Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

Madrid Weekly Interviews Fidel Castro
ANNEX / Cuba
BRS Assigned Document Number:    000008526
Report Type:         Daily Report             AFS Number:     PA0906163791
Report Number:       FBIS-LAT-91-112-A        Report Date:    11 Jun 91
Report Series:       Latin America            Start Page:     7
Report Division:     ANNEX                    End Page:       12
Report Subdivision:  Cuba                     AG File Flag:   
Classification:      UNCLASSIFIED             Language:       Spanish
Document Date:       05 Jun 91
Report Volume:       Tuesday Vol VI No 112-A

Dissemination:  FOUO

City/Source of Document:   Madrid PRENSA LATINA

Report Name:   ANNEX

Target of Broadcast:   PRENSA LATINA Havana

Headline:   Madrid Weekly Interviews Fidel Castro

Author(s):   Maria Asuncion Mateo for Issue No. 475 of the Madrid weekly TIEMPO
dated 10 June: ``Fidel Castro, In-Depth'']

Source Line:   PA0906163791 Madrid PRENSA LATINA in Spanish to PRENSA LATINA
Havana 1655 GMT 5 Jun 91 -FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Subslug:   [``Exclusive'' interview with President Fidel Castro by Maria
Asuncion Mateo for Issue No. 475 of the Madrid weekly TIEMPO dated
10 June: ``Fidel Castro, In-Depth'']

1.  [``Exclusive'' interview with President Fidel Castro by Maria Asuncion
Mateo for Issue No. 475 of the Madrid weekly TIEMPO dated 10 June: ``Fidel
Castro, In-Depth'']

2.  [Text] ``Franco had a great deal of patience with us.'' ``If I am
considered a legend, the United States can take credit for it.'' ``Very few
countries dare to defy the powerful.'' ``You may be mistaken in what you say,
but you must believe in what you say.'' ``I read the `National Episodes' that
Felipe Gonzalez gave me.'' ``Few people are as rebellious as the Spanish
people. My rebelliousness is genetic.''

3.  This imposing and fierce looking man, whose colossal physique-half
mythological creature and half Moses of Michaelangelo-has disturbed the
comfortable sleep of the United States for the past 32 years, and is-whether he
is loved, hated, criticized, or praised-one of the most singular and attractive
personalities that one may be fortunate enough to interview.  What surprises
one the most about Fidel Castro is his almost familiar cordiality that
instantly dispels any prejudices against him.  It is fun to be with someone who
cracks jokes with the unaffectedness of a Galician peasant and who shows
interest for everyday problems.  One gets an historic sense that he is the
creator of a revolution that upset the world and changed the course of the
Cuban people.

4.  [Mateo] It is said that if one searches for man, one finds history.
Starting from history, I want to find man.  Is that possible?

5.  [Castro] Yes, because man and history may sometimes coincide.

6.  [Mateo] Can one disassociate Commander Castro from the man that takes off
his uniform every night?

7.  [Mateo] That is not very easy for me, because when I take off the uniform,
I still remember the many things that happened during the course of the day. 
The same thing happens when I wake up in the morning; I still remember some of
the things I dreamt about during the night.  Generally, I try to relax,
especially by reading.

8.  [Mateo] Why always the uniform? Is there some symbolic significance?

9.  [Castro] The uniform, like the beard, is not something deliberate; it has
no special significance. Since we did not have shaving razors or knives during
the struggle, the beard and hair grew long. Without anybody planning it that
way, they became symbols. So the peasants, the people, identified the
revolutionary guerrilla by the beard. It became our identification, a security
measure even, because when the authorities attempted to send agents to
penetrate our ranks, they had to prepare them way ahead of time; to be
believable, these agents had to have a real beard.  As for the uniform, I would
say it has become comfortable.  We wore it during the war and continued to wear
it later. We got used to it, as a monk gets used to his habit and as a nurse
gets used to her cap.  Afterward, it became very comfortable and, later, very
economical. Now, I do not always wear a green uniform.  At night when I get
home, I put on my pajamas, and when I go to the sea, I wear shorts, since I
cannot, of course, swim in a uniform.

10.  [Mateo] As happens to important figures, you have a reputation of sleeping
little. Is the vigil good company?

11.  [Castro] Perhaps, the reputation is not well founded. I do not sleep in
excess, but I do try to get at least five or six hours of sleep even though it
is not easy. It is said that when Napoleon wanted to sleep, he did it for as
long as he wanted to, 30 minutes, 1 hour. He often slept on his horse. I
imagine that the work everyone does imposes the need to adapt to circumstances.
Since my work requires most of all that I use my brains, I do not get so
physically tired that I could sleep on a horse. Sometimes I fall asleep in the
car, although I am told that is dangerous. So I try to read.

12.  [Mateo] What do you usually read?

13.  [Castro] Everything.  When I get home and go to bed, however, I try not to
read the papers I bring home every night. I prefer to do that in the car. At
the end of the day, I receive a file of all sorts of dispatches and reports,
which Chomi, my secretary, has already selected from the 80 to 100 documents
sent to me every day. (He curls his lips, rests his index fingers on them, in a
characteristic gesture, and continues) I am used to having four or five books
next to my bed, and I pick them according to the circumstances. If it is a book
about science, biotechnology, medicine, or economics-which is the most
inaccuarate of all sciences-and I am very tried, I do not touch it. I then
prefer to read, for example, a book of the ``National Episodes'' series, as I
have a marvelous collection given to me by Spanish Prime Minister Felipe
Gonzalez. I have read more than 20, which, by the way, helped me understand the
Spanish nature and the history of the Spanish people.  As far as books are
concerned, these are the gifts that I appreciate the most. Sometimes I read
those books that are in vogue and very interesting from the series called
``Private Lives' Histories,'' written by a group of authors. They start in Rome
and tell about how a family lives, their customs. They are fascinating.

14.  One figure, Simon Bolivar, interests me a great deal. I read all I can
find about him. The books talk about Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great,
Hannibal, Napoleon, and many other great men. I do feel, however, that Bolivar
is among the greatest warriors, politicians, and historical figures. I am a fan
of his, and I read his biography by different authors. I compare episodes that
way, I read about the Junin battle or the Ayacucho battle, although he was not
in the latter.  I follow that history or that of Manuela Saenz, Francisco
Miranda, or so many wonderful personages of Latin American history, whom we do
not know well enough. At other times, I read the novels that I did not have a
chance to read when I was in school or in prison, which is when I did the most
reading, because I had 14 to 15 hours totally to myself. I also enjoy reading
Gabriel Garcia Marquez very much.

15.  [Mateo] What is left in Commander Castro of that young man who left
everything one day to begin the revolution?

16.  [Castro] I think that I really did not leave anything, nor did I ever
believe that I left anything. My life cannot be seen as that of person who
leaves everything behind at a given time, as Jesus Christ requested others to
follow him. I never had the feeling of leaving what I had to pursue something
else. I think that since early in my life I was very restless and rebellious.
Some events in my life have helped me sharpen this sense of rebelliousness. 
Thus, what were acts of insubordination against specific circumstances later
became political rebelliousness, with which my vocation continued. I never
changed. I think I am still the same as back then and what is left today in me
is a large part of what I was when I was still very young.

17.  [Mateo] Did this rebelliousness begin with the Jesuits who educated you?

18.  [Castro] The confrontation with the Jesuits existed, but you should
subsequently take into account that when I was 16, I enrolled in the Colegio de
Belen, which was the Jesuit school in Havana.  This was a decision that I made
and that my parents accepted. It was the best school that existed in the
country, and it had approximately 1,000 students who lived inside or outside
the school. It had extraordinary facilities. The Jesuits taught me the basic
value of such words as discipline, honor, ethics, and justice, which I
developed as I became aware of what surrounded me.

19.  Nobody ever planted revolutionary ideas in me. I had to develop
revolutionary ideas without the assistance of an instructor. My rebellious
character is perhaps caused by genetics because of my Spanish and Galician
blood, that Spanish character. There are few people as rebellious as the
Spanish. I was forced to rebel since very early in my life, when I was about
six or seven years of age.  I was threatened to be sent to boarding school if I
misbehaved. I decided that I would be better off at a boarding school, as was
really the case. One day I began to misbehave, and I became so unbearable that
my parents sent me to boarding school. That school of the La Salle brothers was
good and I had a much better life there than at the house of the teacher in
Santiago, where my parents had sent me. Other conflicts appeared later because
they used force against me for unimportant things, such as discipline.

20.  I even had a personal fight, when I was 11 or 12 years old, with a school
teacher; because of that, I was sent off to another house. My parents believed
the version given by the school and they did not want me to continue my
schooling. I had a serious encounter with them on this. I believed that their
point of view was unfair because I wanted to continue my schooling. (Castro
talks with a marked slowness, as if the short pauses he makes, to set his eyes
far off in the distance, only serve his concentration, and as if the
inexhaustible flow of his conversation could never end.)

21.  [Mateo] How do you explain your ability to fascinate those you speak with?

22.  [Castro] You are asking me a difficult question. In the first place, I
would have to agree with what you are saying. Let us say that I do exercise
some influence-a fascination as you say-we would have to make a reference, in
the first place, to the person I am speaking to.  Ever since I was a child, I
have enjoyed public speaking.  I read Demosthenes, Castelar [Soanish statesman
and writer], and other important persons in history. I never studied public
speaking, although in high school, we had a subject by this name. It was about
the introduction, thesis, body, and conclusion of a speech. I would say that
none of that ever had any influence on me. If someone studies speech, he can
become a formal speaker, that is, someone who follows a rigid outline. Those
studies and reading materials did not have a great influence on me, I even
found them boring. I must ask Demosthenes and Castelar to forgive me, but their
speeches semmed to me never-ending and boring, almost as long as some of mine.
I do not know what people will think of my speeches after they read them, but
they are the result of true inspiration and are usually improvised.

23.  Nevertheless, I must admit that in the classical speeches, there was
something special in the sentences and in the beauty of the words that captured
the listener's attention, but that is not the essence of a speech.  I believe
that the ability to persuade your audience depends on the beauty of the ideas
and not in the form; it depends on the meaning of the words, not on the beauty
of the words.  I discovered that the secret to public speaking, the secret of
giving a speech, was precisely not to give a speech, but rather to talk with
the audience.  Ever since that day, I have been able to communicate and
transmit ideas.  I believe that the ideas that I set out are just and, above
all, honest.  You can be wrong in what you say, but you must believe what you
are saying, and if you believe what you are saying, you can convince your
audience even though you may be wrong. I believe that the fundamental
principles are that the words carry a message, that the message is just, and
that you are absolutely convinced that it is just.

24.  [Mateo] Commander, a lot is being said about the word demagoguery. Who is
making strong use of it right now?

25.  [Castro] Almost all politicians, chiefly the traditional ones.  I think,
however, that the ones to use it the most are U.S.  politicians, for they are
champions in demagoguery.

26.  [Mateo] The people may support or disagree with Fidel, but I get the
feeling that all of Cuba is united to face any foreign aggression. Am I wrong?

27.  [Castro] No, you are not wrong.  That is true, and I am very glad you have
been able to notice that sentiment in our people.  We cannot say they are 100
percent united, but the immense majority of the people is of one mind in this
respect and is united to defend the country's independence, because revolution
and independence are closely tied in this country. (He concludes as he gently
strokes his beard.)

28.  [Mateo] You have often stated that in Cuba any citizen can say ``I am the
state.'' Is that remark still in force?

29.  [Castro] Completely in force. I based that statement on the fact that the
revolution could not have existed-let alone defended itself for over 30 years
against U.S.  aggression-without the people, without an organized, trained,
united, and armed people.  Peasants, workers, students, factory workers,
service sector employees, intellectuals are all armed here. The people are
united and armed.  I think the existence of a political system like ours, so
close to the United States, would have been impossible if the people were not
armed.  It is the people who defend it and feel they are part of the state. I
have told the people they can repeat Louis XIV's phrase: ``I am the state,''
because without them and what they are doing, a socialist state could not exist
in Cuba.

30.  [Mateo] Commander, does the word revolution have today for Fidel Castro
the same meaning it had 32 years ago?

31.  [Castro] I think the word revolution has become enriched with new ideas,
new concepts, and new experiences. Ideas develop, improve, advance, and have,
thus, a much richer content than 32 years ago, although the essence of our
ideas was already pretty clear.  I also have felt a greater duty to defend
these ideas, because our ideas-socialist ideas-are being questioned today more
than ever before. There is much confusion and crisis in the field of
progressive ideas, and we decided that it is our duty to defend these ideas
with more vigor and strength than ever.

32.  [Mateo] What is Spain's legacy to Cuba, besides the language?

33.  [Castro] Spain's legacy to Cuba includes many things besides the language.

34.  [Mateo] Good things, or good and bad things?

35.  [Castro] Spain left us both good and bad things because, like all other
powers and countries, it has both. A sizeable part of its problems and virtues
were transmitted to us.  I would say that the Spanish people-if we forget its
political systems throughout its history-are great people, extraordinary
people. Spain is not only one kind of people, it is a mixture, a variety of
people. It would be a mistake to consider the Spanish people as an absolutely
homogeneous, pure people because there are several kinds of people in Spain.
The Spanish people include the Galicians, Andalusians, Catalonians, Basques,
Asturians, or those from Castile. Personally speaking, it took me some time to
realize this and Spain became more and more interesting the more that I
discovered it.

36.  We have received some things from Spain that were part of its history and
its political systems, for example, its warring habits, which can be a virtue
or a defect. The truth is that the first Spaniards who arrived in Cuba had been
fighting for their independence for 800 years. If we see it from this angle,
meaning the patriotic, nationalist, Spanish spirit of fighting for the
independence, then the warring spirit is a virtue. If we view it as a country
which conquers territories and uses force to impose its domination, then it is
something negative. The Spaniards had this spirit of conquerors and masters;
that characteristic is the source of many privileges, habits, customs, misuse
of administrative resources, and corruption.  Spain also had a tendency to
organize things, wherever they went, the Spaniards organized the town hall, the
local authorities, an administration, they also established laws. Therefore,
they passed on to us the Roman laws, in addition to their customs, public
institutions, some positive, some negative.  There is a mixture of everything.

37.  One of the best things we have is the language, which is a valuable
patrimony because it serves as the universal link among all Latin Americans. In
addition to their culture, the Spaniards also transmitted to us their rebel
spirit, their character and their courage were combined with Indian and African
blood here.  We are quite happy to be a mixture of Spanish, African, and Indian
blood in various proportions and degrees. There are some Latin American
countries that are almost European, but the vast majority is a mixture of
races. That mixture of bloods has resulted in people and new ethnic groups that
have given us an extraordinary richness.

38.  I talked about the rebel spirit, but I could also talk about the
Spaniards' tenacity, perseverance, disposition to work, obstinacy or
stubborness-whatever you want to call it.  We have received some negative
characteristics but, I can honestly say, we also received many positive

39.  [Mateo] Commander, do you remember a song that a Cuban carnival group
known as the ``Belen Dandys'' used to sing in the streets of Havana around the
1960's?  It said: Sir Marquis, yesterday you lost your shoe, because you put
your foot in your mouth when you spoke with Fidel. There the grape, here the
sugarcane. Sir Marquis, go back to Spain.

40.  [Castro] (He laughs heartily and spreads his arms in an expressive
gesture, extending his hands, in which his famous cigars no longer appear, at
least not in public.)  I remember something like that. I imagine you are
referring to that incident in which the Spanish ambassador interrupted one of
my television appearances. I believe it was the Marquis of Vellisca, Juan Pablo
Lojendio. I was criticizing the Franco regime because that was something that
we customarily did, by tradition and almost as a doctrine. I was doing so in a
highly tactless and even undiplomatic manner. I must say in all justice and to
his honor, that Franco displayed great patience, infinite patience, with us.
Also, when the U.S. Government wanted Spain to break diplomatic relations with
Cuba, Franco stubbornly refused to do so.  Perhaps he acted this way because he
had been trained in a tradition that resulted from the opportunist war at the
end of the past century, when the United States intervened in Cuba for
imperialist reasons instead aiding in its independence.  Our historical view of
that is very negative, because of the opportunism that it involved, which led
to the domination of Cuba for almost 60 years. It was also a humiliating war
for Spain.

41.  [Mateo] What happened with the marquis?

42.  [Castro] Well, as I was saying, I was on television with reporters and
said something critical about the Franco regime. I do not remember exactly
what. Suddenly a man came rushing like a wild bull along a long corridor,
protesting and shouting. He almost reached my table and all but started a
boxing match with me. It was the marquis. At no time was any measure of force
taken against him. From a certain point of view, what he did was incredible,
but very Spanish. Remembering it over time, instead of feeling offended or
irritated by it, I think that his reaction was charming and brave. No one would
believe me if I say that I remember with understanding, and even admiration,
what the marquis dared to do.

43.  [Mateo] You must have been told often that you are a living legend [mito],
right? Commander, but who can replace a legend?

44.  [Castro] First, I am concerned about the word legend, and even more
concerned about the term living, because a legend can be given the connotation
of something that no longer exists, and legends are created after the person
dies, right?  I believe the United States can take the main credit for this,
because people there have spoken a great deal about us. They have largely
opposed us. They have been too hostile. To the extent that a country that is so
powerful and that has such great resources, has fought against a country as
small as Cuba without defeating it, and to the extent that people have talked
about us so much and so poorly, they have helped give us worldwide recognition.
I believe the revolution has one great source of merit: it has withstood. The
credit does not belong to me. It would be unjust and arbitrary to attribute it
to a single man. But that is what usually happens. One man is usually credited
with the merit of millions. One general gets the glory of all those who died in
combat, when he very often gave orders from far away.

45.  In the case of Cuba, the merit of our people has historically, because of
some psychological law, been attributed to the leaders.  I do not think that
way. I believe that our people have earned great merit for what they have done
and what remains for them to do. That is what helps give them great fame and
what helps make the name of Cuba well-known. This fame is also influenced by
the fact that very few countries are in a position to, or dare to, defy the
powerful, and Cuba has done this.  For a long time, we were even said to be a
Soviet sattellite.  Today, when important changes are taking place in the USSR,
when the world situation is different, and when the cold war no longer exists,
it is clearer than ever that the Cuban people are a sovereign and independent
people who are no one's satellite, a people who function on the basis of
principles and ideas. We are a satellite around a sun of justice and a sun of
revolutionary ideas, but not a satellite of any nation, any country.  The
latest international events and the bravery with which the Cuban people are
facing the consequences of the international situation, have helped increase
Cuba's prestige as a heroic and brave country in many areas, especially in the
Third World, where there is great affection for us, although not as much as in
the developed world. [sentence as received] Thus, there is a tendency to say:
``Castro did this; Castro did the other,'' thereby personalizing historical
processes.  That is not my concept of history, I always attribute things to the
people. All this that I have said may be the reason for, and the explanation
of, the fact that someone might say that I am what you call a ``living

46.  [Mateo] Garcia Marquez wrote ``The Colonel Has No One to Write His
Story.'' Does the same apply to Commander Castro, or is too much being written?

47.  [Castro] (He nods, folds his arms, and lowers his voice, as if to tell a
secret.)  My problem is the opposite. Many people write to me, both from here
and abroad. We make every effort to answer, but logically, it is necessary to
be selective, to some extent. I participate personally in some of the
responses, but to do so for all the letters is impossible, because even if I
devoted myself entirely to that, I would not have enough time to answer all of
them. So far, my problem is the reverse: the commander-you have to reduce the
rank-has too many people telling his story.

48.  [Mateo] One of your most widely known and admired phrases is ``history
will absolve me,'' the title of one of your books. Do you believe that history
has already absolved you, or will a lot more time have to pass?

49.  [Castro] Realistically, history has had different interpretations over the
course of 3,000 years, and one cannot guarantee the impartiality of these
interpretations, because that depends on the writers, on the ideas of the
writers, and on the social sector from which the writing is done. Some say the
history of Greece was marvelous, while others say Greek society was in no way
democratic, it was an oligarchy in which only a few had the right to vote,
while the immense majority was deprived of that right, and the others were
slaves. Yet Greece is always cited as an example of democracy. Later, there was
talk of Rome and the Roman senate, but modern history says it was a great
empire and reports all the things that are now known. During the French
Revolution, for example, Brutus, who killed Caesar, was exalted. Later other
revolutionaries said that Brutus represented the Roman oligarchy and that
Caesar had defended the rights of the plebeians in Rome. In the same way, there
have been writings in favor of and against Cicero and many other historical
personages. When I said: ``History will absolve me,'' I was referring to very
specific events: the attack on the Moncada barracks, my trial for my part in
that attack. It has a relative meaning, namely that the people will some day
recognize the cause; nations will some day recognize the justice of our cause.
The facts will show us to have been right, was what I meant, and so they have. 
Every day there is a new history, the entire history of our revolution, of the
revolutionary process, and of the construction of socialism in Cuba, with our
successes and our mistakes. Nevertheless, if I were to be in the same situation
and there were to be a trial, I would not hesitate to repeat the same phrase:
History will absolve me. Sooner or later, the people will say that we were
right. A great number of peoples have already done so.  People look with
admiration at this page written by the Cuban revolution over the course of more
than 30 years.  The facts in the end will show that we were right. We cannot
know if it will be tomorrow or the day after, but when you have absolute
confidence in the justice of what you are doing, then in that sense, I would
say again: History will absolve us.

50.  [Mateo] One last question, Commander. Where is Cuba headed?

51.  [Castro] Cuba is headed toward a consolidation of its political
achievements and of the revolution, and toward a perfecting of its socialist
system, as it faces today enormous difficulties, enormous obstacles that we
feel sure we will overcome.

52.  [Mateo] I hope you do.

53.  [Castro] Thank you very much.

54.  [Mateo] I wish to express my personal admiration to you, Commander.

55.  [Castro] I am flattered. It was indeed a pleasure to answer your