Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

Castro Sees U.S. 'Conspiracy' in Panama

PA020400 Panama City Televisora Nacional in Spanish 0000 GMT 2 Mar 88

[Report by Jorge Isaac Guevara on "exclusive" interview with President
Fidel Castro by Televisora Nacional "News Director" Eric Rodriguez Auerbach
and other Panamanian reporters at the Government Palace in Havana on 29
February--passages within quotation marks recorded]

[Text] [Castro] "The conspiracy has taken another step; however, this new
step is very clear to us.  It is made with the complicity and in virtue of
the subservient spirit of the man who was president of the Republic.

"I believe the post was always too large for him.  I was not surprised at
his action, because after the enormous discrediting campaign against
Noriega, the National Guard [as heard], and the Torrijist movements--which
are the targets, because they resist the U.S. plans--we said:  We must
denouce that campaign.  We must denounce it.  We realized the campaign had
a goal.  The next step in that campaign was a maneuver to dismiss Noriega.
In other words:  First, they made Noriega the target of an enormous
campaign; then the next step came, coordinated by Mr. Delvalle and the U.S.

"Everyone knows Mr Delvalle made frequent trips to the United States under
various pretexts.  Everybody knows that days before his action--the press
published this--Delvalle met in Miami with U.S. State Department
representatives and then returned to Panama and did what we suspected he
would do.  He issued a decree in an abnormal way, dismissing the chief of
the Panama Defense Forces [FDP].  I think I said National Guard earlier,
and I must try not to repeat that.  Delvalle issued a decree dismissing the
FDP chief and provoked the current crisis.

"Those events occurred the day after I granted an interview pointing out
all those things--as if I were a mind reader.  I said in that interview
that there was a great conspiracy in the air, and 24 hours later the next
step in the conspiracy was taken:  Noriega's dismissal.

"In my opinion, the dismissal is a true betrayal of the country.  Mr.
Delvalle is an oligarch.  Everybody knows that, and we also knew it.  We
obviously always treated him respectfully, because he was the president of
Panama.  However, we knew he is an oligarch.  We did not trust him at all.

"I believe we can make a historical analysis; we can even criticize
Panamanian patriots, because undoubtedly Panamanian partiots made a mistake
when they appointed that kind of person to such an important post.  Sooner
or later this kind of person would be capable of backstabbing the country
and the Torrijist movement.  I make this statement with full
responsibility.  This is my opinion of that person's behavior."

[Guevara] The possibility of some Latin American leaders becoming confused
by the propaganda and pressure exerted by the U.S. media was also commented
on by Cuban President Fidel Castro.

[Castro, in progress] " try to isolate Panama, to try to reduce the
support it has from Latin American countries.  I said I was worried about
that, because I believe it was a dramatic, huge mistake to see that Latin
American political leaders, especially those who are most concerned about
Latin American unity, could make a serious mistake.  They could make the
serious mistake of playing along with U.S. policy.  Those leaders might not
realize that what is taking place in Panama is not a quarrel among people,
an internal problem, or a legal problem; it is a conspiracy, an attempt to
take away the Panamanian people's rights over the canal, which were partly
recovered by the Torrijos-Carter Treaties.

"Latin American leaders might not understand that the Panamanian problem is
a problem of independence and sovereignty in a sister Latin American
nation.  They might fail to understand that the therefore join the Yankee
conspiracy.  To condemn the Panamanian Government, to isolate the
Panamanian Government right now is to play along with the U.S. conspiracy.

"I know many of the Latin American politicians; I have a very good opinion
of them; I know how the minds of these politicians who have been ruled by
military regimes work.  They might not understand the difference between
the experiences they have with their countries' military men and the
experience of the Panamanian people, where the military men hoisted the
flag for the recovery of the canal and national sovereignty.

"At a certain time, the FDP, the Panamanian military men, decided to side
completely with the Panamanian people.  That is what Torrijos did.  The
imperialists' plans for Panama were based on having a docile military force
in Panama, which would serve their interests and repress the people.  The
fact that the Panamanian Armed Forces sided with the people and the
people's demands was a historic event.  Instead of being an Army that
represses workers, peasants, students, and the people in general to defend
the interests of the canal, the Panamanian Armed Forces is a force that
plays a patriotic role and recovered the Panamanian people's rights over
the canal.  That was a great event; we witnessed it.  There is no
comparison between the role played by the Panamanian military men and the
one played by other military men in other Latin American countries.

"As a revolutionary, I place great importance and value on the event; I
believe it is important to explain and clarify.  It is very important that
all progressive, democratic governments of Latin America understand what is
at stake in Panama.  The sovereignty and independence of a sister Latin
American nation is at stake in Panama."

[Guevara] In another part of his interview with the Panamanian press,
President Fidel Castro stated that the path to follow now concerning the
Panamanian situation is the same one the progressive countries followed
when England attacked Argentina for the occupation of the Malvinas Islands.
Let us listen to Dr Castro:

[Castro] "At the time of the Malvinas Islands war, Argentina was ruled by
one of the most discredited governments in the world; it was one of the
most repressive governments in the world.  I would say that government was
condemned by world opinion.  However, when the Malvinas conflict came
about, all of Latin America and the Third World sided with Argentina.  We
all forgot about the kind of government Argentina had at the time, and we
said: We must think of the Argentine people and their fair demands and
rights over that land.

"We talked, worked with, and even convinced some people.  There were some
Third World countries belonging to the Nonaligned Movement, former British
colonies, that were a bit confused.  They confused the Malvinas Islands
case with Belize or Guyana.  We told them those cases were not even
similar.  We told them the Malvinas Islands were inhabited by very few
people, who were British and wanted to continue being British.  We told
them there was no sense of nation there.  In the end, despite that
discredited government, all of the Latin American and Third World countries
and peoples supported it.  It was great support.

"There is no war in Panama, but in a certain way it is a similar yet very
different situation.  The National Guard, the Torrijist process, the
Panamanian cause is well known and recognized throughout the world.  It has
great prestige in the Nonaligned Movement and the United Nations.

"The Panamanian Government is not a repressive government against the
people.  It is a process that sided with the people.  That is the great
difference between Panama's case and the case of Argentina and the Malvinas
conflict.  The Torrijist process has not used violence to claim its rights.
On the contrary, it has followed a peaceful, political, negotiated path.
Yet something more important is at stake in Panama than on the Malvinas
Islands.  Argentina's independence and sovereignty were not at stake then;
the rights over the Malvinas Islands were at stake.  However, in Panama,
with the canal lying like a sword across the heart of the Panamanian people
for decades, much more is at stake.  Panama's independence and sovereignty
are at stake in Panama now."

[Guevara] The meeting with Panamanian reporters lasted for over 3 hours.
We are now offering only excerpts of that interview, which included
important statements.  At the end, in reference to Armando Valladares,
current U.S. ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission, who the Cuban
regime filmed while pretending he was disabled in a wheelchair, Dr Castro

[Castro] "We discovered this individual woke up every day, [words
indistinct] there is a film of all this; it is a complete show.  Anyway, he
woke up every morning; he looked like this and then went to the bathroom to
do calisthenics.  Not even Charles Atlas could exercise the way that
individual did.  We have the film.  The man continued pretending.

"There was such a huge campaign about him throughout the world:  the poet
in the wheelchair, a Castro prisoner.  They even blamed me for everything.
Several people, including Mitterrand, became interested in the case.  One
day, [Regis] Debray--I think it was a book he wrote in the same style of
Jean Jacques Rousseau--talked about everything; he told the story.  He said
he was disappointed, because Valladares was neither a poet nor a cripple,
and in the end he was not even a Cuban citizen, because the individual is
now a U.S. citizen.

"In that book, he explained his disappointment.  It was Debray who came.
The rightist press manipulated in France and Europe conducted great
campaigns about that individual.  They exerted pressure on the French and
Spanish Governments and others.  That is the mechanism.  We dislike to be

"Valladares did not show up when we discovered he was a sham, a complete
liar.  I do not know whether he also deceived the Yankees.  Sometimes I
think he also deceived the Yankees, because in the last few days and
because of all those things in Geneva, we received a confidential U.S.
State Department document.  The document has instructions signed by Shultz
and addressed to many U.S. ambasadors.  Fair and generous hands sent us a
copy of this confidential document.  We made a pamphlet.  What does the
document say?  It says: What is being said are lies.  Cuba, the perpetrator
of torture and human rights violations, is trying to defend itself by
accusing Valladares of being a Batista guard, which is a lie.  The document
gives many arguments on all that.  The document states that the videotape
is false and was filmed with technical violations. [sentence as heard] The
document says many things.  It contains 15 lies.  We had no choice but to
seek evidence."