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British ballerina plotted with Castro to overthrow Panama govt

Last Updated: Friday, May 28, 2010 - 16:40

London: British ballerina Margot Fonteyn,
widely regarded as one of the greatest classical balletdancers
of all time, was involved "up to her neck" in a 1959 plot with
Cuban leader Fidel Castro to overthrow Panama`s government, de
-classified documents have revealed.

The renowned dancer was arrested by the Panamanian
authorities in April 1959 after her husband launched a failed
coup attempt using 125 Cuban revolutionaries.

After returning to Britain, Fonteyn confessed
to Foreign Office Minister John Profumo she had met Castro and
took part in a mission to assemble rebels and weapons at sea
for an invasion of Panama, the `Daily Mail` reported.

In a note, Profumo recalled: "Dame Margot assured
me that during their visit to Cuba in January, Castro had
promised help to her husband in his aims to overthrow the
existing regime in Panama.

"She was a bit hazy about the extent of aid offered
because, she said, the talks were in Spanish, but she was
certain the aid included both arms and men. She affirmed that,
even up to a short while ago, Castro was behind this coup.
Naturally he now had to disclaim all knowledge.

"She said that the Cuban invaders were just soldiers
of fortune who were prepared to go to war anywhere they were
asked. She gave me to understand that quite a large-scale
operation had been planned but that it had gone wrong at the
last minute."

The ballerina also told Profumo that her husband "was
prepared to go to any extremes to help the ordinary common
people of Panama" who were "having a very raw deal", according
to the documents released by the National Archives.

However, Britain was unimpressed by her "highly
reprehensible and irresponsible" behaviour and expressed hopes
that she would "keep away from Panama for a very considerable
time", the files have revealed.

Fonteyn, who was born Peggy Hookham in Reigate,
Surrey, in May 1919, returned to Panama with her husband for
the final years of her life and died there in February 1991.


First Published: Friday, May 28, 2010 - 16:40

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