Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

Castro Views Drug Trafficking

PA190302 Havana International Service in Spanish 0141 GMT 18 Sep 85

[Question and answer session given by Cuban President Fidel Castro at the
Latin American press forum on the regional financial crisis at the Palace
of Conventions in Havana on 17 September -- recorded]

[Text] [Moderator] President Castro will answer a question by Bolivian
delegate Raul Rivadeneira regarding drug trafficking.

[Rivadeneira] Mr President, what political actions would you recommend to
face this social and economic scourge?

[Castro] Look, this problem is being broached in the wrong way, not by you,
but by the governments. I believe that drug trafficking has become a source
of revenue for many countries and a way of life for millions of people. It
was not the Latin American countries that invented narcotics trafficking.
It was the U.S. consumer society, its degenerative process that created the
huge market. They have cars, televisions, video cassettes, and all those
things they have; they needed drugs, which is not a generalized phenomenon
in Latin America, nor do I believe that the consumption of drugs is
generalized in Latin America. The market is there; all of the systems and
infrastructures were created by them. Throughout the past year, taking
into account the average of the past 15 years, we kept statistics on the
airplanes and boats we have captured. We only included those that arrive
here on the coasts because they have run aground or lost their way.
Sometimes they suffer damages, and we capture them while they are in our
territorial waters. Also, there are airplanes that must land because they
are out of fuel. Often [words indistinct] violating our airspace, and they
ignore this because they know we will not fire at them. We do not fire at
them because sometimes they are not drug traffickers but persons who are
lost. Sometimes there are entire families on these airplanes.

Of course, sometimes they do not land because Cuba has such a bad
reputation that they are afraid to land here. If we shoot at them we could
perhaps kill an entire family or a businessman, a reporter, or even a
legislator who is traveling. Therefore, it is a difficult decision to fire
at airplanes.

In the past when we came across pirate ships, we were careful, and if they
did not stop we had to fire. When the pirate attacks stopped, we [words
indistinct]. We have annual statistics on violations. However, we cannot
[words indistinct] a vehicle and search it. How can we stop an airplane in
the air to see what it contains unless the technology, the super
technology, can provide us with an apparatus to establish if an airplane is
carrying marijuana or cocaine [laughter], or a dog in the air. [crowd
laughs] Almost all of the airplanes are America. Most of the boats are
Americans, although not always carrying Americans, although they have
distinguished agents and highly regarded disciples in many places --
Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and all over.

They created the problem. Now they expect the solution to be a solution
involving fumigation equipment, police, repression, pesticides, threats,
and blackmail. The Latin American governments, as in almost everything
unfortunately, have adopted a mistaken attitude in regard to the problem.
In my opinion it is the same attitude they display regarding the debt
problem, the unequal trade exchange, and all the other things they have to

(?Our position is very weak) [words indistinct]. Reagan has gotten it into
his head to eliminate drug trafficking to preserve the valuable U.S.
society, which is so saintly and pure, and tarnished and corrupted by these
Latin American bandits who produce marijuana, cocaine, and so on. And even
the coca leaves that the Indians chew, just as they drink tea or coffee --
the Indians have historically chewed coca leaves to mitigate their hunger
-- they want to uproot those plants also.

This is an economic problem. I know this because I have met persons who
participated in Mexican Army operations, Mexican reporters who report on
valleys formerly planted with corn that are now completely planted with
poppy plants. Tens of millions of plants in the valleys [passage
indistinct] and other things because it brings more money and solves the
problems of hunger and poverty these people have. These drugs have become
the source of living created by them [the U.S.] and this is only one
economic solution because the governments find they have economic problems
that they [word indistinct] because it is very difficult for these
governments to be told that they are corrupt. It is very difficult to
eliminate drug trafficking.

[Unreadable text] have a problem here because [words indistinct]. Marijuana
is easy to plant in a pot. It is a rare thing to find someone without a
little marijuana plant. In former times, the peasants cultivated it but
they did not use it

It brought them more than coffee, so they sold it. There never was a
cocaine problem. This is a new problem. During the years of the revolution,
it was used very little, only by politicians and millionaires. The use of
marijuana is a little more extensive. When we went to Sierra Maestra, as
further proof of the peasants' cunning, we did know what a marijuana plant
looked like. More than a year later we discovered that the coffee
plantations had some beautiful plants, and they were marijuana plants.
[laughter] We did not even know this. We have never heard of a rebel
soldier smoking marijuana. We did know that Batista's soldiers were given
marijuana to give them the courage to fight in the clashes. What we did not
know is that those plants were marijuana plants; what we did not know is
that many of our collaborators who easily crossed the enemy lines to bring
messages were experts (?in marijuana) before we got there. They were the
ones who mobilized the drugs, and the peasant (?conspiracy) existed in that
the peasants trusted us and were our friends. They discussed the problem.
It was never spoken of before. Fifteen or 16 months later we discovered
that it was marijuana.

I remember that one companero, who knew about the problem, made the
following proposal: All right, let us issue a law and solve the problem. I
told him, look, we are going to win the war first and solve our problems;
then we will tackle this, because they have collaborated with us many
times. What are we going to do with them? Take them as prisoners? Fight
against them? Let us leave things as they are until the war ends. When the
war was over we were asked to issue a law, so we issued the agrarian law.
However, we did nothing about the other problem; we did not even discuss
the issue. Idealism and lack of realism. However, I was aware [changes
thought] we knew how many people are [words indistinct] and those people
had helped us for a long time in a conspirational manner. They knew more
or less what we thought; they know or suspected that we would be against
this, so they did not say a word.

When the war was over no one was sent to prison; we gave land to the
peasants, we gave them credits to till the land, increased the price of
coffee, set up schools, sent doctors, and opened roads; we did everything.
Then, banning marijuana production was not a problem and that was the end
of marijuana crowing in this country. That was the end of marijuana
trafficking. I truthfully believe that only a society like ours can solve
that problem. Not everyone can resolve it. Everyone is corrupt: the police,
government officials, all kinds of crooks. There is no way to fight it.
However, at least governments are pressured to fight it.

Mrs Reagan lifted a finger to fight it. [crowds laughs] This is a new
phenomenon, I had never seen anything like that. [crowd laughs] Well, she
has her own style, calling the wives of the heads of state. She raised a
hand and moved her pinkie. First ladies flocked to Washington. I can
imagine how hard dressmakers and hairstylists must have worked during those
days. [crowd laughs] It must have been terrible. [crowd laughs] Just one
finger, and the first ladies who were invited rushed over there to discuss
the drug problem. However, I think that they should have called the U.S.
Government and told the United States: You have created the problem, the
market, the traffic, the whole situation. We are willing to help you, to
help the American people, because you are asking us to help you. However,
you must pay us economic compensation for 10 years from your millions of
millions. Then we (?could reestablish an) economy based on agriculture and
create all those conditions for the peasants (?instead of creating)
a political problem.

Moreover, I want to point out that these things show up on the balances of
payment and revenues. I believe that is one of the reasons why Colombia has
one of the -- we are speaking not as a journalist but as a debater of a
problem [changes thought]...the thing is that Colombia was receiving more
money from drugs than from coffee and the other crops it grows. There were
years when $5 billion was earned. Part of that money remains there. That
explains how Colombia, with a trade deficit of $2 billion in 1984, having
exported $3 billion and imported $5 billion, has lower debts than other
countries; it only has a $12.5 billion foreign debt. Meanwhile, Peru owes
$14.5 billion, while other countries have larger debts. Some countries that
are our friends have invisible revenues from cocaine: Colombia would have
a foreign debt of at least $25 billion or $30 billion. This is because part
of the money stays. Colombia is the only country where the dollar was
cheaper on the street than in the bank. There were so many dollars and so
many people exchanging dollars for pesos that the price of the dollar fell.
It is the only country in the world where this has happened.

Therefore, I believe this is the mainstay for millions of people in some
countries. It is an invisible source of revenue for other countries.
Reagan's crusade has aggravated the problem. Then there is practically
nothing left but to speak of revolution because if the problem is going to
be resolved by making it worse and worse, then let it become worse. [crowd
laughs] However, Reagan is making the problem worse. For Bolivia, and
citing special estimates -- there are many specialists on Bolivia who know
more or less how much comes in through that channel [Castro chuckles] -- it
would wait to be seen how much credit would go away. [sentence as heard]
However, part of that money would stay: $2 billion, against $700 million in
exports, which I believe are your exports, approximately $700 million.
However, $2 billion were going in. Naturally, this leads to corruption; it
is tremendous. However, the logical answer to that is to economically
compensate the countries. That is the only way to have the moral authority
to demand that or give governments the opportunity without forcing them
into deeper bankruptcy c while fighting the problem.

However, how will this be resolved? This will be resolved because in the
United States there are 48 states producing marijuana, more than half of
the U.S. states -- no, almost all the states -- [changes thought] more than
half of the marijuana that is consumed is produced in the United States.
There are laboratories producing synthetic cocaine. It is easier to make
synthetic cocaine than penicillin, which was obtained from a fungus, when
that Englishman -- what's his name, Galeno [voice in background says
Fleming] Fleming, simply invented the penicillin [corrects himself],
discovered penicillin. Then they began to improve the fungi gene pools,
increased productivity not through genetic engineering, but through
traditional selection processes, until one day chemistry and technology
made the synthetic production of many of these products possible. They even
design them. I have spoken with chemical researchers who have told me how a
molecule can be designed in a laboratory today. Now they do not only
discover natural products, but also design molecules just like an architect
designs a house. A molecule with given characteristics is designed to
fulfill given objectives in medicine. Synthetic penicillin is higher in
quality than natural penicillin, purer. And that is how cocaine will be. It
is not completely pure yet. I was also told that it is so potent that four
people died [crowd laughs] when they took a normal dose of it. It was about
four times as strong as the other one.

Then how are they going to solve the problem if they cannot do it? They
themselves now admit that there is more trafficking now, despite all the
measures they have adopted and all the threats they have made.

Governments cannot stop this trafficking because this would create other
social, politicians, and even economic, public order, and foreign currency
problems. The problem will be solved when the Yankees are completely
selfsufficient in marijuana, cocaine, heroine, and all those products.

The entire Reagan campaign will become a new manner of protectionism.
[crowd laughs] I hope that the Yankees will not think one day of dumping
their cocaine and their synthetic drugs. [crowd laughs] That would surely
be a problem. I have told the members of the press and Americans that the
focus is wrong. You must pay compensation because you cheated the problem.
I believe all of this is related to this situation of economic crisis,
underdevelopment, and poverty. I believe that it can all be lumped
together; this is just one more thing. As long as peasants continue to go
hungry they will continue to grow marijuana. As long as they continue to be
oppressed, poor, and without schools or hospitals, peasants will continue
to grow this product. Moreover, they will do this as long as there is a
market for it. As I said before, the market will probably be saturated
[words indistinct]: It is shameless to be training policemen, sending arms,
Pesticide spraying equipment, and insecticides to Latin America when there
are thousands, tens of thousands of people growing marijuana in the United
States! They do not control that there, while they threaten you with taking
sanctions if you do not control marijuana growth in those immense jungles
and lands of South America. And over there, there are all of those people
with all those dogs, there are policemen, and all of those technical
experts and they cannot control it. It is incredible, absurd, practically
humiliating to see how they have handled this problem.

Listen to this, Braulio Caballero, [not further identified] who worked at
those meetings in the jungle so many times. And the lady, with her finger!
[crowd laughs] That is a new form of protocol to call a first ladies
meeting! By raising the hand and moving the pinkie [crowd laughs] And
everybody goes to Washington. I do not know if you know how that meeting
turned out. I thought: What a thing, look at the world we live in, what a
lack of reciprocity, and equality in this world. [crowd laughs, applauds]