Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC



PA170122 Havana PRENSA LATINA in Spanish 1510 GMT 16 Mar 87 -- FOR OFFICIAL

[Text] Rio de Janeiro, 16 Mar (PL) -- Cuban President Fidel Castro has told
the weekly VEJA that taking reprisals against Brazil for having interest
payments of its [foreign] debt would be like trying to put out a fire with

He said: Brazil is defending not only its interests, but also those of all
the debtors and its success will benefit all Third World debtors. He added:
The policy of reprisals against Cuba did not work and one against Brazil
would not work either.

The Cuban leader granted an interview to VEJA special correspondent Elio
Gaspari. During the interview, Castro analyzed relations between Brazil and
Cuba, the foreign debt and other issues.

Fidel Castro said that the Latin American now is different from that of the
sixties and no longer goes along at the heels of Washington. Times have
changed, he said, and the Latin American politicians have noticed this. In
this regard he mentioned the current experience of the Nicaraguan
revolution in the face of U.S. hostility.

He noted: Our victory will always depend on defeating U.S. efforts aimed at
dividing us. We must seek unity as much as possible in spite of our
different political and economic points of view, he added.

During the interview, the Cuban chief of state expressed his satisfaction
with recently established relations between his country and Brazil have
improved. A new Brazilian Embassy will be built in Havana soon. Oscar
Nieyeyer, a prestigious Brazilian architect, will head the project.

During the interview, which lasted more than 7 hours, the journalist
recalled the visit Fidel Castro made to Brazil in 1960 and wondered about
the possibility of a new visit. The Cuban president said that it would not
be proper for him to say how he feels about that because this could put the
Brazilian Government in a delicate position. He noted that he would always
act the way that best suits mutual relations and Brazil's interests. He
stated: I have great respect and admiration as well as sincere love for

Castro characterized the Brazilian Government's decision of 20 February,
when it suspended interest payments on its foreign debt for an undetermined
period of time, as historic.

Brazil has the largest foreign debt of all Third World countries. It is
estimated that it currently amounts to $110 billion. This is more than 10
percent of the total foreign debt of all the underdeveloped countries of
Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

The Brazilian moratorium, Fidel Castro said, is a strong and brave step
aimed at making the interests of the country prevail over everything else.
Later an Fidel Castro said: No one is talking any longer about paying the
debt, the issue now is the interest and many countries cannot even pay

Castro recalled that since 1972, when he visited Chile, the headquarters of
the ECLA, he has warned about the problem that the foreign debt represented
for the underdeveloped countries.

The Cuban president said his position on the debt is based on principles of
solidarity with other Third World countries. He mentioned as factors that
contributed to the growth of a trillion dollar debt, the commercial
protectionist policy of the developed countries, the manipulation of the
dollar by the United States, and unfair trade.

In referring to the historic reasons for the current situation, Castro
blamed the big powers that created wealth at the expense of Third World
countries that for centuries were exploited as colonies.

The resources necessary to get out of underdevelopment must come from the
rich and industrialized countries, including the socialist states, he said.
To illustrate this he noted: No one can blame the Soviet Union for Asian
underdevelopment but the socialist countries must make contributions. Fidel
Castro affirmed: With only 20 percent of what is spent on arms it would be
possible to resolve the debt and underdevelopment problems.

Regarding other possibilities of having financial resources, Castro said
that between 1982 and 1986, Latin America paid $131 billion to its
creditors in payment for debt interest and service alone. What we are
paying abroad he said, would be enough to resolve our needs.

Regarding Cuba's foreign debt problem, Fidel Castro explained that Cuba, in
addition to the suffering being endured by the other Latin American
countries, has had to endure the economic blockade the U.S. Government has
maintained for 25 years.

He noted that 90 percent of Cuba's economic relations are with socialist
countries and that in this trade the prices are fair and the debt, which is
more than $10 billion, has been renegotiated with grace periods of many
years and without interest. However, the Cuban president believes that
relations with the developed capitalist countries are very important for
his country. This is so because the supply of spare parts for industries,
some food items, and the technology of developed Western nations are very
important for the Cuban economy.

During the interview with VEJA, Fidel Castro said that Cuba had to
drastically alter its policy for capitalist creditors because of some
adverse factors that have taken place in the last 2 years.

Around the middle of 1986 the Caribbean country suspended payment on the
interest of the debt because of the fall in the price of oil, a product
that Cuba reexports in line with an agreement with the Soviet Union; the
revaluation of the dollar in contrast with he currencies of Japan and the
Western European nations, with which Cuba has commercial relations; and a
series of natural disasters.

Domestically, the Cuban leader said, we adopted economic austerity measures
and reduced imports by 50 percent. Further on the Cuban leader said that
the Cuban Government has decided not to sacrifice the people's consumption
or economic development, but undoubtedly the measures adopted represent one
of the biggest efforts made during the revolutionary period. He noted: We
are careful to explain to the people what we are doing. We fully inform the
people so that they understand that the measures being adopted are for
their benefit. We have always found, the Cuban president added, the
understanding of the people.