we can bring about the repatriation of his remains, it would open up a spirit of cooperation with us in this area of Ohio and the Cuban government.”



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