Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

Further on Castro Interview in Mexican Weekly
ANNEX / Cuba
BRS Assigned Document Number:    000009695
Report Type:         Daily Report             AFS Number:     PA2306043491
Report Number:       FBIS-LAT-91-124-A        Report Date:    27 Jun 91
Report Series:       Latin America            Start Page:     4
Report Division:     ANNEX                    End Page:       7
Report Subdivision:  Cuba                     AG File Flag:   
Classification:      UNCLASSIFIED             Language:       Spanish
Document Date:       22 Jun 91
Report Volume:       Thursday Vol VI No 124-A

Dissemination:  FOUO

City/Source of Document:   Havana PRENSA LATINA

Report Name:   ANNEX

Headline:   Further on Castro Interview in Mexican Weekly

Author(s):   Beatriz Pages Rebollar, director of the Mexican weekly SIEMPRE and
carried as a PRENSA LATINA ``exclusive''; place and date not

Source Line:   PA2306043491 Havana PRENSA LATINA in Spanish 0445 GMT 22 Jun

Subslug:   [Part V of ``Fidel Castro, Present and Future of Cuba'' a report on
an interview with Cuban President Fidel Castro by Beatriz Pages
Rebollar, director of the Mexican weekly SIEMPRE and carried as a
PRENSA LATINA ``exclusive''; place and date not given]

1.  [Part V of ``Fidel Castro, Present and Future of Cuba'' a report on an
interview with Cuban President Fidel Castro by Beatriz Pages Rebollar, director
of the Mexican weekly SIEMPRE and carried as a PRENSA LATINA ``exclusive'';
place and date not given]

2.  [Text] [no dateline as received] [Pages] What importance is there in the
fact that the first Ibero-American summit is to be held in Latin America and,
in your opinion, what will be the political significance of this meeting?

3.  [Castro] I consider it a very important event. Many times, throughout the
years, I have criticized the attitude of Latin American leaders for being
incapable of at least meeting.

4.  In my relations with Third World countries, which have been greatly
strengthened over the years as a result of the U.S. struggle against us and our
efforts to break our isolation, I have been able to appreciate, for example,
that the African countries meet every year. The Africans constitute a group of
countries the immense majority of which were colonies up until recently. They
have developed the practice of meeting to analyze their problems.  They meet
almost twice every year. Not only the Africans, but the European leaders also
meet several times a year.

5.  Latin American leaders, however, have only met when they are convened to
meet by the United States. I have said many times that Latin American leaders
are not capable of even meeting, unless the United States convenes the meeting.
I saw in this a demonstration of dependence, of political submission to the
will and interests of the United States. A group of five, a group of seven, a
group of 10 would gather in such meeting, but I always felt that they should
meet systematically, independently of governments or ideologies, because in the
United Nations all meet despite their differences. In Africa all of the
countries meet because they have common interests. I have noted that the Latin
Americans were not even capable of meeting.

6.  Therefore, I applaud and am really quite satisfied that, whatever the
pretext, Mexico has convened that meeting. I am even happier that it was
Mexico. Logically, for a meeting of that type to be held, it was necessary that
the initiative or call to meeting should be made by a country with the
capability of convening it.  Mexico has always had a great capability to
convene meetings in Latin America. There are other countries: Brazil could also
have called the meeting of one or several countries together. I believe
something essential has been accomplished and look how simple it has been.  How
can one speak of integration, of struggling on behalf of common interests, if
the countries are not even capable of meeting. I attach importance to the
meeting in that respect. There will also be Europeans, representatives of
Spain, of Portugal. I am glad that they will be present. We also have common
interests and share a common language. It is somewhat broader than a meeting of
Latin Americans, but it is a meeting for the first time in history-how would
you say-of Latin Americans. I believe that we must try to make the most of the
meeting. I believe that your fellow citizens, the leaders of Mexico, are
carefully drafting the agenda for the meeting. That is my assessment of it.

7.  [Pages] The overall Ibero-American vision and prevailing international laws
will be two of the topics that will be addressed at the summit. What will
Cuba's position be concerning those two points?

8.  [Castro] In reality, I believe it would be somewhat premature on our part
to anticipate what our position is going to be because that meeting is in July.
We have done a lot of work and are now drafting ideas. Above all, we are
compiling information on the meeting, on possible topics, on the wishes of the
participants, on those questions in which there is at least a consensus with
regard to what must be broached. I can assure you that our participation will
be based on a spirit of cooperation with the others, with all Latin American
countries. It will be a constructive position. It is not a case where Cuba will
take a particular or exclusive point of view to the meeting. We are going to
honestly reveal our positions with regard to the topics that are going to be
analyzed. At the same time, we will convey a cooperative and constructive
position because, in light of everything that I have previously said, we
appreciate the meeting as an important step toward Latin American cooperation.
You know how many of those meetings, which sometimes begin with an idea,
evolve. Then other ideas follow and purposes are expanded. Of course the
fundamental initiative here must be that of the host country that extended the
invitation to the meeting and organized it.

9.  I am thankful we were invited, as it is a sign of friendship and solidarity
from Mexico, which on this occasion has acted within all its prerogatives and
with full sovereignty in making the decision to invite Cuba, although this must
not have pleased the northern neighbors. That is why I must acknowledge the
significance of the gesture to invite Cuba. We will attend with that spirit,
with our ideas, our criteria, our points of view concerning those topics. We
want to prepare them well, which is why I think it would be premature to
discuss the matter.

10.  [Pages] Could you at least mention some of the important topics that it
would be advisable to discuss in the first meeting of this nature?

11.  [Castro] I do not want to take the initiative on the matter, do you
understand? I do not want to take the initiative.

12.  [Pages] Yes, I understand you perfectly well. What is the Cuban stance on
the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America? Must we call it the
discovery of America or the encounter of two cultures?

13.  [Castro] That is a very sensitive and highly controversial issue. I have
expressed my opinion, and I have talked about it.

14.  In 1985, six years ago, I remember we were talking about the foreign debt
when I made comments that prompted some people in Spain to become very
sensitive about it, because my view is that we must make a critical
commemoration of the 500th anniversary, and not simply laud it.

15.  There are many merits in the history of navigation and the travels of
Columbus, a man who was also a most outstanding person with many merits as a
scientist, as a man of courage, as a discoverer in the sense a scientist may
have in proving certain theories about nature.  Among other things, he proved
that the Earth was round.  Although the theory had been around from the time of
Ptolemy, he had the courage to face even the superstitions and all the theories
in vogue that assumed the Earth was flat. He believed in the theory that the
Earth was round. His own history, perseverance, tenacity, and travels are
worthy of admiration. Therefore, these are really positive things, but along
with the discovery came terrible developments for our people, such as the
conquest. Plain and simple, we were conquered.

16.  We do not know by virtue of what law were we conquered. It was done by
force. Besides conquering us, they colonized and enslaved us. They forced the
inhabitants of this hemisphere to extract gold and silver and almost
exterminated them. Some natives, as in Cuba, virtually disappeared. In Santo
Domingo, terrible wars were waged against the Indians. I think that Washington
Irving, one Columbus biographer, tells a story about this-I remember reading it
some years ago. There was a large group of organized Indians in Santo Domingo,
and they fought with courage, like great warriors. They were, however,
exterminated. Everyone knows what happened in the rest of Latin America. In
Mexico, to cite an example, a population of 607 million was reduced to one
third that number.

17.  In other words, the discovery came accompanied by the enslavement or
semi-enslavement of the Indians, and their virtual extermination in many areas.

18.  The third development linked to the discovery was modern slavery and the
shipment into this continent of tens of millions of enslaved Africans.
Conquest, colonization, extermination, and slavery came tied to the discovery.

19.  [Pages] Would it be worthwhile to leave those developments aside and
understand them in terms of their historical content?

20.  [Castro] I wonder if during these modern times in which we are living we
can historically set aside the realities that accompanied the discovery, if we
can forget the values of freedom and the rights of man to the extent that we
forget all those negative factors that followed the discovery. That is why we
said we must make a critical historical analysis, because I say there are
people who now want to discover us anew and want to conquer us anew. It would
seem a little absurd to be praising that 500 years from now, like the discovery
they are commemorating now.

21.  These are historical developments. We must analyze them in a dispassionate
and objective manner, not with hatred. The idea is not to inspire sentiments of
hatred toward Europe or any country, much less toward Spain.

22.  To tell you the truth, my criticism is based on values that are
irrevocable and that I will always defend.

23.  The Spaniard was the Spaniard. He came from 700 years of war and flooded
our hemisphere with warriors. This does not grieve me and I am almost happy
that their genes, which belonged to brave and combative people, who fought for
their independence, and those of our Indians, who were also very brave,

24.  I was telling you the history of Santo Domingo and of the indigenous
residents of this continent. I believe it was good for the blood of Spaniards,
Indians, and Africans to merge. We are the end result of this history. Thus,
our position is not an anti-Spanish one, but is based on our historic and moral
values. We believe that today, more than ever, we must combat any disposition
to conquest, colonize, loot, and exploit. Third World countries and principally
the thousands of millions of Third World residents want these principles to be
upheld and that we struggle against all those who violate these principles. 
This is the position I have sustained. I am also of the opinion that we should
admit the positive aspects of our history.

25.  [Pages] But what should we call the event that took place in 1492 and that
changed humanity: encounter or discovery?

26.  [Castro] Some comrades and personalities have talked about the encounter
of two cultures. This is an elegant and even compassionate way of referring to
these historic events, even though, in reality, one culture imposed itself upon
the other. It was not an encounter, it was the crushing of a culture and of
peoples by others who were more advanced in military technology. However, now
they call it the encounter of two cultures.

27.  I must point out that the event also had its positive points. I do believe
that, in addition to the bad things and the sicknesses, we also acquired good
things from Europe. To give you an example, we received the language from the
Spaniards. Thanks to this, we can communicate with each other in Latin America;
if we talked the language of our predecessors we would not understand each
other.  We also received certain organizational norms and legal principles from
the Spaniards. Furthermore, they brought a rich culture that, although it
predominated, did not stop blending with the one that was here.

28.  The Spaniards and the Africans also contributed greatly to our current
culture. Many of our values, in the field of literature and general culture,
came from the old world.  We received these contributions kindly and in all
fairness have to say that the Spaniards, contrary to the Anglo-Saxons, mixed
with the Indians and the Africans.  To say the truth, the Indians were entirely
exterminated in North America. The Anglo-Saxons, on principle, set out to
exterminate the Indians because they considered the Indians unworthy of
mingling with white people or even of existing. The Spaniards did not have
these prejudices. The Spaniards were capable of mingling with the Indians and
the black people. The Spaniards did not want to exterminate the Indians in this
area; they wanted to exploit them and take away their riches. It was a totally
different concept (from the one held by the Anlgo-Saxons). Quite frankly, I
must tell you that I prefer to have been colonized by the Spaniards and not the
Anglo-Saxons. The Spaniards had another character and that is why we are what
we are-a new world, filled with people which resulted from this blending

29.  I do not have a sectarian position. I do not want to harass, trouble, or
hurt anyone with my ideas. However, it is my point of view with regard to this
controversial matter. We have cooperated with the (fifth centennial of the
discovery of America) activities and we will continue to do so. If there is a
fair in Seville, we will go. If the Olympic games are in Barcelona, we will go
to Barcelona.  If Spanish ships following Columbus' routes arrive here, we will
welcome them, in the same building in which I have received many of the youths
who came on these ships. That is to say, we have supported all these events. 
However, (we have maintained our position) privately, of course; we do not want
our position to be the cause of a great conflict.

30.  [Pages] Do you know the Latin American Indians' position on this matter?

31.  [Castro] I have had contact with many Latin American Indian
representatives. I have talked to them and know how they feel. They hold a
very, very critical position on anything that has to do with the
quincentennial. They have many claims and demands and they talk with great
eloquence and force to defend their points of view. It is really touching to
hear the Latin American Indian representatives. I believe their points of view
should also be heard and disseminated.

32.  A more balanced and historically just commemoration would be held if all
these positions were taken into account. As I told you, we would hold an
important celebration in which we would look for the positive aspects and admit
the negative aspects of the event.

33.  Yet, all countries do not share the same views, because they did not have
the same history: The Mexicans have a stance, and so do the Ecuadorans and the
Peruvians. There are countries in which a larger percentage of the Indian
population survived, and there are Latin American countries where the Indians
virtually disappeared, even though they still have some Indian blood in them.
You find for example that the Argentines, who are very European, also have
Indian blood in them. This can be seen in their features. However, there are
countries which have almost an 80 to 90 percent population of European descent.
These countries received millions of European immigrants in recent times, and
they logically do not have the same Indian traditions as do Peru, Mexico,
Ecuador, Bolivia, Guatemala, and others. There are many countries with a strong
Indian tradition, where the Indians make up a large percentage of the
population, while others have less Indian presence. This explains the
underlying differences between these countries.

34.  I also found two different attitudes. I found that, when I was in Mexico,
the people did not want to hear or speak of the Spanish explorer Cortes. Some
expressions used by Mexicans when they want to describe someone, which derived
from the period of the conquest, are well-known.  In other places, like Peru,
they treasure with respect the remains of Pizarro. In other words, there has
been different historical behavior. In addition, the processes that followed
the conquest have not been exactly the same.

35.  We could say that the Indians played an important role in the Mexican
independence and revolution, while, as a result of the independence struggle,
in some areas of South America the Indian population was largely dominated by
the royalist influence. In some parts of Latin America, there was a large
royalist influence on the Indian communities. Even some independence fighters
from Venezuela and Colombia were looked upon with distrust in some South
American countries. All kinds of things have happened, have they not?
[Argentine founding father] San Martin had the idea of organizing a monarchy
that would encompass Argentina, Chile, and Peru, including High Peru [today's
Bolivia], because he understood that no conditions existed for other forms of
government. At that time, a very strong oligarchical government, which had an
ambiguous attitude during the war of independence, was in place in the
Viceroyalty of Peru.

36.  San Martin believed that the Peruvian oligarchy, which was undoubtedly the
strongest in South America, was destined to play an important role in the
creation of a monarchy. Toward that effect, there was even some talk about a
French prince, according to historians. This tells you the different historical
processes of every country and, thus, the different ways in which they are more
or less sensitive to the issue of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of
America and the way in which they refer to it.

37.  In short, I think that this explains my ideas.

38.  [Pages] Would Latin American governments not be forced to try to alleviate
any possible resentment, in view of that hypersensitivity?

39.  [Castro] I have no objection to overcoming any feeling of resentment, but
the resentment can only be overcome based on justice, truth, and the
acknowledgement of the historical events as they took place and with critical
judgment. This would help even more. What can cause more resentment is the
denial of that historical reality.

40.  Many of these Indian communities are today living under conditions of
extreme poverty.

41.  When the Pope visited Ecuador and Bolivia, he met with hundreds of
thousands of Indians. In many of those places poverty is terribly high,
education is backwards, and there are no schools, no hospitals, no jobs, no
land; it is a tragedy.

42.  After 500 years, many of those Indian communities are experiencing the
tragedy that followed the discovery of the continent. Then, who is going to
convince them or how can they be convinced?

43.  There is a lack of social justice in all of our countries. If the values
of social justice do not prevail, then I doubt that anyone will remember those
Indians or Indian communities, or their suffering. I would agree, if it is
necessary, because we are not going to live today with the resentment from the
times of Adam and Eve, and the offense that Cain killed his brother Abel.
Imagine, since man has existed, according to the Bible, there have been
fratricidal struggles and logically, as a revolutionary man and a socialist, I
would like to see men living as brothers.  This will enable man to rid himself
of all resentment.  However, this has to be done based on justice and the
historical acknowledgement of the truth.