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Castro Cited on Soviet Union, Gorbachev Visit

AU0505185789 Prague RUDE PRAVO in Czech 4 May 89 p 6

[Article by Zdenek Horeni, RUDE PRAVO editor-in-chief: "Dinner With Fidel"]

[Excerpts] [Passage omitted] The dinner took place late in the evening,
actually a few minutes before midnight.  [passage omitted] In the
vestibule, Fidel personally welcomed everyone whom he had invited to the
Palace of the Revolution that evening.  There were about 10 of us--chief
editors or deputy chief editors of party newspapers from four continents.
[passage omitted]

Fidel's program that day had been full to bursting from morning until
night.  He had visited 15 construction sites, most of them connected with
the next Pan-American Games.  From 1100 in the morning until 2100 in the
evening he had devoted himself completely to a consultative meeting of
Cuban builders.  [passage omitted]

Fidel remarks with a smile that at consultative meetings he frequently
feels like Socrates.  Like Socrates, he is trying to ask questions.  This
is why today he had found time for building sites.  I was able to see with
my own eyes the problems which builders have, he says.  I went there so
that no one can dupe me....

One of the guests apparently felt a desire to light up a cigarette and the
discussion turned in a different direction.  Someone asked whether it was
true that Fidel no longer smokes.  The host considers even this topic
important.  Yes, he quit smoking in 1985.  He did not stop because he did
not feel well, he says, clearly suggesting that somewhere in the world
there were speculations about other causes.  Smoking is detrimental to
health, he says.  He stopped smoking because he realized that it would be a
good deed for Cuban health care, mainly because it would set an example for
others to follow.

By way of the well-known picture of Stalin with his pipe, published
recently in PRAVDA, the conversation takes a leap into the distant past, to
Stalin's personality cult, but also into the Soviet present, to
restructuring.  Recently, on the occasion of Mikhail Gorbachev's visit,
Fidel Castro addressed this issue in public.  At that time he said, and now
he repeats it in a nutshell, that methods that are applicable in the Soviet
Union cannot be repeated in Cuba.  There are immense differences between
the two countries--in their size, their populations, their history, their
culture.... One can scarcely use the same methods to tackle different
tasks.  [passage omitted]

Now, on the ground floor of the Palace of Culture, surrounded by
journalists from many countries, he even develops his ideas a bit further.
He turns his mind to discussions about the past that are being conducted in
the USSR and some other socialist countries.  He concedes that criticism is
necessary, but not criticism which, as he says, casts doubt on the good
things that were accomplished.  Criticism of the past must be just, it must
not amount to total negation.  Here in Cuba we have a saying that warns
against throwing out the baby with the bath water.... And criticism in
meaningful, he adds, when it concerns first and foremost the living.

The interpreters have barely finished translating when someone fires a
personal question--whether Fidel has ever come across criticism of his own
person.  The question was put in a somewhat rude, not exactly diplomatic
manner but it was, after all, our host himself who had introduced an
atmosphere of comradely frankness into our family circle.  Fidel neither
took offense nor did he balk.  If I remember correctly, he said
approximately the following:  Admittedly, public criticism of myself is
scant.  But when people criticize the situation in our country, in fact
they criticize mainly me.  I have come out with self-criticism many times.
This is an honest feature of our Revolution. [passage omitted] A man who
assumes a place in society, whatever his rank, should mainly be modest and
should not abuse his power, Fidel adds.

Thus, we reached the question of why you will not find anywhere in Cuba the
names of living Cuban politicians in official titles, not even their
official portraits.  This was one of the first laws of the Revolution--to
prohibit the naming of streets or squares after living persons.  Fidel
recalls. [passage omitted]

A question from a different "cask" took us back to the recent Soviet-Cuban
summit meeting.  What did Castro and Gorbachev discuss behind closed doors?
With Gorbachev we discussed everything, Fidel replies, including the things
I am discussing with you right now.  We did not speak just during the
talks.  We spoke at the lunch and elsewhere.  I was with him all the time.
Communication between us was very easy, almost like in a family.  It was a
continuous and pleasant talk, as if two brothers had met.  And brothers can
talk about anything. [passage omitted]