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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  Fidel Castro Interview:  Part 2

ROBERT MACNEIL:  Tonight we have part two of our newsmaker
interview with Cuban President Fidel Castro.  It is the first major
American television interview Castro has given in six years.  It was
recorded last weekend in Havana.

Last week White House spokesman Larry Speakes said that one of the
obstacles the Reagan Administration sees to improved relations with Castro
is what Speakes called violations of human rights in Cuba.  I asked Castro
about that.

[Castro speaks through a translator]

FIDEL CASTRO:  Which are the violations of human rights in Cuba.
Tell me which.  Invent one.  Do we have disappeared people here?

Look if the United States...

MACNEIL:  Well, let me give -- you asked.  I'll give you an
example of what is said.  For instance, human rights organizations, like
the Amnesty International, estimate that you have up to 1000 political
prisoners still in your jails here.

Do you have political prisoners still in jail in Cuba?

CASTRO:  Yes, we have them.  We have a few hundreds political
prisoners.  Is that a violation of human rights?

MACNEIL:  In democracies it is considered a violation of human
rights to imprison somebody for this political beliefs.

CASTRO:  I will give you an example.  In Spain there are many
Basque nationalists in prison.  They're not political prisoners?  What are
they?  Because you also have to analyze what is a political prisoner and
what is not a political prisoner.

Now then, those that committed crimes during Batista's time, did
we have the right to put them into trial or not?  Okay.  Those that invaded
Cuba through [unintelligible].  Did we have the right to try them?  Oh, no.
Those that became CIA agents, those that placed bombs, those that brought
about the deaths of peasants, workers, teachers.  Do we have the right to
put them into court or not?  Those who, in agreement with a foreign power
like the United States and backed by the United States and inspired by the
United States, conspires in our country and struggles and fights against
our people and its revolution--because this revolution is not of a
minority. this is a revolution of the overwhelming majority of the people.
What are these people?  What are they, political prisoners?

Those that have infiltrated through our coasts, those that have
been trained by the CIA to kill, to place bombs, do we have the right to
put them to trial or not?  Are they political prisoners?

They are something more than political prisoners.  They are
traitors to the homeland.

MACNEIL:  Is there anybody in jail simply because his political
beliefs are -- he dissents from you politically?

CASTRO:  No one.  Not because of political beliefs, nor because
of religious beliefs, that are in prison.

MACNEIL:  After Jesse Jackson came here last summer, you released
26 political prisoners.  Are you going to release more of the kinds you
were describing a moment ago?

CASTRO:  Of course we cannot be willing to release them.  It's a
bit under 200, actually, on that situation.  These are people who are
potentially dangerous.  We're not going to release them and send them to
the United States for them to organize plans against Cuba, or for them to
go to Nicaragua or Honduras or Central America as mercenaries, or as a
guerrilla for any country, to prepare attacks, so that when I visit these
countries, as they have done on other occasions, organizing a true human
hunt.  That's the psychology instilled in them by the CIA and the U.S.

MACNEIL:  The other human rights question that is raised by the
United States is that you don't have a free press.  Your revolution is now
26 years old.  It's very stable.  In your recent speeches you've told of
how successful it is.  Why wouldn't you feel confident about allowing a
press to have a full expression of ideas and discussion and opposition?

CASTRO:  Well, you are right.  We do not have a press system like
that of the United States.  In the United States there is private property
over the mass media.  The mass media belong to private enterprises.  They
are the ones who say the last word.

Here, there is no private property over the mass media.  There's
social property.  And it has been, is, and will be at the service of the

Here, we do not have any multiparty system, either, nor do we need
it.  The political level of our people, the information level of our
people is much greater.  In surveys that have been made in the United
States, an astonishingly high number of people do not know where Nicaragua
is, where the countries of Latin America are.  They don't know what
countries belong to Africa, what countries belong to Asia.  There is an
incredible ignorance, astonishing.  That does not happen here.

Your system might be wonderful.  But we -- at least the results of
ours are better, undoubtedly.

MACNEIL:  May I raise a point?  Your system, which you say works
very well, it does presuppose that the leadership of the country, you, are
always right, that you are infallible.  Is that not so?

CASTRO:  No, it does not presuppose that, because we're not as
dogmatic as a church -- although we have been dogmatic.  And we have never
preached the cult of personality.  You will not see a statue of me
anywhere, nor a school with my name, nor a street, nor a little town, nor
any type of personality cult, because we have taught our people to -- we
have not taught our people -- we have not taught our people to believe, but
to think, to reason out.  We have a people that thinks, that thinks.  It's
not a people that believes, but rather tat reason out, that think.  And
they might either agree or disagree with me.  In general, the overwhelming
majority has agreed, has been in agreement.

Why?  Because we have always been honest.  We have always told the
truth.  These people know that from the government a lie has never been
told to them.

And I ask you to go to the world, tour the world and go to the
United States and ask if they can say what I can say, that I have never
told a lie to the people.

And these are the reasons why there's confidence.  Not because I
have made -- have become a statue or an idol, but rather simply because of
the fact that they trust me.

And I have very, very few prerogatives in this country.  I do not
appoint ministers nor vice ministers nor directors of ministries nor
ambassadors.  I don't appoint anybody.  That's the way it is.  We have a
system, a system for the selection of the cadre based on their capacity,
etcetera.  I have less power, a hundred times less power than the President
of the United States, who can even declare war, and nuclear war.

MACNEIL:  But doesn't the system mean that the revolution is
always right?

CASTRO:  You, when you made your independence wars, you did not
even free the slaves, and said that you were a democratic country.  You,
for 150 years, did not even allow a black man to participate and be part of
a baseball team or a basketball team, to enter a club, to go to a white
children's school.  And you said it was a democracy.

None of those things exist here, neither racial discrimination nor
discrimination due to sex.  It is the most fair, egalitarian society there
has ever been in this hemisphere.  So we consider that it is superior to
yours.  But you believe that yours is the best, without any discussions
whatsoever.  Although there might be multimillionaries and people
barefooted, begging in the streets, without any homes, people unemployed,
and you believe it's perfect.  Because you believe things, things that I
don't think that that type of society is perfect, really.

I think that ours is better.  We have defended a better and more
just society.  We believe in it.  Now, we make a mistake.  But whenever we
make a mistake, we have the courage to explain it.  We have the courage to
admit it, to recognize it, acknowledge it, to criticize it.

I believe that very few -- there are mighty few people, like the
leaders of a revolution, who are able to acknowledge their mistakes.  And I
first of all acknowledge it before myself, because I am first of all more
critical with myself than with anybody else.  But I'm critical before my
people, critical before the world, the U.S., everybody.

But don't worry.  If this paralysis had not been correct, the
revolution would not be in power.  The revolution would not be in power.

MACNEIL:  How do you measure that?  How do you, as the leader of
this country, know that for so sure, when you don't have the vehicles for
public expression and open discussion of issues that the democracies have,
for example?  How do you know that the people feel that way?

CASTRO:  We have a party with almost half a million members.
They're everywhere, in every factory.  We know more than the United States
about the things that happen there.

MACNEIL:  But isn't the dynamic, isn't the dynamic of a one-party
state that the instruction and information goes downwards.  And if people
disagree with it, they don't dare say so?  And so dissent which may exist
doesn't come back up the system.

CASTRO:  Actually, we know what there is and we know the way our
people think much better than what the President of the United States knows
about the way the U.S. people think.  You should have no doubt whatsoever
about that.  We have many ways of knowing this.  The facts prove it.

Let's suppose that people might not agree with the revolution.
How could we have millions of people organized to defend the country?  How
could we have an armed people?

Tell the South Africans, the South African friends that they give
the weapons to the blacks in South Africa.  Tell your friend Pinochet to
give the weapons to the people of Chile.  Tell your friends in Paraguay or
in Haiti to give the weapons to the masses, to the people.  Tell many of
the friends that you have in Europe, you who speak of democracy.

And the first and the most important form of democracy is for the
citizens to feel part of power and part of the state.  And how do we prove
this?  We have an armed people, men and women, millions of people.  If they
would not be in agreement with the government, they could solve things
rapidly.  We would not be able to stay in power for 24 minutes.  Do you
want more proof of that?

MACNEIL:  I have seen it reported that, increasingly, Cuban troops
are refusing to go for service in Angola, that the families of troops who
are there and have been there are getting more and more happy over the
Angolan experience.  Is that true?  That you're feeling public pressure to
end this?

CASTRO:  For revolutionaries to fulfill an international mission
is something that is considered a great honor, and that should not make
anyone feel strange about it, when people have motivation and when people
have ideals.  Of course, that implies sacrifices.  It implies sacrifices
from families, as they separate from their relatives for a certain period
of time.  In some cases, it means risks, undoubtedly, and it means

But our people can carry on these missions because they are
prepared to do so.

MACNEIL:  How many have been killed in Angola?

CASTRO:  That question has already been asked by a journalist, and
I told him I was not going to answer the question.  Because our rule has
been that we would not publish the number, that the enemy should not have
that information.  And we are maintaining it secret.  Someday all of that
might be published.

The family knows when there's a loss.  They are informed about it

MACNEIL:  But isn't it a matter of public interest and the concern
of the Cuban public as a whole, the cost in lives of your activity in

CASTRO:  No, no.  They know well that this is a policy that is
followed and that it is a correct one, because we base ourselves on the
confidence and the support of the revolutionary policy by the people.

MACNEIL:  Tell me an example of a mistake you feel you made and

CASTRO:  In politics we have committed few mistakes, fortunately.
We have been quite wise in the decisions we have made.

In the economic field we made mistakes, and these were mistakes
that resulted from our ignorance because, in general, revolutionaries have
ideas, very noble ideas:  to have education, to have health for all, to
have work, to have jobs, to have development.  That is, very noble ideas,
but very general.

MACNEIL:  You said in your speech to the National Assembly, "We do
not become capitalists."  Do you begin to lean a little capitalist?

CASTRO:  On the contrary, totally the contrary.  I'm increasingly
happier, mentally, spiritually, philosophically, of capitalism [sic].
Every day, I'm more convinced about the advantages of the socialist system
over capitalism, more convinced about the fact that capitalism has no
future.  Well, I say no future on a long-term basis.  I'm not saying that
capitalism will disappear in ten years.  But the present capitalist system
is no longer the capitalist system of the past century.

MACNEIL:  Aren't you allowing creeping private enterprise, to
permit free markets where vegetables and food and things can be sold by the
people who -- to open new supermarkets where goods, consumer goods which
are otherwise scarce are priced at full market prices and not at supported
prices?  Is this not creeping private enterprise?

CASTRO:  When you asked about mistakes, I said that in politics we
had not.  But you did not allow me to continue, because you asked me other
things.  But that item was not dealt with.

In the development of the economy, where at the beginning we did
not have any experience, and where we even had an attitude of certain
disregard for the experiences of other socialist countries, actually, we
were a bit self-sufficient.  Actually, this is something that has happened
to many revolutionaries.  At times they believe that they know more than
the rest.

In the economic field we made mistakes, which we call idealistic
mistakes.  In essence, these were of wanting to jump over historic stages
and trying to get to a more egalitarian society, even more egalitarian.  We
had gotten to the point of distributing almost to depending on the needs of
the people, not according to their work, the amount and quality of their

When we came to the point of understanding that that had negative
effects, that our society was not yet a society with the necessary
communist culture and consciousness, we rectified things.

But it's not that we are leaning to capitalism.  The more I
analyze today's world, Third World, and even the problems of the
industrialized countries, unemployment has not been solved.  In Europe
unemployment is growing yearly.  And you can plan, and they can plan how
many unemployed they can have in 1990 and the year 2000.

The deeper I think and the deeper I meditate, the least capitalist
I feel.

MACNEIL:  Can we move to defense?  In the last year or so, you
have greatly increased, as you said, your military capacity.  You said on
January 2nd you've increased your weapons, the number of weapons by three
times.  You have roughly a quarter of a million men on active duty, 190,000
reserves, a million people as militia -- 190,000.

My question is, my question is, why does Cuba need this very large
armed force?

CASTRO:  Of course, I will rectify something.  Armed forces and
reserves are more than half a million.  Militia, territorial troops, over
one million.  We have tripled the number of weapons, but we have multiplied
many times our resistance capability by changing the conception.

In the past, the conception was the army and the reserve are the
ones to defend the country.  The conception is all of the people today
defend the country, in every corner, in every city, in the countryside, in
mountains.  And they're actually organized.  The idea is that every citizen
in this country is armed.

MACNEIL:  Is this a lesson from Grenada?

CASTRO:  No.  After Grenada we intensified it.  Yes.  The
Nicaraguans also.  The Grenada thing did not weaken us.  It actually made
us feel stronger and multiplied our determination and our will and our
readiness to become stronger and fight.

You asked why so many weapons?  The United States our adversary,
being such a powerful country, the country that harasses us, the country
that blockades us, the country that threatens us by invading us, through an
invasion, they don't understand why we make this effort?  The country that
is investing in peace [sic] $313 billion, one-third of the budget, taking
that away from ill people, from aged?  We don't do that.  At least we don't
do that.  And they don't understand that us, being neighbors of the United
States and feeling threatened by facts and the words of the United States,
that we make an effort to defend ourselves?  Actually, do we have to
explain that?

MACNEIL:  You had an invasion scare last fall, last autumn.  You
had exercises.  You had people, including children, digging air raid
trenches.  Have you relaxes now?  Are you now not fearing an American

CASTRO:  Look, we were relaxed, we are relaxed, and we will always
be relaxed.  We have been for 26 years relaxed.  That's one thing.

Another thing.  The measures we have taken to defend ourselves, we
are not going to wait for a government of the United States to decide to
attack the country for us to then start preparing ourselves?  We have
prepared ourselves, we are preparing ourselves, and we will continue
preparing ourselves always.

so, hypothetically, if the United States were to become, let's
say, in the world -- not a socialist country, let's say a Marxist-Leninist
country and more communist than the U.S.S.R. and China, we, here next to
the United States, would not disregard our defenses.  It is a philosophical

If one day...

MACNEIL:  So one of your -- excuse me for interrupting.  So one of
your motives for seeking or suggesting improved relations with the United
States is not so that you can relax your military investments.

[Technical difficulties]

CASTRO:  Do you ask if I feel any frustration?  No.  I have no
frustration.  I feel no frustration whatsoever.

I can tell you this directly.  We have done more than what we
dreamed of doing.  Many of the things we're doing now, we had some general
idea, but not as precise and concrete as we have now.  I can tell you that
reality has surpassed our dream, in what we have done.  And we're not
speaking about the future.

It's not the same as at the beginning, that we spoke of our good
intentions, but rather we now speak with a revolution that has been made
after 26 years.  And it has certain advantages not to speak of things that
we were intending to do, but rather to speak of things that have been done.

MACNEIL:  Finally, let me ask you a couple of personal questions,
if I may.

Do you want to go on being the President of Cuba until you die?

CASTRO:  It depends on how many years I live.  If I'm told that I
can be now, I would say, yes, I think I can be.  If I could not do my job,
because of the experience I have now, I would also tell you that.

I think that I am useful.  I don't think I am indispensable.
Nothing opposes my philosophy more than that.  I believe we have done a
lasting work that goes beyond us, beyond all of us.  And if it were not so,
why have we worked so much?  If it were not so, we would have failed.

But our work is not a work of stone, is not of materials, but of
consciousness, of moral values.  And that is lasting.

Either being President or not being President, I'm fully hopeful
that the others will be better.  And the sooner a new generation that is
better than us comes, a more capable one to replace us, the better.  If we
live three, four, five years, maybe ten, I don't know.  But the day when I
do not feel, really, because of my physical capabilities or mental
capabilities, that I could fulfill my duty and do my work, I will be the
first to say it.  If I live many years, you can be sure that I will not die
as the President of this country.  And the first that would not want that,
for sure, it's me.  If I want my mind to maintain itself clear and
illuminated, it's precisely to come to that very minute, to that very
minute in which I'm able to notice that I have already done my work, and
that others can do it.

So, if I tell you how that I will resign, I'm a soldier of the
revolution and I think I can still struggle.  But I have no personal
affection for honors and power or force, or the force in power.

You have a President that is older.  Maybe at that age I do not
have the physical or mental capabilities to do my work.

MACNEIL:  Tomorrow night Fidel Castro predicts violent political
explosions in Latin America.  And we have an official U.S. response from
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kenneth Dam.