Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC


DW201357 Hamburg STERN in German 19 Dec 84 pp 115-117 -- FOR OFFICIAL USE

[Interview with President Fidel Castro by correspondent Peter Torbiornsson;
date and place not given]

[Text I STERN: Commander, will you assist Nicaragua militarily if the
United States were to impose a naval blockade or start an invasion?

Castro: What is the purpose of such a question? First of all, I believe
that the task of defending a country is basically the task of that country
itself. Even if we wanted to help Nicaragua, we do not have the means to do
so. The United States knows this. We have no armed forces for offensive
operations. We do not have the military strength to oppose the United
States or break a sea naval blockade. The United States is superior to us
by far; it has aircraft carriers, battleships, aircraft -- simply

STERN: So you would look on and take no action if the United States
attacked Nicaragua?

Castro: What do you think we should do? Try to invade the United States if
there were an attack against Nicaragua?

STERN:  Is that a bitter pill for you?

Castro: Naturally, it is a bitter pill, but we simply can do damned little
against an invasion, as callous as that may sound. Naturally, as a
progressive country, we have done and will continue to do for Nicaragua
what we can economically and by providing instructors and advisers.

STERN:  How many Cubans are currently in Nicaragua?

Castro: There are quite a lot of them, but not as many as the North
Americans say, who are of course exaggerating. As Washington's ambassador
to the United Nations, Mrs Kirkpatrick, once mentioned 9,000 Cubans, which
is by far more than double the actual number. We are sometimes asked why
until recently so many Cuban teachers were in Nicaragua. Well, they were
needed and other countries were not sending any. Our teachers went into the
farthest corners of the country where the situation was most difficult. We
would be happy if there were fewer Cubans in Nicaragua and more teachers,
doctors, and technicians from other countries.

STERN: The most ticklish matter is that of the Cuban military advisers

Castro:   Why is it ticklish?

STERN: Because the United States considers this to be military support for
Nicaragua and a destablizing factor in the region,

Castro: The Nicaraguans needed a new army after the Sandinists' victory in
1979. They had no officers and no instructors, and they did not know how to
handle modern weapons. Therefore, they asked us for help.

We have quite a few instructors in military schools there, but only a few
"military advisers" among the combat forces. We are not interested in
having as many soldiers as possible in Nicaragua, and we would be very
happy to have a peaceful solution for Central America -- a solution through
negotiations -- according to which all military advisers would disappear
from the region.

STERN: So you support the Contadora Group's peace plan that the Americans
are torpedoing?

Castro: That is the problem. The United States does not want a solution. It
wants to finish off the revolutionaries in El Salvador and erase the
Sandinist revolution in Nicaragua. It is a plain lie that the reason for
the actions against Nicaragua is to prevent Nicaraguan support for the
revolutionary movement in El Salvador. It is the intention of the Reagan
administration and the CIA to allow no chance for peace or even a
cease-fire. If the United States were really prepared to find peaceful
solutions, there would be no obstacles.

STERN: The Americans say that they do not want to have socialism at their

Castro: Nowhere on the Latin American mainland are people about to build
socialism. Nicaragua is aiming for economic progress and social reforms. No
revolutionary movement, not even in El Salvador, is striving for socialism;
they want peace and national independence. Both movements are in favor of
pluralism, economically as well as politically. We know that this is the
revolutionaries' thinking in both countries and I believe that in Latin
America, national liberation, not socialism, is the demand of the hour.

STERN: The Americans view things differently. They see Moscow advancing in
Central America.

Castro: What the Americans really do not want is independent governments
defending the interests of their countries. Today they are accusing Cuba
and the USSR of being responsible for Central America's problems. At the
beginning of this century, the United States intervened in Cuba, the
Dominican Republic, and Haiti, sometimes only to collect the debts these
countries owed to U.S. banks. In the last 50 years, the United States has
supported military governments, corrupt tyrants, and thus poverty and
underdevelopment. The United States was never interested in health services
or economic development. Now it suddenly speaks about progress, reforms,
and democracy to prevent a victory by the revolution in Central America.
For that reason, the United States attacked Grenada. It did not attack
Chile, where thousands of people have disappeared and where all kinds of
crimes exist.

STERN: Do you see at the moment the direct danger of a U.S. invasion of

Castro: When you remember how strong Latin American solidarity was with
even the Argentine military dictatorship during the British attack on the
Falkland Islands, you can imagine what any brutal action against Nicaragua
would mean for the whole region. It would create so much hatred that it
would be a very long time before the United States could recover. Moreover,
such an attack would meet with a heroic defense in Nicaragua, and would
become a kind of Vietnam for the United States in Central America.
Therefore, I believe that the Americans, if they analyze the situation
thoroughly, will not make an error of that magnitude.

STERN: As far as the United States is concerned, Cuba is the troublemaker
in this region. In the event of a U.S. attack, would you expect support
from the USSR?

Castro: Whoever conducts a revolution does not have the right to do so at
the expense of others. He must bear the risks himself. Our philosophy was
and is that our countries defense is our business, and that we are strong
enough morally, economically, politically, and militarily to master it. We
have never relied on commitments of assistance. We believe in our own
strength to fight an invador in an organized way and to force him to
withdraw with great losses. What kind of a revolution and what kind of a
people would it be if they burdened others with their defense?

STERN: Do the Cuban people back you so fully? More than 100,000 Cubans have
gone to the United States in the past, and there are still thousands who
also want to go.

Castro: Socialism is not pleasant for each and every Cuban. Socialism also
means duties, work, discipline, and efforts, and I would say that 5 percent
of the people can never become accustomed to that. Many have gone to the
United States because they like the standard of living there. On that
point, we are faced with competition between the world's richest country
and a poor, underdeveloped Third World country. In the United States people
make six times more money than people in Cuba. However, our problem is not
how many people want to leave, but how many are prepared to stay here and
fight and die for their country if need be. We have solved that problem.
Imagine what would happen if the North Americans opened their doors to
Haiti, a country with a government that is acceptable to the United States?
How many Haitians would then go to the United States? The Americans would
have to employ the Coast Guard and naval ships because the Haitians would
come in such masses.

STERN: Do you think will Washington will always have tutelage over Latin

Castro: No, I believe that in the future new leaders will emerge who will
be more realistic and have a broader horizon than those of today. Viewed
objectively, Latin America needs the United States, and the United States
also needs Latin America. Some day the United States will have to accept
coexistence with the revolution because the revolution is simply a reality.
Look at China. For 25 years the Americans spoke about the horrible Chinese
danger, but today, they trade with China and invest there, and suddenly
Chinese communism is no longer bad. This attitude is more realistic because
it recognizes the facts.

STERN: In Grenada that was different.

Castro: Obviously, because there the problem could be solved by dispatching
a regiment. However, what will happen if Washington has problems with
Brazil some day? Can the United States simply invade that country too?