Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC


(Editor's Note) Premier Fidel Castro personally interrogated a large group
of prisoners assembled at the Havana sports palace. The interrogation was
broadcast by Havana Domestic Service at 0448 GMT 27 April 1961. During the
course of the questioning, Castro reminded the prisoners that the prisoners
whom the Batista forces had captured from the Granma (Castro's invasion
vessel--Ed.) had been killed.

A prisoner said that the invaders had come because they thought they had
good reason. They had come to fight communism. They lost, he added, and
were ready to "accept the consequences."

Castro then declared that many of the prisoners had thought they would be
killed but they had not and asked: "How many of the things you expected
have not come true?" "This gentleman," he said, "is the first prisoner in
the world who gets a chance to debate with the leader of the nation he came
to invade."

The prisoner recalled that Castro has always said that one must struggle
[Unreadable text] what one believes.

Castro replied that much of what the prisoner believed had not been true.
In a series of questions and answers he elicited the admission that the
prisoner had believed the liberation air force would be successful in their
bombing operations and that the Cuban air force would defect. These things,
he said, were not true.

Castro referred to previous interrogations and prisoners, dwelling upon one
who had been "a wealthy heir" and had lived off the labor of others. This
one claimed to favor the third position. He said he was a nationalist when
actually he was one whose nationalism consisted of "promoting
semicolonialism that has reformed with Washington's permission" and whose
third position was that of "joining the Pentagon and the Yankee Central
Intelligence Agency in the name of anticommunism."

Why, he asked, had they not aided in the struggle against Batista? Why had
the United States sent aid to Batista during revolution? "Perhaps," he
concluded, "if you had sense you would have suspected the truth."

A prisoner said they had been told they were mercenaries and had come to
fight the people and that this was not true. He said he spoke for a large
group who did not want dictatorial government and they had not come "to
fight women."

Castro asked if anyone had called them "thugs" and if they had not been
given proper respect. He asked if the prisoner had expected the people to
be awaiting him as a liberator and asserted that if the people had been
awaiting liberators matters would not have turned out as they had.

The prisoner answered that they would have been made to come to fight the

Castro upraided him for his "costly mistake" which had spilled so much
blood, "both yours and ours." "After that can you be angry with our
people?" He asked. "Are you still not capable of anger against those who
fooled you and were responsible for those lives?"

A prisoner said that there "are many like us in Miami" who had been "misled
about the situation" and that, while they were indignant over the
deception, they did not expect any aid from the United States.

Another said he had to leave Cuba because there had been no work.

Castro asked if there had been racial discrimination in Cuba and received a
reply in the affirmative. Why, then, he asked, had they not fought for the
rights of the men who had been discriminated again. He said a Negro or a
public works laborer had not been able to join the navy club, the one
because of his color, and the other because it cost five pesos to join.
Then, apparently addressing prisoners of humble origin, he charge: "Your
could not bathe in the sea but you could fight against the revolution." The
prisoner answered that he had "not come to bathe in the sea" but had come
to see his family and any man would do all he could to see his family.

Castro said that from Key West to Cayo Largo was a long way and the
revolution had been considerably less trouble. He said the army was now
being employed to build schools and asked if the prisoners knew that in
Oriente a school city for 20,000 children was being built. He called for a
show of hands and when some prisoners raised their hands to indicate they
had known this he asked if they thought children were being taught "just to
fight the revolution."

He recalled the corruption of military service under former governments and
declared that it was absurd for the invaders to think that a government
which could arm thousands of soldiers and militiamen with confidence would
fear an invasion.

He asked the prisoners if they knew that Artime had joined the revolution
on the last day and had never fired a shot and that those who came on the
Granma numbered only 12 after their landing and this number grew to 20,000.

To a query as to whether his government was communist, Castro answered,
"What if it is?" and said the United States had no right to impose any type
of government. If the Cuban people want a communist government, who had the
right to prevent it?

At about 0608 GMT there appeared to be a disturbance in the crowd
apparently cause by a shot being fired. Castro, after a few moments of
confusion, advised the crowd at the stadium not to get nervous "about a few
shots." He assured them that they had been caused by the accidental
discharge of a weapon.

After this he discoursed for some time on the benefits of the revolution.

A prisoner demanded to know why Castro's regime was not democratic.

"Who told you this is not a democracy?" he answered. He claimed that the
leaders of the revolution had never attempted to use their positions to
amass wealth and said "the Yankees" had not attempted to buy them because
it was known they could not be bought nor could they be intimidated by

The prisoners appeared to think his question had not been answered and

"I asked about democracy."

Castor asked how the peasants lived under past governments.

The prisoner replied that their wages had been low. He said his own life
had been hard.

"When the peasant went to vote," asked Castro, "did he know what he would
vote for?"

"His vote was bought," said the prisoner and agreed with Castro that this
peasant voter would have required a recommendation for admittance to a

Castro then compared the peasant's lack of right in the old order to his
status in the revolution.

A prisoner complained that he had been cook on a ship and had been force to
join the invasion because none of the crew of the ship had wanted to leave
it at Nicaragua.

Castro asked for his crewmates among the prisoners to say whether or not
this were true and there appeared to be some affirmative replies. "That,"
he said, "is the beauty of free enterprise. That is the way they do

A prisoner claimed he had been threatened with death if he did not come. He
had only come to save his life. Another said the same had been true for
him. Castro seemed to ignore them and returned to the matter of the ship.
"How much is the ship worth?" he asked. "Four hundred thousand dollars" he
was told. He was also told that Garcia had rented the ship and that the
United States would pay for its loss.

Castro asked the prisoners if they knew that the United States had
organized the invasion, then read excerpts from TIME magazine and the New
York POST.

These things, he said, were not said by a Cuban paper but by TIME and the
New York POST. He asked the prisoners if they believed they could leave the
stadium without an escort, and whether or not they were ashamed that the
members of the council had been merely puppets. He asked them to remember
how different had been the struggle of his small group of men who had faith
in the people, who knew they defended a just cause.

"Are you not indignant that they admit now that the CIA organized this
expedition and that Kennedy gave the order and that the leaders of the
invasion did not even know when their sons were coming?" he asked.

He said that on 18 April a squadron of Saber "attacked our column" and this
had been an act of piracy. Our planes took to the air, he continued. Radio
Swan said they were MIG's but this was not true. You saw them and you know
they were Sea Furies and another type of plane Batista had here. The attack
plan was not foolish but it failed. We took precautions. They were fooled
by miscalculations. You were fighting against men who knew how to fight. We
will defend the achievements of the revolution.

Then Castro turned to a cable which, he said, he had not read to them yet
and proceeded to read it. It was the U.S. note asking for support for an
invasion of Cuba through the OAS. He asked the prisoners what they thought
of it. There was some indistinct shouting following this query.

I know if the Americans come, he said, there will be some who will run to
join them. What is your attitude concerning an invasion by the United

I think that most would fight in favor of Cuba, declared one prisoner.

The microphone was then passed among the prisoners and each made some
statement like: "We will fight not to save the regime or our lives but
because this is a matter that should be solved by Cubans" or "we would take
up arms."

"If this should happen," asked a prisoner, "would the people let us fight
alongside them?"

Castro replied that it would be difficult to say but that the people would
know if their attitude was sincere. He promised to go to the people to find
out what the punishment for the prisoners should be. However, "even knowing
that the people want the execution of all invaders" he said he would
"nevertheless tell the people that it would lessen our victory after having
won with courage. It would be easy to execute you but it would only lessen
our victory. The least guilty would pay for the most guilty."

He then delivered a speech on the supreme authority of the Cuban people
concluding with: I ask you if any of the great Yankee democrats would deign
to speak with any prisoner or representative of the people. Ask the victims
of persecutions. Ask them if they can talk to Mr. Kennedy. I give you the
rostrum so you can tell them over there, Mr. Kennedy, what you think of
what has happened. Remember that for every rifle there are three men
begging to use it.

The broadcast ended at 0812 GMT after a few more prisoners had declared
they would fight for Cuba if it should be invaded.