Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

Further on News Conference

FL0902134989 Havana Television Cubana Network in Spanish 0130 GMT 8 Feb 89

["Part 2" of news conference held by President Fidel Castro on 4 February
in Caracas, Venezuela--recorded]

[Text] [Moderator] Okay, let's continue.  Guillermo Rodriguez from
Colombia's Radio Caracol now has the floor.

[Rodriguez] Good evening Commander.  Caracol stands for Colombian Radio
Network, not the other kind of caracol.  [wordplay on "caracol," which
means seashell and is also the acronym for Cadena Radial Colombian,
Colombian Radio Network].  [laughter, applause]

As you know Commander, Colombia is going through a very critical time.  It
is a country where, unfortunately, many things are collapsing.
Unfortunately, your name is also abused in certain acts committed by
irresponsible individuals who make reference to--if we mention the means--a
pro-Castro guerrilla, which evidently has nothing to do with Fidel Castro
or the Cuban Revolution.  However, I do not doubt that given your
respectability and the exemplary [word indistinct] you have in Latin
America and the world, a word from you--as they say in the Catholic
Church--would be enough to cure us, without considering it an act of magic.

The other subject, which is closely linked to this, is the drug trafficking
drama.  President Perez made an indepth observation today on a conference
of Latin American presidents and said he did not agree with legalization.
He even went further and proposed a world conference.  Regrettably, in

[Castro, interrupting] Please repeat the second part of the drug
trafficking question and what Carlos Andres was proposing.

[Rodriguez] He was proposing a conference of Latin American presidents on
[words indistinct].  I wanted to ask you if Cuba would be willing to
attend.  Also, what do you think of this?  How should (?we) face the drama
this problem represents, which has cost us many lives in Columbia.

Our affection to the Cuban Revolution, you, and your government.  Thank you
very much.

[Castro] Well, on... [changes thought] Don't leave, stay around here just
in case I need to ask you something.  [laughter] Look, I wish it was like
that.  If it was like that, it would be so much better.  However, whoever
believes that people who struggle or who have political motivations or
revolutionary purposes would be so obedient to anyone's word....
[rephrases] Whoever assumes that, believes that, I do not think there is
anyone in the world who has that power.  Nor will anyone in the world ever
have it, because it is impossible to simply heed such orders.  I know
(?revolutionaries).  They are very [word indistinct] and stubborn.  If you
ask something of him--you can ask him or order him--rest assured he will
not obey you.  If you ask him something of this nature, rest assured he
will not pay attention to you.

I have seen them--the many international cables you are talking about--that
constantly call one of the organizations the pro-Castro guerrillas--I don't
know if it is the ELN [Popular Army of Liberation].  I imagine it must
irritate them when the cables say the pro-Castro guerrillas.  Nothing
irritates an organization more than when it is made out to be a peon of
another country or individual, or a person obedient to someone else.

At times there have even been kidnappings and relatives have approached
(?us).... [rephrases] Whenever we have been able to do something about it,
we have done it--in matters we know it can be done or asked for.

What I most hope for is that you can find peace.  I say this sincerely.
When I spoke with President Barco--every time I have met with him, in Quito
and Mexico, I have had excellent conversations, but I couldn't talk to him
here, just 5 minutes during lunch, and I said I regretted we couldn't talk
more--I have expressed my desire that he be successful in his actions for
peace.  I truly hope that you can attain peace.

However, it would be almost ridiculous and it would also be useless for me
to make a request of that nature.  I think that would be openly
interfering in an internal problem.  However, if we can do something to
contribute to that peace, be assured that we will not deny that

If you like, I can reveal something of a historic nature to you.  I
remember that we helped produce and organize, in conjunction with the
Spanish Government, the meeting that was held when Belisario Betancur was
president.  It took place in Spain and its purpose was to attain a
cease-fire, to attain peace.

I have never spoken about this before.  I don't like to talk about this but
I think it's something that proves what I'm telling you.  If it's possible
for us to do something, I'm certain we will do so.  President Barco is
familiar with our position.

In reference to the matter of drug trafficking, I think that it has become
one of the greatest dramas of our times.  It has truly become a tragedy for
the Latin American people.  It is also a tragedy for the United States.
However, the U.S. is focusing on the wrong thing.  They want to resolve the
entire problem with insecticides... [corrects himself] with herbicides,
with airplanes, with repression.  They are not aware that the market that
has emerged there has exported to the peoples of Latin America--to several
peoples of Latin America--a very serious problem, because it has created
drug production there.

It has been said that tens of thousands of hectares of drugs are raised in
Latin America.  This has been reported, although I can't guarantee the
accuracy of these reports, but this has been repeated often.  It is said
that 70,000 hectares of drugs were raised in Bolivia.  The cultivation of
coca was even traditional for the population's consumption during
pre-Colombian times.

Statistics indicate that 250,000 hectares of land are used for drug
production in Peru.  I'm amazed.  We have more than 100,000 hectares of
land dedicated to citrus production and I know that (?a task) citrus
production is.  I'm amazed that they have 250,000 square kilometers of coca

What happens is that a peasant who used to plant corn begins to plant coca
or he plants [word indistinct].  It produces 10 times more than corn.  A
terrible problem is created.  There are even countries whose income, the
money that circulates in the parallel market, largely comes from drug
trafficking.  It has almost created an economic dependency.  It is a very
great tragedy.  The consumption of drugs is increasing throughout
societies.  It is an additional illness.  These are countries that have a
terrible economic crisis.

I was recently discussing this with a U.S. legislator who is presiding over
the committee against drug trafficking.  Congressmen Rangel and others
visited Cuba and I told them: You have to change your focus.  You can't
just be repressive.  You can't just be repressive.  You have to analyze the
reality of the objectives and find formulas that will help resolve these
economic problems, or the governments will become powerless to end the
problem.  Millions of people are living like this.  A very serious problem
has been created.  It is one of the serious and grave problems that merits
the attention of leaders.  It merits the attention of governors.  I said
that it is our duty to seek formulas because the mafias in some countries
are threatening the integrity of the state.  It has become a tremendous
public problem.

We should create our own formulas, Latin American formulas.  The formulas
should not be exported to us by the people who exported the problem to us.
We should demand that they fight the problem in their own land, that they
draft stricter laws.  They cannot resolve the problem just by applying
repression in countries where the drugs are produced.

Drug trafficking is increasing.  It is known that drug trafficking and
production is increasing more each time.  It is a business that involves
hundreds of billions of dollars.  I have heard that the drug industry at
the world level circulates $500 billion a year. that is more than the
foreign debt of Latin America.  This has become a very serious problem.

I have discussed this with other leaders, with Presidents Raul Alfonsin and
Virgilio Barco.  They are aware of our willingness to cooperate in that
fight.  We do not have that problem, fortunately.  We did not fall into
this.  This did not happen after the triumph of the revolution.  The cases
of consumption of marijuana, which can be grown in a pot in any garden and
is sanctioned by law, are very rare.  Coca is practically unheard of in our
country.  We do not have that kind of problem.  Our society is free of
that, but we are willing to cooperate with everyone else.  We are willing
to cooperate with all the Latin American countries; if a meeting of leaders
is called at the chief-of-state level, we are willing to participate.
There is no doubt about this.  Our country will cooperate in any way it

[Rodriguez] Thank you, you're very kind.

[Moderator] Fine.  Now Desire Santos, from the Caracas newspaper ULTIMAS
NOTICIAS and Radio Rumbos, has the floor.

[Castro] We are not talking about the last question but about the latest
news, right?  [wordplay on "ultima, which means last] [laughter]

[Moderator] ULTIMAS NOTICIAS, that is right.

[Santos] Good evening.  Commander, returning to the subject of human
rights, do you think Latin America has not expressed enough solidarity for
Nelson Mandela?  There was no reference to South Africa during this very
important meeting in Caracas.  So, what do you suggest that we Latin
Americans do--now that we are on this wave of concerted action--to make our
condemnation of apartheid more effective?

[Castro] I think that in Latin America there has not been a completely
generalized awareness of the tragedy of apartheid.  However, all Latin
American countries that are part of the Nonaligned Movement have actively
participated in the struggle and condemnation of apartheid.  Recently, here
in Venezuela, I had the honor of speaking with President Sarney.  He had
just made a trip to Angola and he told me that he has very strong, defined,
and energetic positions against apartheid.  I can even say that the
Brazilian representative to the United Nations has had a very active,
unified attitude with the nonaligned countries in everything related to UN
Resolution 435, to prevent modifications to it.  I understand that the
governments who are members of the Nonaligned Movement have an active
position in that.  Of course, we cannot ask that the Government of Chile
have an active position against apartheid, because it has many ideological
affinities.  [Words indistinct] situations, not everywhere, some
governments that are very close to U.S. policy do not take action.
However, the more responsible governments, the democratic governments of
Latin America, have a good position on these problems.  Venezuela has a
good position.  Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Panama, Ecuador, and Peru, all
those countries have very good positions and support the fight against

Nelson Mandela has received a lot of international solidarity, in Europe
and everywhere.  We would have liked more solidarity.  And anything we can
do for it, to create an awareness of the need for that solidarity, we must
do it.  Really, I agree with you.  I even thank you for bringing up that
subject, which is also an expression of solidarity with the people of South
Africa, Nelson Mandela, and the fight against apartheid.

[Moderator] Going in order, Fidel Eduardo Orozco now has the floor.

[Castro] What?  [laughter]

[Moderator] Fidel Eduardo Orozco from the TRIBUNA POPULAR newspaper.

[Orozco] Comrade President, good evening.  I also represent the university
press for the Central University of Venezuela.  I would say that your
presence in Caracas has created a commotion, as you have been able to see.
The community of the Central University has been moved so much that--it has
been so embracing that--the temperature has exceeded the mark on the
thermometer.  That is why, before asking the question, I would like to
convey a unified, fraternal, and affectionate greeting from the community
of the Central University of Venezuela--made up of students, teachers,
[word indistinct], and employees--to the Cuban Revolution and to you.

[Castro] Thank you very much.  (?Do) you have a question?

[Orozco] This is the question.

[Castro] Ah!  There is a question.  [laughter]

[Orozco] The nuclear disarmament agreements reached by the Soviet Union and
the United States seem to indicate a more realistic and sincere will to
preserve humanity from the nuclear [word indistinct].  Comrade President,
would you say that that new climate of international detente could also be
applied to Central America and the Caribbean?

[Castro] In reality, in reality [repeats himself] these are two very
different problems; one is a global problem, and the other is a regional
problem.  Thee is no doubt that there is a greater awareness in the world
about the dangers of nuclear war and nuclear weapons.  The great powers
are interested in this matter.  It is a problem that cannot be compared to
the other.  I think great progress has been made and that this is one of
the most important advances that has been made in the last few years.
Small steps may still be taken.  There are still tens of thousands of
nuclear weapons in the world.  There are thousands of nuclear carriers in
the world, both tactical and strategic.  A small step has been taken.

The road is still long before we reach our destination, which is
disarmament, the total elimination of nuclear weapons.  No country should
have nuclear weapons.  That's our position.  All nuclear weapons should be
eliminated.  That should be the final objective.  It is encouraging that a
few first steps have been made in this direction.

I think that the country most capable of helping to resolve the problems in
Central America is the United States, not the Soviet Union.  I discussed
this a lot with Arias.  Arias argued that this is a East-West problem.  He
said that the Soviet Union could help resolve the problem in Central
America, in el Salvador.  I explained to him that the Soviet Union has had
absolutely nothing to do with the problems in El Salvador.  The Soviet
Union had absolutely nothing to do with the revolution in Nicaragua, just
as it had nothing to do with the Cuban Revolution.

We received cooperation and assistance after the triumph of the revolution,
but we did not know a single Soviet citizen when we were fighting in the
Sierra Maestra.  The exact same thing applies to the Nicaraguans.

The problem in El Salvador is absolutely indigenous.  This is one of the
things that I said to President Arias.  I told him about this with much

The country that can do the most is the United States.  I was stating here
the hope that the new U.S. Administration will adopt a more flexible,
pragmatic position because its policy is a failure and it will continue to
be a failure as long as it seeks military solutions in Nicaragua and El
Salvador.  It could do more; we should demand that the United States do
more and we should work so that more is done.

I think that international detente helps.  I am sure that the Soviets want
this.  If they can help, they will.  They have said this.  They have called
on the United States many times to find political solutions.  I am sure
that the USSR will not refuse to give any cooperation to any possibility of
peace in Central America.

[Orozco] Mr President, there was a great commotion at the Caracas Hilton
Hotel yesterday because of a 9-year-old girl named (Esmanuel).

[Castro] Yes, her name is (Esmanuel).

[Orozco] Her name is (Esmanuel Tinof Garcia).  She sat in the lobby of the
Caracas Hilton Hotel for 9 hours, from 1200 to 2100, waiting for you, to
welcome you and to ask you for an autograph.  The little girl, according to
the journalists who were there at the time, wrote the following letter:

Dear Fidel:  I have been waiting for you for 9 hours at the hotel entrance,
but you haven't arrived.  My name is (Esmanuel) and I am 9 years old.  I am
in the fifth grade and I have acted in the theater.  I wanted to meet you
because I admire you very much and I admire your revolution.  I wanted to
go to your country to meet you and give you an embrace, but they tell me
that it's impossible.  I am giving you my phone number so that you can call
me.  [laughter] You can write to me at:  (Esmanuel Tinof Garcia), Apartado
17671, Caracas, 1015-A.  I also would like your autograph.  I love you very

[Castro, interrupting] Thank you.

[Orozco] Please call me, (Esmanuel).  [laughter]

[Castro] Okay.

{Orozco] I wanted to ask you, Comrade President, what do you think of a
9-year-old girl taking this attitude without anyone telling her to do so?
She did this spontaneously and she was persistent.  We journalists
witnessed this ourselves yesterday.

[Castro] I first heard about the girl from some comrades who saw it on
television and told me about it.  That same day, later in the afternoon, I
had a meeting here.  However, the journalist who interviewed me yesterday
morning told me about this.  I had not seen the letter.  So, I sent the
girl a little message and I invited her to go to Cuba.  I did not know if
she wanted to go to Cuba, but I invited her [words indistinct].  Later in
the evening, I got a copy of the letter.  Well, what can I tell you?  It is
really moving.  It impressed me a lot.  It encourages my faith in the

[Moderator] Fine, we will not give Rogelio Garcia Lupo, from the Buenos
Aires magazine EL PERIODISTA, his turn.

[Garcia Lupo] Good evening.

[Castro] Good evening.

[Garcia Lupo] Yesterday, a group of heads of state sent Argentine President
Raul Alfonsin a message of solidarity from Caracas because of the political
crisis in Argentina caused by the attack on a barracks.  This is the
question:  Have you sent President Alfonsin a personal message for this

[Castro] Yes.  I have sent more than one personal message.  Also, when
President Perez spoke to me about this, I told him that I agreed with and
supported the message that was being sent on behalf of the presidents who
were here.  I do not know if everyone's name appeared on it.  Since I had
not been to the meeting, Carlos Andres told me that he had represented me
there.  When he consulted me on this, I told him that I agreed completely
with the idea of sending a message to President Alfonsin.  I have not seen
it, I really don't know what it says, but I did express my desire that the
message be sent.

[Garcia Lupo] The list that was published omitted Cuba as one of the

[Castro] What?

[Garcia Lupo] A list of signatories was published and Cuba was not on it.

[Castro] And what countries were on it?

[Garcia Lupo] Cuba, Nicaragua, and Panama were not on it.  The other
countries were on it.

[Castro] Were those the ones that were at the 1100 meeting?

[Garcia Lupo] Yes.

[Castro] Is that the meeting where I spoke?  It is a shame that Cuba did
not appear on it, because we had agreed on that.  But that is what
happened.  However, I express my solidarity with the message to President
Alfonsin.  The events that have taken place there have really been
unfortunate.  I think they have damaged the democratic process in
Argentina, because the arguments of the most reactionary forces in the
country have been favored.  I do not have enough information to know the
motives.  However, whatever the motives were, I think what happened there
was a great mistake.  I do not vacillate in expressing my opinion publicly.

Whenever there have been problems, the first thing I have done has been to
send a message [word indistinct].  A message was sent to President Alfonsin
expressing our solidarity and encouraging him.  I regret that one of the
consequences of that fact has been that Alfonsin could not be present in
Caracas.  I really wanted him to come, because the last time we met, in
Mexico, we spoke of the possibility of... [rephrases] taking advantage of
the inauguration to hold an extensive meeting of Latin American heads of
state.  Unfortunately, he could not come.  I regretted this very much
because I wanted as many Latin American presidents as possible to be
present.  I was sorry that the Mexican president could not attend and I was
truly very sorry that President Raul Alfonsin, who has attended all
ceremonies of this type, was not able to be present on this day.  That's
what I feel.  Is there something else you'd like to know?

[Garcia Lupo] No, thank you.

[Castro] This is enough?

[Garcia Lupo] Yes, it's sufficient.  Thank you.

[Moderator] Ted Cordoba of the (ORBITA BID) press agency of Bolivia, Peru,
and Venezuela now has the floor.

[Castro] [Words indistinct] a question.

[Moderator] [Words indistinct] on the 12th.

[Castro] (?On) the 12th?

[Cordoba] Yes, I am going back to the topic of your reunion with Venezuelan
society after 30 years.  That is, my first question.  My second question
pertains to Cuba's internal situation.

As you are aware, there has been an almost paranoid campaign because of the
(?artistic license) that naturally exists in the press within the
framework of freedom of expression in Venezuela.  Thee have been actual
attacks.  I think I am speaking for many Venezuelan and international
colleagues when I criticize the attacks that have been made through
electronic means, such as "Fidel equals AIDS" and other similar remarks.

You have been here for 3 days and you have seen the important factors in
Venezuelan society, which has had democracy for 3 decades.  My first
question is:  Would you give me your impression of the state in which this
democratic society finds itself?

The second question is:  What is Cuba's position in the world scene?

I clearly understand your explanation on perestroyka and the differences
that exist between the process in the Soviet Union and the one in Cuba.  I
began to understand this in Quito and I will not comment much on this

I have one doubt, however.  What will Cuba's model be for the year 2000 in
this world where there is a true electronic revolution, where development
is based on the microchip, where the world is a global village because
communications have made it a small world, where commercial blocks group
together in a certain way, where the three most important emerging economic
powers--Japan, Germany, and Italy--are the ones who lost World War II?

[Castro] In the first place, my impression of Venezuela is truly
unforgettable.  I have received many impressions in my life, but I will
never forget two of them, which were very big, very big [repeats himself].

The first impression was when I came to Venezuela 30 years ago.  It was
easier then.  The war was ending.  We came to thank the Venezuelans for
their help, their solidarity, which was evident when they sent us weapons
at a certain time.  Venezuela was the only country to do this.  They did it
officially.  It was done by the government.

In the Sierra Maestra--I think it was in November--they even sent me an
automatic weapon.  I think I've spoken of this before.

My first impression was after the war.  There was a lot of political
solidarity and I received a grandoise welcome.  I could not have imagined
such a thing.  It was a great ceremony; some say it was one of the largest

Since then 30 years have passed.  My trip now is under different, very
difficult conditions because of the things that I have explained and
because of the things you have said.  I do not want to repeat ideas that I
have said in other places.

If this event was in Miami, New York, or Washington, I would not have gone
and I would not have regretted it.  However, to not be able to visit a
brother country in Latin America, like Venezuela, was inconceivable to me.
All this created the problem of a great internal resistance that I had to
overcome.  You can't imagine the argument I had to use to try to convince
and persuade the comrades to make the trip, because they resisted this
almost unanimously.

I had to say:  But comrade, the situation we faced last year was worse.
There were 50,000 men in Angola who faced the South Africans under
difficult conditions.  I said:  We had to make an effort of that nature.
We had to reinforce our troops.  So many men were running a risk, defending
a just cause.  How can we resign ourselves to the idea that just because
there may be some physical danger, we should not go to Venezuela?

I think this was a very strong argument.  You cannot prevent me, impede me
from making this trip.  I said:  What will all those people think who
defended the idea, who wrote the letter, the people who want the visit to

I spoke to many Venezuelans who recently visited Cuba to mark the 30th
anniversary of the revolution.  I said:  How can we disappoint them?

We knew there were threats, movements, and other things.  We all were aware
of the potential risks, but we decided to come.

There was a very important element, however.  I had complete, absolute,
total confidence in the citizens, in the people, and that is what truly
interested me.

I have seen that confidence and that faith rewarded, very well rewarded.
That is why I say I will have two more unforgettable impressions among the
great impressions of my life.

One was on 23 January when we arrived from the Sierra Maestra at the end of
the war.  We had little experience and we were full of great desires.  We
can under those conditions.  I will never forget this, and there is no
paradox when I say I am more impressed by the people of Venezuela now.  I
will leave under these conditions full of admiration.

Above all, I have seen the young people.  At the meeting with journalists I
did not have much of an opportunity, but their attitude, their reaction,
impressed me.  It seemed incredible to me that they, the immense majority,
had not been born when I cam to Venezuela for the first time, 30 years ago.
I was impressed by the talent spirit, commitment, energy, dynamism, skill,
and decency of those youths.

This trip was much more difficult.  It was an unknown.  There were many
unknown things.

I received an even greater impression this time.  This time I feel even
more gratitude to the people of Venezuela and I doubt that in my life I
will ever experience something like it again, and I have had some
experiences.  There have been other moments, such as the triumph of the
revolution.  There has been more than one occasion, but I tell you with
all honesty, with all frankness that it may be a... [changes thought] It is
very doubtful that I will receive another impression like this again.  That
is my response to your question.  [applause]

[Moderator Is there something else?

[Castro] Wait, wait.

[Cordova] How will Cuba fit into the plans for the year 2000 with the
changes that have...

[Castro] Oh, yes, what model will Cuba use?  That's something that is very
important, the Cuban model.  [laughter] That is the model that we are
conceiving.  Our experience has taught us to think with our own heads, and
we don't pretend to create a model for everyone else.  It's just for us,
based on our history and characteristics.  That is what we are working on,
what we are conceiving for the year 2000.

[Cordova] Thank you.

[Castro] I think many questions have been repeated and the worst thing that
can happen in a news conference is that the people get bored.  This cannot
be infinite.  It cannot be endless.  I don't know how many questions you
have but it can be unusually long, endless.

[Cordova] [Words indistinct]

[Castro] This has lasted 2 and 1/2 hours now.  Why don't you ask the
distinguished public for their opinion?

[Cordova] Then you think...

[Castro, interrupting] Well, I'm not the only one who should think.  I'll
be accused of being a dictator and of [words indistinct, interrupted by
laughter].  I'll be accused of many things.  I want you to understand.  I
want you to be convinced.  It is possible that the phenomenon where you get
tired and bored may not occur.  You should let us know.  [crowd shouts:
"No! No!"] You're doing this out of courtesy.  [laughter]

[Moderator] The last turn is for journalist Manuel Felipe Sierra from the
Caracas magazine VIERNES.  Before he asks his question, I have been asked
to inform you than 1/2 hour after the conference ends, a typed version of
the interview will be available for your work.

[Castro] Where did you get such efficient people?  [laughter]

[Moderator] No, I didn't get them.  They cam from the (?organizations).

[Castro] Are they Cuban stenographers?  [laughter]

[Moderator] They are from the office of...

[Castro, interrupting] I can imagine the kinds of things that come out.  I
have seen when they make those typed versions; they are in a hurry, and
there are always some errors.  That is okay.

[Moderator] Manuel Felipe Sierra?  Well, if he is not here, the next turn
will go to Norma Rivero from the Caracas Radio Capital.

[Rivero] Good evening Commander.

[Castro] Good evening.

[Rivero] And once again, welcome.  Could it be said that your visit to
Caracas could mean an opening in the resumption of relations between
Venezuela and Cuba?  And, are there plans to reopen the embassy within the
next few months?

[Castro] Well, it is obvious and elementary that we will establish as soon
as possible our embassy in Caracas.  Joking about this, I had said that we
may need a credit to open it up--and this was only a joke.  But any
sacrifice... [rephrases] We are not opening embassies, we are actually
trying to reduce their number.  But this one is essential.  As soon as it
is possible, we will establish the diplomatic office and name an
ambassador.  Our relations have not been broken.  There was a cooling down,
for reasons that are known, but Venezuela maintained its diplomatic
representation and its embassy in Havana the whole time.

[Rivero] Why is it essential for the government to resume relations so

[Castro] It is basic courtesy.  It would have been a completely abnormal
situation for just us to continue having a Venezuelan Embassy, after
relations between the two countries have improved--after this
visit--relations with the Government and people of Venezuela.  So, we must
get out of an anomalous situation and quickly establish Cuba's diplomatic
headquarters in Caracas.  [applause]

[Rivero] Secondly, I would like to know about the situation... [rephrases]
the health policy of the Cuban Government on AIDS, which is one of the
calamities attacking all societies of the world?

[Castro] (?It) attacks?

[Rivero] All the countries of the world, it is [word indistinct].

[Castro] Fortunately, (?we) are one of the countries that is doing better
with AIDS, because we discovered it in time.

[Rivera] But it is said that the soldiers coming from Angola have been
contaminated with AIDS.

[Castro] That is an exaggeration.  There are some.  However, when we
investigated the first few cases of AIDS in our country, we found that they
had originated from the West.  They had nothing to do with the soldiers
returning from Angola.  A small number of them were, in fact, contaminated
with it.  It seems some people think that our men (?have been) there 10
years.  No, our men there rotate--300,000 Cubans have been in the Armed
Forces, just in the Armed Forces.  This does not include the civilian
collaborators.  Well, our soldiers are disciplined.  However, love is love
[laughter] and it is difficult to discipline 100 percent of them.  This is
especially difficult when you are dealing when young men.  Despite the fact
that they are dealing with young men.  Despite the fact that they are
briefed and are urged to be careful, we have had a few cases.  However, it
is not a problem.  When we discovered the first few cases, we followed up
on them, which is normal, in order to take measures and to find out if
there were other contaminated cases.  I don't know if we have approximately
200 cases, after having tested millions of people.  We tested, especially,
the risk cases.  Risk cases are those who have more dealings with
foreigners, those who have been abroad.  We do a systematic analysis, a
blood test, of those who go into the hospitals.  The number is very low.
We have applied a practice which is possible because of the low number.
This cannot be practiced in Europe or the United States.  We have
established sanatoriums for the virus carriers--as has been historically
done.  Those are the measures we have taken.

It can be said that we have totally halted the epidemic.  We have reduced
it to the lowest possible level.  I think that we have won the battle
against AIDS.  In addition, all blood donations are examined systematically
through modern equipment that we have manufactured, through reagents we
have produced in Cuba.  We are able and want to conduct a massive test.  We
can do this through a large cooperation movement on the part of the

In other countries, unfortunately, AIDS has spread extensively.  There are
some countries that have hundreds of thousands of carriers.  Others have
tens of thousands of carriers.  It is very difficult to control this.  If
you have 10,000 carriers, you cannot isolate 10,000 people.  In practice,
it is impossible to isolate several thousand people.  We not only isolate
them, we given them permanent care.  They are well fed.  We also try to
give them preventative care so that they do not get ill, because not all
carriers get ill right away.  It takes a few years.  However, if you take
preventative measures, if you keep him in good health... [changes thought]
Many times, the disease becomes active in the carrier because he catches
the flu, he has pneumonia, or he has some other disease that is the result
of AIDS.  We treat these carriers in order to keep them healthy.  This
gives us time until a treatment for the illness can be developed.  That is
what we are doing, and in this way we have been able to confront the

Our country has experience in matters of epidemics.  There is great
cooperation on the part of the population; that is essential, and it has
helped us in controlling the disease.  I can assure you that from our point
of view, the problem of AIDS in Cuba is a battle that has practically been

[Rivero] Thank you.

[Moderator] Distinguished colleagues... [interrupted by applause] We have
been here for more than 2 and 1/2 hours.  The list of journalists who want
to ask questions is interminable.  We hope that everyone will understand
that the news conference has been long enough.  Thank you.