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PROGRAM  The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour         STATION  WETA-TV
PBS Network

DATE     February 11, 1985   7:00 P.M.       CITY     Washington, D.C.

SUBJECT  Interview With Fidel Castro, Part 1

ROBERT MACNEIL:  Our major focus section tonight is a newsmaker
interview with Cuban President Fidel Castro.  Last month the U.S. and Cuba
successfully negotiated an agreement under which Cuba will take back 2500
undesirables who came in the Mariel boatlift of 1980 and the United States
will reopen normal immigration procedures in Havana.  Since then, Castro's
said he'd be willing to talk further about improving relations.  Washington
has reacted coldly, saying Castro is saying nothing new, and it wants to
see Cuban deeds, not words.

How far Castro wishes to push his new effort has not been clear.
But in Havana, part of his motivation is obvious.

Havana today expresses the weaknesses of the Cuban revolution.
Its successes are in the countryside, where better nutrition, health care
and education have changed more lives.  Havana, the symbol of the decadent
past, was neglected, with little new building.

But with an economy still unable to meet all Fidel's goals an
acute need for hard currency, old Havana is getting a facelift to attract
tourists.  Buildings and streets from the Spanish colonial period are being
refurbished, as is the square of the old cathedral.

The bulk of the tourists are still people from the Eastern Bloc,
their presence symbolizing Castro's dependence on the communist world for
economic survival in the face of the American trade blockade.  That's been
in force for a quarter of a century and has been tightened by the Reagan

Cuba's lifeline is a procession of Soviet merchant ships bringing
virtually everything, from oil and lumber to light bulbs.  They return
taking Cuban sugar, citrus and nickel, but recently not enough to meet
the plan quotas.

So Cuban consumers have been asked to tighten their belts again,
to wait for more attractive consumer goods, while a big drive is made to
boost exports to the Soviet Bloc and to the West, both to meet Cuba's
commitments to her communist partners and to earn hard currency to pay her
Western debts.

This is the context for the growing suggestions that Castro, 26
years after his revolution, would like to patch things up with the U.S.

There is no slackening of revolutionary zeal.  The spirit that
defeated the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 is constantly nourished, and the
symbols of Castro's rise to power are a national shrine.  The revolution is
still young enough to enjoy tweaking Uncle Sam's beard.  This poster says,
"Mr. Imperialist, we are absolutely not afraid of you."  It is located
close to the U.S. Mission, now called the U.S. Interest Section because
there are no full-scale diplomatic relations, where U.S. officials try to
read the signals that Castro is sending.

On Friday night President Castro sat down with me for the first
major American television interview in six years.  With a Cuban government
interpreter, we talked for more than four hours, first about relations with
the United States.

Mr. President, every time that you begin to talk about improving
relations with the United States, Washington says, "Show us deeds, not
words."  What actions or deeds are you prepared to make to improve
relations with the United States?

FIDEL CASTRO:  You said many times I speak of improving relations.
Actually, there are not many times.

Now then, I have read a few statements in which it is said that
they want deeds and not words.  I believe that that is a style of speaking.
I would say a style of a great power.  I understand that it is not easy for
the United States to change its style.  We are a small country.  We cannot
speak in those terms.  But we are also a country with a lot of dignity, and
no one can suppose that we would beg the United States for an improvement
of relations.  We have never done so, and we shall never do it.

My intention is not that they believe what we say; but, rather,
simply to analyze our ideas and to go deeper in them, to make objective
analyses of events.  It is not a matter of faith, of confidence.  It is
a matter of objectivity.

MACNEIL:  Let's go through an objective analysis.  The State
Department and the White House always say that there are three obstacles to
improving relations between Cuban and the United States, and they are your
allegiance to the Soviet Union, what they call subversion in this
hemisphere, and the large number of your troops in Africa.  Sometimes they
also mention human rights in Cuba.  The White House mentioned human rights
in Cuba this week again.

Can we discuss in detail each of these, starting with relations
with the Soviet Union?

Is there a formula by which you could keep your ties to the Soviet
Union and improve relations with the United States?

CASTRO:  If the United States believed that there are three
obstacles, actually there are quite few -- quite little.  I thought there
were much more.

Now then, if we analyze these three types of obstacles, the first
-- that is, the relations that we have with the Soviet Union, with the
socialist countries, and with any other country are matters of our
sovereignty, and in fact cannot be questioned; or, at least, we are not
ready to discuss that.

And this is always -- this is something that I always say in a
very frank way.  If in order to improve our relations with the United
States we must give up our convictions and our principles, then relations
will improve on those grounds.  If we are going to question our
sovereignty, then they will not improve, either.  Relations between Cuba
and the Soviet Union are based in the most strict respect for independence
and sovereignty of our country.  We have friendly relations, very close
relations, and these relations cannot be affected in order to improve
relations with the United States.

I believe that the United States would not respect a country that
would do such a thing.  The countries that do those things simply are not
respected.  And actually, we are not going to change neither our flag nor
our ideas.  And our relations with the Soviet Union and our friendship will
be maintained intangible [sic].  I say this being fully frank and fully
sincere.  And it is necessary that this be understood.

MACNEIL:  The Director of Cuban Affairs in the State Department,
Kenneth Scogg (?), he said in a speech in December, "What Cuba could not do
and still retain Moscow's favor is to alter its fundamental commitment to
unswerving support for Soviet policy."

And so my question is, isn't that unswerving support for Soviet
policy the price of the Soviet aid that keeps the Cuban economy going?

CASTRO:  Well, we coincide in many things with the Soviet Union
because we have a community of political principles.  It is a socialist
country.  We are a socialist country.  We do have many things in common
with the Soviet Union.  And in many international problems, we have our
common stands.  That is based on political ideas and principles.  It is a
friendly country of whose friendship we will not reject and of which we
cannot feel ashamed of.  Because, actually, we are not going to fight with
our friends to become friends of our adversaries.  That we shall never do.
And the Soviets have never imposed any conditions on us, on their
assistance.  And they have never attempted to tell us what we should do,
what we must do, with which countries we ought to trade, and with which
countries should be have relations.

So, I simply can't understand where these theories come from --
that is, that our relations with the Soviets are an obstacle.  And if
someone thinks that we are going to sell out or that we are going to give
up our banners or our flags or that we are going to change our ideas, that
is in error.  Cuba is a country that cannot be bought.  And countries that
are bought are simply not respected.

MACNEIL:  I think what the United States Government is saying is
that your economic dependence on Moscow makes you automatically a part of
the Soviet camp, in having to agree to policies lie the Soviet intervention
in Afghanistan.

Would you, Fidel Castro, who values the independence and integrity
of a small country, would you alone have approved the Soviet intervention
in Afghanistan if you had been free to make your own choice?  Did you,
privately and personally, approve of the Soviet intervention in

CASTRO:  When it was put forth at the U.N. -- that is, the
question, the issue -- we said clearly that in that conflict, in that
attack, that tremendous attack against the Soviet Union led by the United
States, we were not going to be on the side of the United States, simply
not.  And we were then on the side of the Soviet Union.  In other words, we
did not deal or delve on the topic.  That is what we said:  This is our
position because of this.

MACNEIL:  But isn't that the point, that your friendship and
dependence of the Soviet Union makes you part of the camp, and therefore
take positions which Washington regards as anti-American positions?

CASTRO:  You establish this dependence, or something, that is
actual.  In fact -- but in today's world, in the economic arena, no one is
absolutely independent, not even the United States, nor Japan, nor Western
Europe.  They depend on oil, raw materials.  And from many other countries,
they need markets, they need trade.  That is, no country is totally
independent economically.

MACNEIL:  Is it not true that your role, in return for all the aid
you get from the Soviet Union, is to be a thorn in America's side?

CASTRO:  If that were true, we would not be talking about
improving relations with the United States.  If our role is to be a thorn,
then it would not be convenient for us.

Actually, it does not bring us great benefits, either.  That is,
we are based on a conviction and it is the necessity to struggle in our
area, in Central America, throughout the world.  It is a duty, actually a
duty that we have in order to lower tensions and to achieve relations of
peace as well.  And I say this sincerely, although I am a revolutionary, I
was a revolutionary, I am a revolutionary, and I shall always be a
revolutionary, and I will not change a single of my principles for a
thousand relations with a thousand countries like the United States.

MACNEIL:  Will the Soviet Union continue to provide you with the
aid and support it does, do you believe, if you have good relations with
the Soviet -- with the United States?

CASTRO:  Look, our relations with the Soviet Union, with the
socialist countries are solid things, based on principles and have
absolutely nothing to do with our economic and political relations with the
United States.

I will say one thing, though.  The Soviet Union and the Soviet
people feel great appreciation and great respect toward Cuba.  But it is --
they respect Cuba because they admire us, others people do, the courage of
Cuba, Cuba's staunchness, and Cuba's capability to resist for over 26 years
the aggressions, the economic blockade, and the brutality of the United

MACNEIL:  Would the Soviet Union like it if you had better
relations with the United States, the blockade perhaps were lifted, and the
economic burden on the Soviet Union were shared or lessened?

CASTRO:  The United States will pay us for our sugar at the price
of the Soviets, or will they be buying the nickel, and they will be
maintaining the type of relations and trade that we have with the socialist
countries?  But I believe the idea that we have any needs to trade with the
United States should be totally eradicated.  Everything we have done during
these 26 years, we have done it without trade with the United States.  And
our future has been conceived without trade with the United States.

Actually, we have not asked from the Soviet Union.  Generally, we
don't ask their opinion on our economic or political relations in an
international arena.  But I know the Soviet Union very well and I know the
policy of the Soviet Union.  And the Soviet Union would never be against
Cuba's developing its economic relations with the other capitalist
countries, including the United States.

MACNEIL:  So, to move on to the second point that Washington says
is an obstacle to better relations, what the White House spokesman, Larry
Speakes, called this week your subversion in the hemisphere.

Let me quote you again Mr. Scoog of the State Department.  "It is
Cuba's striving, with Soviet support, to introduce Marxist-Leninist regimes
throughout the hemisphere which still lies at the heart of our

Would you comment on that?

CASTRO:  Well, I could also accuse the Pope of practicing
subversion in Latin America and preaching Christianity and Catholicism.  He
has visited the countries even recently.  He met with natives and said that
the land had to be given to the natives, and the land properties.  And he
declared that schools were necessary for the children, jobs for the workers
and for the families, medicine and doctors for the ill, and also foodstuffs
or housing.

What we preach is more or less that.  And besides it is what we
have done in our country.

So then, we will continue being Marxists and we'll continue being
socialists.  And we will always say that our social system is more just.
But we have said also, because we are convinced about it, we have said the
following, and which is my answer to that:  Neither can Cuba export
revolution, because revolutions cannot be exported.  And the economic,
social factors, the cultural, historical factors that determine the boom of
the revolution cannot be exported.

The external, the huge external debt of Latin America cannot be
exported.  The formula applied by the International Monetary Fund cannot be
exported by Cuba.  The unequal trade cannot be exported by Cuba.
Underdevelopment and poverty cannot be exported by Cuba.  And that is why
Cuba cannot export revolution.  It is absurd.  It is ridiculous to say that
the revolutions can be exported.

But the United States cannot, on the other hand, avoid them,
either.  The United States accuses us maybe of wanting to promote change.
Well, we would like to see changes occur.  But changes will come whether
the United States likes it or not, whether or not Cuba likes it.

I could answer by saying that the United States wants to maintain
an unjust social order that has meant for the people's of this hemisphere
poverty, hunger, underdevelopment, diseases, ignorance.  And the United
States wants to maintain that.

And we could also say that the United States wants to avoid
change.  We are accused of wanting to promote change.  We can also accuse
the United States of wanting to avoid change and of wanting to maintain an
unjust social regime.

But actually, neither can we export it, nor can the revolution
avoid it -- nor can the United States avoid it.

MACNEIL:  In supporting militarily the Sandinista regime in
Nicaragua, is Cuba not helping to sustain and introduce a Marxist-Leninist

CASTRO:  In helping Nicaragua, by offering military cooperation?
Well, we are helping an independent country.  We are helping a just
revolution to defend itself.  That's simply what we're doing.  In the same
way that, for example, the United States has also sent their weapons to
this hemisphere to other people.  It sent weapons to Somoza.  It sent
weapons to Trujillo when Trujillo was there.  It sent weapons to Pinochet.
It sent weapons to all of the repressive governments of Latin America,
governments that murdered, tortured dozens of thousands of people,
governments which disappeared tens of thousands of people.  They had no
moral obstacle in giving any economic, financial, and military assistance
to these governments.

So, with what moral grounds can it be questioned -- that is, can
our right be questioned to help Nicaragua, and Nicaragua's right to receive
that aid?

I ask the following:  Can the United States help the
counterrevolutionary bands, supply weapons to them, explosives to fight
inside Nicaragua, something that has meant the lives of thousands and
thousands of people, and on the other hand question Cuba's right and
Nicaragua's right for us to give them economic, technical aid, and even
cooperation in the military field?

MACNEIL:  So you would not stop giving such aid as a condition of
improved relations with the United States.

CASTRO:  We shall not make any unilateral decision in our
relations and cooperation with Nicaragua.  What we have said is that in
Central America a political negotiated solution is possible.  What we say
is that we support the effort of Contadora to seek solutions of peace in
Central America, that we support it staunchly, sincerely, and that we
believe that political solutions exist and peace solutions exist that are
convenient for Nicaraguans, for Central America, and for the United States
itself.  And we are ready to struggle for that.  And also, in fact, the
agreements that are reached shall be complied by us in a determined way.
That is, any agreement reached between Nicaragua and the Contadora
framework shall be complied by us to the very limit.

MACNEIL:  How hopeful are you that -- now that some political
settlement can be reached in Central America?

CASTRO:  I am absolutely convinced.  I have a lot of information
about the work of Contadora effort or the discussions of the burning issues
there, the positions of the United States, Nicaragua's positions.  And I am
convinced, fully convinced, that it is possible to find formulas that will
be acceptable by all parties, or to all parties.  I have that conviction.
I'm convinced about that.

Now then, for it, it is necessary for the United States to want to
really cooperate in finding a political solution.  I believe that as long
as the United States is convinced that it can destroy the Sandinista
revolution from within by combining the effect of the economic measures
against Nicaragua with the economic difficulty inside Nicaragua and the
actions of the counterrevolutionary bands, as long as they're convinced
that they can destroy the revolution from within, it will not be seriously
ready to seek a political solution to the problems of Central America.
Because if it believes that it will destroy the revolution, why negotiate,
then?  Why reach agreements?

Now then, now, when the United States becomes persuaded that it
shall not achieve that goal, that the Nicaraguan revolution cannot be
destroyed from within -- because of the questions I mentioned, problems I
mentioned, I believe that they can face the economic problems with what
they produce and with the aid they are receiving, the economic aid they're
receiving.  If they handle it correctly, efficiently, they can face the
economic problems.  I'm convinced of that.

I am also convinced that they can defeat the bands, and that the
bands will never be able to defeat...

MACNEIL:  Excuse me.  By "the bands" you mean what are called in
the United States the Contras.

CASTRO:  Yes.  The counterrevolutionary bands.  That will be
defeated -- they will be defeated.

So, then a situation will come up before the United States -- that
is, the United States will have no other alternative but to negotiate
seriously to seek a solution, or invade Nicaragua.  And since in my view,
in my criteria, a U.S. invasion in Nicaragua is unconceivable, since it
would mean such a serious mistake, a terrible mistake, that I do not simply
think that the United States would really get to the point of making that
mistake.  I cannot assure you that it might not do it, but I say that it is
unconceivable that under the present circumstances in Latin America, under
the present circumstances of crisis, with the present feeling on the part
of the Latin American peoples, at the times we're living in, the aggression
and invasion against a Latin American country would be as catastrophic, in
political terms, it would mean such a political cost, and not only a
political cost, but also in terms of U.S. lives.

MACNEIL:  Let me turn to Africa.  The third of those obstacles
that Washington sees to improving relations with you, your troops in
Angola.  You talked recently about circumstances arising which would cause
you to bring them home.  What would happen -- what would have to happen to
start bringing the Cuban troops out of Angola?

CASTRO:  What is needed there?  Well, discussions have taken
place, with the participation of the United States.  The United States had
had dialogues, talks with Angola's leadership.  We are informed, through
the Angolans, about these negotiations or talks that have been held, with
our support and with our full cooperation.  That is, they have carried out
these negotiations in close contact with Cuba.

MACNEIL:  Could you withdraw any of your troops before there is

CASTRO:  No.  No.  The Angolans would not agree with that. And
from our point of view, it would be a mistake.  And the Angolan proposal --
that is, if those circumstances come up, then Angola commits itself, then
Cuba, of course, would support it, to withdraw in a period of three years
what is called the grouping of troops in the south, which is made up by
approximately 20,000 men.  And even the figure was given.

This is the bulk of our troops, actually.  But there are still
troops in the center and to the north of Angola, including Cabinda.  The
Angolans have not included these troops in the negotiations, these present
negotiations.  And their position is that to withdraw those troops, it will
be something that would have to be discussed between Angola and Cuba,
whenever it is considered that they can dispense of these troops.

MACNEIL:  Do you think that this projected settlement of the
Angola situation, does that erase Cuban troops in Angola as an issue
between you and the United States?

CASTRO:  Before, there were no troops in Angola, and relations
were very bad with the United States.  Today, were there no troops in
Angola, or in some other place, or there are no advisers in Central
America, maybe the United States might invent something else.

MACNEIL:  Just to sum up our conversation about improving
relations with the United States, why is this the right time to raise this?
And realistically speaking, how hopeful are you that is can happen?

CASTRO:  Whether this is the right, best moment, I believe that if
the United States is objective, if it is realistic, I would say that it is
the best moment for the United States.  Nor for us.  Actually, we can go on
for five, 10, 15, 20 more years.

The only obligation on our part, really, is toward peace.  If
there's peace here and in other areas, we will feel more pleased.  If the
relations are normalized, even more pleased.  Because it would be, then, a
progressive progress.  Peace is convenient for all.  But from the political
point of view, I'm convinced, and I'm saying this frankly, I think that the
United States benefits most than us.  We can sit here and wait calmly and
see what happens in the coming years.

MACNEIL:  Tomorrow night Fidel Castro talks candidly about human
rights in Cuba, political prisoners, dissent, the controlled press, and the
mistakes of his revolution.  He also discusses what he sees as an explosive
economic situation in Latin America.