Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC


Discusses Foreign Debt

PA070425 Havana International Service in Spanish 0216 GMT 7 Jul 85

["Special" report by Ezequiel Perez Martin on the statement made Castro on
6 July during the evening session of the Fourth Congress of the Federation
of Latin American Journalists, FELAP, at Havana's Palace of Conventions --
passages within quotation marks recorded]

[Text] [Perez] The top leader of the Cuban revolution once again kept his
word and appeared at the main conference at the Palace of Conventions as he
had promised yesterday to the over 200 newsmen who are participating in the
FELAP congress.

Fidel Castro made his comments during the discussion of the fourth topic on
the FELAP agenda, journalism and the economic and financial crisis existing
in Latin America, a theme that was brilliantly presented by Peruvian
newsman Efrain Ruiz Caro, vice president for Latin America of the
International Organization of Journalists.

Ruiz Caro said that all paths are being closed to the debtor countries and
that today Latin America has a historical opportunity to bring its
exploiters to their knees by declaring that it will not pay the debt. He
said that of every dollar loaned to a Latin American country, 68 cents is
used for amortizing the debt and paying interest. The Peruvian newsman
holds the interesting position that if the debtor countries are forced to
pay the huge foreign debt, within the shortest possible time there will be
a shower of fire.

After several speeches on the acute foreign debt problem -- prominent among
which was a comment by Andres Solis, a Bolivian, who said that in this
situation one has to do what a famous French general once recommended,
namely, when all is lost, our only choice is to flee forward -- the
delegate of the Dominican Republic, Oswaldo Santana, took the floor. He
expressed several doubts about the call for Latin American unity to face up
to the problem of the foreign debt.

It was at this point that Cuban President Fidel Castro asked for the floor
to answer the Dominican newsman. He explained that there are two kinds of
unity: internal and external. In other words, in each country, there should
be internal unity, which is achieved by that country's citizens. However,
he said, no country should be left out of the external unity.

[Castro] "We have spoken of two kinds of unity that we think are necessary
for us pygmies to wage this battle against the colossus, against the giant
of the north. We have seen an elephant fall into a trap, into its own trap.
The elephant is in the trap and we pygmies are circling around the elephant
in great fear. The elephant is imperialism, the capitalist, developed,
industrialized, rich, exploitative, historically pillaging countries that
have fallen into a trap. What should we pygmies do as we circle around the
huge hole into which the elephant has fallen? We have to do something. At
this point, the struggle is not among the pygmies. The struggle is against
the elephant, above all. If we pygmies fight among ourselves and forget
"about the elephant, the same thing that has been happening to us since the
time of Hernan Cortes will befall us now. At that time, the Aztecs fought
against each other and the saddest thing in history is that 4 centuries
later, imperialism is doing to our countries the same thing that the
Spanish conquistadores did in Peru, in Mexico, and everywhere: pushed us to
fighting and struggling between ourselves, as our brother Puerto Rican said
with sorrow. He even recalled the verses by Neruda.

"They used the blood of our Puerto Rican brothers to invade Grenada, to
threaten Cuba and Nicaragua, and to wage war against us. Therefore, we
pygmies have to unite. In general, we have to carry out joint ventures. We
have to do things together.

"Thus, we speak of two kinds of unity: internal and external. We have
expressed that idea of internal unity as a general principle, but one that
has its exceptions."

[Perez] The Cuban president explained that the statement on the
impossibility of paying the foreign debt would have been very difficult to
put across before the democratic opening in several South American

[Castro] "A year ago, it would have been almost impossible to say this,
because the possibility of internal unity to struggle against something
that is very important and very decisive for the country could not be
achieved. It was possible only in a minority of countries. This entire idea
is associated with three very important events in this hemisphere: the
democratic openings in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. Uruguay is
important, not so much for its size, as for its symbolism.

"Therefore, we are experiencing new times, and ideas, programs, and
political slogans are used in the context of a number of realities and
situations as possibilities. We are experiencing changing times. However, I
will say more: That democratic opening is not separate from the tremendous
economic, political, and social crisis that the hemisphere is experiencing.
It was not just the defeat at the Malvinas that removed the Argentine
military from power. They were removed by the economic crisis. It made them
take flight. They did flee, but backwards. They did not follow the
instructions of the French general mentioned to us by the Bolivian.
[laughs] They fled in terror, in a stampede.

"The Uruguayans, and even the Brazilians, although more modestly -- because
not all these military personnel followed exactly the same policies where
the economy was concerned... [rephrases] In other words, the economic
crisis has promoted the democratic opening. Now, if those economic problems
are not solved, if they attempt to pay the debt, that would be the end of
those democratic processes, which are unquestionably a step forward. I do
not believe... [rephrases] I believe that if you asked 100 Argentines, 95
would say: The democratic process has to be preserved. Of every 100
Uruguayans, 95 would say the same thing, and of every 100... [rephrases]
because they experienced horrible things."

[Perez] During his public dialogue with Dominican newsman Oswaldo Santana
in this main conference room of the Havana Palace of Conventions, Fidel
Castro said that no country should be excluded from this gigantic battle
for independence and sovereignty, not Guatemala, or Chile, or Paraguay, or
El Salvador, where there are tyrannical regimes, because the resolution of
the foreign debt problem in those countries would not mean that those
disastrous governments would be perpetuated. He said that those tyrannies
could not be saved in any case.

[Castro] "Not that of Pinochet, nor that of Paraguay, nor that of the
henchman of imperialism in Central America. They cannot be saved. Those are
exceptions in which we would be incapable of proposing internal unity. I
cannot imagine it. Now I can imagine it in Argentina and in Uruguay. It
does, in fact, exist. In Uruguay there is much internal consensus. However,
I am not talking about internal consensus for sports, but an internal
consensus for waging this great battle, which is a battle for decisive
nationalistic independence. The battle is no longer for democracy, but for

[Perez] The top leader of the Cuban revolution told his audience that this
is not just a battle of the Latin American countries.

[Castro] This is a battle of the 4 billion people who live in the Third
World, because we are not waging a battle for the Latin American foreign
debt; we are waging a battle for all the Third World countries. We are
proposing this unity. Therefore, we say external unity. External unity
means that all the countries follow one guideline. We are really proposing
a unity of action by all the Latin American and Caribbean countries, by all
the Third World countries. This is what we are proposing as an external
battle. Why? This is the biggest battle. Do you know why? It is much more
important than independence, the independence of Latin America, of which we
have spoken so much, for so long and that we have actually never achieved,
to tell the truth. You know this is true. You cannot even make a social
change. The very next day the Yankee fleet would be right there telling you
that you cannot make social changes. Nicaragua cannot make a social change;
right away invasions are organized all around. It is blockaded; there is a
trade embargo, and everything is blockaded. Now you will have a better
understanding of a concept that I have expressed. It is the following:
Either this problem is solved or there will be generalized revolutionary
explosions throughout the hemisphere. A newsmen set a trap for me, asking:
Which would you, as a revolutionary or a radical, prefer? I said: Do you
know what I would prefer? At this moment, I believe that the cancellation
of this debt and the establishment of a new international economic order
are much more important than two, three, or four revolutions.

"I know something about revolutions [applause], Santana, because of the
Cuban revolution. We implemented it 26 years ago. I believe we have made
some progress. Above all, not only have we carried it out, we have been
able to defend it, perhaps fleeing forward, but we have known how to defend
it, and we have been able to defend it.

"We are familiar with the Nicaraguan revolution, and that of Grenada. We
know of revolutions in Africa - Ethiopia, Angola, Mozambique -- and many
other countries -- Vietnam, Laos, Kampuchea. We know of revolutions; there
have been quite a few. We are familiar with revolution in Third World
countries and with what happens. When they occur, since we are totally
independent, they immediately begin to blockade us, to divide us. They grab
each of the pygmies, one by one, when they rebel. First I will grab you,
then another, and another of the little pygmies, and they begin to

"Then comes the economic blockade to sink you. This comes first. Later
comes the subversion, border wars, bandits everywhere, the CIA, credits
approved by Congress. The destruction begins.

"If Bolivia carries out a revolution, so what? What are they going to do to
the Bolivians? I want to know: If the price of tin remains at $6, what are
the Bolivians going to do [words indistinct) because that way the sharing
would at least be more equitable.

"Some will say: I don't want to share poverty. We have to tell them: Shared
poverty is more than just unshared poverty. Yes sir. This would mean going
backwards for some. Then they don't distribute poverty.

"While the people live in poverty, a privileged minority has everything and
lives like millionaires. A revolution in poverty is better than the
exploitation system. The abysmal needs accumulated by all our countries, in
Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and everywhere, can be met only through social

"I will tell you more. We have been able to advance not just because of the
social changes we made, but because we established a new international
economic order in our relations with the socialist countries. If we had not
established this new order, you and I would not be here. [applause]

"I think that the lights went out yesterday. Well, lights would have been
out. [sentence as heard] If it were not for the new order, this building
would not exist, but the revolution, yes, even if it were a primitive
communism. We would have defended it without lights, with candles if we had
candles, with a torch and tar to light us during the night. However, we
would not have had what we have today, the colossal social advances we have
achieved. We would not have had a country of 20,500 doctors, a country
which is beginning to establish family medical care, a country in which
there will be 50,000 doctors in the next 15 years, a country which is
already graduating the first primary schoolteachers from university.

"We are taking full advantage of the new order. We are using it well,
trying to be as efficient as we can. We realize that the problem of poverty
cannot be solved only through social changes. Underdevelopment still has to
be solved. We must investigate the causes of underdevelopment. Why are we
underdeveloped? What are the factors that contributed to our
underdevelopment? We have to eliminate the causes of underdevelopment, to
have the right to be independent and also to make revolutions, so that they
do not strangle us the next day, as they tried to do with Cuba and
Nicaragua. When we talk about a new economic order, we are also referring
to putting an end to the embargo and all those crimes the United States has
committed against any country for trying to be independent. The United
States is not going to impose an embargo against Pinochet, or Stroessner,
or the horrible apartheid Government of South Africa. It talks about
constructive relations with apartheid. But Cuba has to be strangled,
Nicaragua also has to be strangled, and Grenada has to be invaded. Since we
are tiny, as are you of the Caribbean, no one will benefit more than you
from this battle. No one will benefit more than you from this union. This
is a tremendous and colossal battle against imperialism.

"What we are discussing is forfeiture if you want the debt to be canceled
or rejected. I was telling Luis de Caro that the debt is not $700 billion;
the Third World debt is more than $900 billion. In 20 years the debt would
be $3 trillion. They want this hungry and famished world to pay $3 trillion
in 20 years. Gentlemen, of course this is impossible. This is the first
thing we should realize. This is the battle waged by all the Third World
countries, by more than 100 countries. This is very important. This is the
battle for the independence of this hemisphere with much more historic
projection and importance than the one waged at the beginning of the past
century. This is the battle for the lives and future of 4 billion poor and
hungry persons. Let us not count the few million rich people.

"I know that some countries have wasted that money, have stolen it, have
absconded with it. We also know in what countries this took place. We have
names. We know how many millions have been taken out of each of those
countries. Luis Caro said that up to 40 percent of that money had been
taken out of the countries.

"I want you to know that a few days ago I read a World Bank report stating
that in one of the Latin American countries with the largest debts, for
every $100 that came into the country, $126 was taken out. Approximately 40
or 50 percent of the money that went into the 10 largest debtor countries
was taken out. And there is a particular country from where the equivalent
of 126 percent of the money was removed. We know about that. But are we
going to be concerned with those who took the money or with the people of
those countries, who are the ones being urged to pay?

"They are not asking the billionaires from a particular country, from
Mexico, to pay. They are asking the Mexican, the Argentine, the Uruguayan,
the Venezuelan, and the Brazilian people to pay: the people. And medical
services, educational services, and jobs have to be eliminated."

[Perez] In another part of his speech to more than 200 journalists
attending the Fourth FELAP Congress at the Palace of conventions in Havana,
the Cuban president reiterated that if the IMF pressure and the unmerciful
exploitation of the Latin American people due to the huge and unpayable
foreign debt continues, there will be social explosions.

[Castro] "I believe that in order to be able to wage this battle there has
to be unity. If one of these countries decides to repudiate the debt --
Luis Caro has said that such a country should receive solidarity from
everyone -- it will find it difficult to wage this battle unless it has
internal unity. The interesting part of all this is that the only banner
that can produce internal unity is this banner. There is no other banner in
Latin America that can be hoisted by a country with a democratic opening,
by a more or less democratic government. This is the only banner that can
produce internal unity. There is no other banner.

"But one has to be crazy to call for unity to pay the IMF, the debt. There
has to be internal unity for not paying the debt. [applause] We have gone
further. Some say: Sacrifice to pay the debt. We say: Sacrifice for
development, yes. Sacrifice for development. You can ask the people to make
sacrifices to develop but sacrifices to pay the debt? Never. Sacrifice for
the plundering to continue? Never.

"We have to be clear on this. These ideas are essential. I don't think
there will be any [words indistinct]. I think there will be revolutions if
attempts are made to implement the measures of the IMF. I have no doubt
about that.

"A key idea has not been mentioned. Luis Caro hinted at it. There is
something very special, something more important than the debt: The
cancellation of the debt, the repudiation, the voiding of the debt,@the
clean-slate approach would not solve the problem. It would have a respite,
but at the end of 6 or 7 years they would be as bad off or worse than now.
This is so because there is underdevelopment, and the causes of
underdevelopment would persist.

"There is protectionism. There is inequitable trade. There is arbitrariness
in the value of currency, in interest rates. What is the United States
doing? I have heard [words indistinct] that was made. It has created an
impossible situation that forces us to adopt measures, to unite.

"We have to speak about a new international economic order, because if we
don't what's the use of speaking about the debt? It would continue the same
way. What is the cause of the debt? The plundering of our countries for
centuries, the paying of $6 for our tin, the price of bulldozers.

"How much did the bulldozers that they use in their mines cost 20 years
ago? $20,000. But now go to the market and try to buy one. You will have to
pay $80,000. Now we have to pay several times what we paid before for the
bulldozer and other equipment, but you still get $6 for tin that costs $14
to produce, in spite of the fact that miserable salaries are paid to the
people who produce it.

"So what are we proposing? We are proposing unity and strength to wage this
battle for something as vital as the cancellation of this debt. With this
strength we will make impositions, we will make demands. We are going to
impose the cancellation of the debt on them. And at the same time, with
this additional strength, we will demand a new international economic
order, an economic order that was approved by the United Nations 10 years
ago but about which they don't want to talk."

[Perez] Castro also spoke about the need for the people to participate
actively in this vital struggle for sovereignty and about the effective
work that journalists can carry out in this regard.

[Castro] "This afternoon I realized the importance of journalists having
clear ideas. They have the awareness, the will, the desire to help their
people eliminate exploitation, but we must see all these elements very
clearly. For this reason it is good that these things are being discussed
here, so that there is a clear understanding of what is being affirmed and
what we have to do. We are not promoting subversion. We are simply calling
for the awakening of all the Latin Americans and all the people of the
Third World.

"I am going to tell you something else. We have been talking about
anti-imperialism for some 50 years. Nothing can teach more about
imperialism than this problem. We don't have to look for a classical
Marxist book to tell us about this problem. I am saying that this problem
of the debt, the IMF, and the horrible measures adopted by these selfish
countries are teaching the people more about the meaning of imperialism and
exploitation than 10 expensive books. It is so because the people are
enduring this situation morning, noon, and night, all the time. And this
can be seen in every country in a thousand different ways.

If the journalists do wage this battle, I would say that the possibilities
of victory will grow. We have been plundered for centuries. This is why I
say it is economically, politically, morally, and legally impossible to pay
the debt, that it is unpayable from every angle. The historic reason for
this is that they have plundered us. They are the ones who owe us,
economically speaking.

Santana, excuse me for having expanded at length on this subject. To
summarize, I want to say that I believe this is a historic battle of great
importance. If we realize this clearly, we can wage this battle and win,
and we do not have to feel bad about it. This is why I told you that I am
a radical. I have thought much about where there could be all contradiction
and what kind of contradiction, if there were one. I reached the
conclusion, based on doctrine, ethics, and political experience, that there
is no contradiction between what we are proposing and our [word
indistinct] thinking. This is the strategy we must follow."

[Perez] Following Fidel Castro's participation, Dominican newsman. Osvaldo
Santana thanked the top leader of the Cuban revolution for his
explanations on the acute foreign debt problem of the Third World countries
and, especially, of Latin America.

[Santana] "Mr President, I thank you for the generosity and warmth with
which you have honored me. I want to express honestly and very sincerely my
satisfaction. Most of all, I want to thank you for your generosity and
kindness." [applause]