Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

Castro Remarks at Missile Crisis Conference
Havana Cuba Vision Network
Report Type:         Daily report             AFS Number:     FL2102003092
Report Number:       FBIS-LAT-92-043-S        Report Date:    04 Mar 92
Report Series:       Latin America            Start Page:     4
Report Division:     CARIBBEAN                End Page:       7
Report Subdivision:  Cuba                     AG File Flag:   
Classification:      UNCLASSIFIED             Language:       Spanish
Document Date:       20 Feb 92

City/Source of Document:   Havana Cuba Vision Network

Report Name:   SUPPLEMENT

Headline:   Castro Remarks at Missile Crisis Conference

Subheadline:   Part 2 of Castro Remarks

Source Line:   FL2102003092 Havana Cuba Vision Network in Spanish 0225 GMT 20
Feb 92

Subslug:   [Second of four parts of the special program: ``Reflections on a
Crisis,'' a tripartite conference on the Cuban Missile Crisis held
in Havana from 9 to 12 January- recorded]

1.  [Second of four parts of the special program: ``Reflections on a Crisis,''
a tripartite conference on the Cuban Missile Crisis held in Havana from 9 to 12
January- recorded]

2.  [Excerpts] [passage omitted] [Fidel Castro] I really thought there were
more tactical nuclear weapons, because they talked about tactical weapons, and
the report the Soviet command gave me talked about tactical nuclear weapons.
They talked about the Luna missiles, and I do not know if the Navy also had
them. The question was not completely clear, but they talked about the tactical
nuclear weapons of the mechanized armored regiments.

3.  In the first place, it seems to me that there were very few missiles. I
think if the Americans had carried out an operation like this one, they would
have brought more tactical nuclear weapons, not just nine. It is logical to
bring .... [pauses] If they had asked for my opinion, I would have said that
more tactical nuclear weapons were needed. I say this [words indistinct]
because the matter needed to be analyzed from a military point of view. 
[passage omitted]

4.  [Castro] The situation was increasingly tense. The low-altitude overflights
were becoming more frequent, and we were convinced that to allow them was very
dangerous. We could not allow these overflights under these conditions, because
any morning they could have destroyed all the military assets. So on the
morning of October 27 when the planes began to make their low-altitude
overflights at their usual time-they appeared everywhere, they appeared over
San Cristobal-our batteries opened fire. So they complied with the order. We
did not have surface-to-air missiles.

5.  At the meeting with the Soviet commander, I explained to him the
seriousness of those flights and our point of view.  Knowing them, I tried to
persuade them that our point of view was correct. You could say that the war
began here in Cuba on the morning of 27 October.

6.  Of course, those fast jet planes went higher as soon as they heard the
first shots. They went out of the range of our guns. I repeat: we were not
experts, but the planes were flying so low, 100 or 150 meters. I saw them
flying more than once. They appeared to be fairly vulnerable.  The fact is we
were not able to shoot one of those low-flying planes down, but resistance to
the planes appeared. On this same day, as on almost every day, the U-2 was

7.  It is still a mystery, it is still a mystery, [repeats] what made the
Soviet commander-as has been explained here-and the battery chief decide to
shoot, because of course we could not give them orders, but neither do I want
to say that the responsibility was solely theirs. We were in total agreement
with their decision to fire on the U-2 because, well, even though it did not
present the same danger from a military point of view, it was the principle. I
said yesterday that the U-2 flights should not have been allowed, but I agree
with the Soviet officer that the order did not come from Moscow.

8.  What is my opinion? They are soldiers. We are together, the enemy is there,
and the firing begins. I believe it was a basic spirit of solidarity that made
the Soviets decide to fire as well. That is my opinion on how the firing began
that morning. The planes had begun to fly over the western provinces, and some
time later one of those planes was shot down over Oriente Province. [passage

9.  [Castro] Well, I think I explained in my speech the concerns we had with
respect to Cuba's image. When I say Cuba's image, I am thinking primarily about
its image in Latin America; also in the rest of the world, but it was Latin
America that interested us most. For us it was very clear that turning
ourselves into a military base-and I said it this way-was going to have a very
high political cost. Therefore, if it had been.... [pauses] if the issue had
been the Cuba's defense, we would have preferred not to have the missiles.
Alejandro [not further identified] was right when he gave the opinion just as
it was presented to him, and when he said that we were not going to accept
that, because it was presented as being for Cuba's defense. But as we perceived
immediately, right away, it was really a strategic proposal, even though the
basic argument was the defense of Cuba.

10.  That is how we interpreted it immediately, I and the two comrades who were
with me. Then when we met, we analyzed the issue, and we all interpreted it
exactly the same way: it was a strategic issue, it was necessary for the
socialist bloc, to strengthen the socialist bloc, and if we wanted the
socialist countries to fight for us, we could not refuse to provide this
cooperation-as we could call it-to the socialist bloc, because of the matter of
image alone, selfishly. That was the argument we used in our meeting, where we
unanimously agreed on the issue of the missiles in spite of all the
disadvantages we thought it would entail. We were aware of them, but we were
not that concerned about Cuba's image with other governments, because in
general those governments in Latin America were more or less manipulated by
U.S. influence and U.S.  economic and political power. Not all of them, but
there was always a number of governments that immediately.... [pauses] Central
American governments, but there were other governments with a greater sense of
dignity, freedom, and independence that did not yield to U.S. policy with
respect to Cuba.

11.  One example was Mexico, but other countries also resisted. Chile resisted
for a time. Ecuador also resisted for a time, as did Bolivia, Brazil, and
Uruguay. There was a group of six or seven countries that resisted. But all the
rightist governments, all the governments by force, without exception,
supported the U.S. policy. [previous paragraph repeated verbatim here,
beginning with ``I and the two comrades'' and ending with ``U.S. policy with
respect to Cuba.'']

12.  Now U Thant came, to judge by what we read, to negotiate for peace and act
as a mediator, introduce the United Nations, and find some way to help end the
crisis. However, we could not accept the matter of inspections. We could not
accept that. I think that would have reduced our sovereignty. I also think that
the withdrawal of the missiles reduced our sovereignty.  There was already a
commitment. We could not have certain weapons. It was a commitment we did not
undertake, but the only country that could supply us with those weapons was the
Soviet Union. In fact, we had been excluded from having certain types of

13.  Naturally we could not agree with this because we have a deeply felt
concept of sovereignty. It is evident in all our texts, all our documents, and
throughout our history, although these may be papers that have not been
published. We saw inspections as a humiliation because they were unnecessary.
We should have been the ones who carried out the first inspections. We had not
even determined if the Soviets had taken the missiles away. But we were sure
they had taken them away just as they had brought them, and there was no
possibility.... [pauses] We did not try and we did not hinder them, because it
would have created a-I do not know-an absurd situation if we had opposed the
withdrawal of the missiles.

14.  We would have been in conflict with the Soviets. We would have had a
conflict with our friends, comrades, brothers, the troops who had been here
beside us willing to die. I saw many Soviets crying on 28 October. I saw Soviet
military chiefs crying after the news of the withdrawal of the missiles. I will
never forget that. Those people had excellent relations with us; Alejandro had
excellent relations with us. They all did. They were all upset, really. What
should we have done? Use force?  Should we have used violence against the
Soviets? Say the missiles could not leave? That would have been totally crazy.
We had no alternative, moral or political, but to allow those missiles to be
taken away. It would make no sense and serve no purpose to do otherwise,
because we did not even know how to use the missiles. I had hoped to learn
something about the missiles after they had been established, learn what they
were like and a few other things. I think the Soviets had some information they
gave me.

15.  In fact, when I visited the USSR, I asked Khrushchev to take me to see a
strategic missile base. He took me to see one. That fact has been published. I
was able to see what the strategic missiles were like later in the USSR. I am
not going to give more details because they have not been declassified.
[laughter] In spite of the photos the satellites have taken and what you must
know now, because there are more people working together on this, [chuckles]
more people working together. I think that almost everything you want to find
out you can find out there now, but just in case, I do not want to take
responsibility and I will not give more details about the strategic missile
base I saw in the sixties. I imagine that it is more modern now, but really I
cannot say anything else.

16.  We did not oppose the search for a peaceful solution. I have already
explained that. Rather, we opposed everything that had been agreed upon and the
way it was done.  It was not a matter of form but of content. The fundamental
interests of this country had not been taken into account, and we were asked to
trust. We were supposed to depend on someone's word. That seemed like very
little. We were very opposed to the content, but we could do nothing except
what was associated with our sovereignty. We could not allow inspections. If we
did not agree with the solution that had been reached, how could we agree to
the inspections? Why should we cooperate with this?

17.  In addition, the people's mood would have made that impossible, even
incomprehensible. Let me say that we had to make a statement about the IL-28's,
because the IL-28's were also gone. There was a time when they pledged us the
IL-28's, [words indistinct] Mikoyan, when I discussed the problem, he said it
was impossible. He said: Let the Americans go to the devil. No, Mikoyan said:
Let the imperialists go to the devil. That is more exact. Because we said that
the Americans wanted to take them away. He said: Let the imperialists go to the
devil. He did not say: Let the Americans go to the devil.

18.  Really, what he said is more elegant, because it is not the same to say
imperialists as to say Americans. To say it that way, the words Mikoyan said
were: Let the imperialists go to the devil if they want to take away the
IL-28's.  And a few days later, Mikoyan had to come to try to persuade us that
he wanted to take away the IL-28's.  That was another problem. We said: Take
away the IL-28's as well? How could we explain that to the people?  I had to
make a statement that we accepted the arrangement and the planes were obsolete
already and all those things. People did not like it at all that the IL-28's
were taken away. Our role was not at all pleasant. We had to go around
explaining our agreement so the IL-28's could be taken away.

19.  We did not want to accumulate more reasons and factors for irritation in
our relations with the Soviets. Our close economic relations with the Soviets
must also be taken into account. The country's whole life, energy, everything
depended on the Soviets. There were many things with which they were going to
supply us. The national oil enterprises that exist today did not exist back
then. At that time, a few multinational companies dominated the entire oil
market. The Soviets supplied us with oil. They also supplied us with weapons.

20.  We gained something after the missile crisis: free weapons. Up to that
time, weapons had been sold through credits, but because of the crisis, well,
first there were the weapons that were left here. We received them for free.
After that, for almost 30 years, we received free weapons. That was a positive
result of the missile crisis for us. It was a new precedent, the supply of
weapons. So we did not want to sour relations further with the Soviet Union.
Who would have benefited from that? No one would have benefited. We had to
manage our indignation. But the people would not have accepted the idea of
inspections, but of course, for us it was not a question of public opinion. We
did not accept the business about the inspections.

21.  I think an agreement can be reached with us on any issue, because in
fact-and history has shown this- we have been responsible about all our
international commitments. When we have made commitments, we have fulfilled
them. Our commitment in Angola is a recent example. Why was there peace in
Angola? Because of the enormous effort Cuba made at a time of tremendous crisis
for Angola. We are willing, we would have been willing, to reach agreements
without these humiliations.  Were we going to inspect U.S. territory?

22.  At one time we accepted some observers who were going to be-this is in the
letters-in the United States, I think in Cuba, and in I do not know what other
Caribbean countries. That was the general idea, but it also included the United
States. It seemed like a more equitable arrangement to us. The United States,
however, did not accept observers on its territory. The United States responded
to Nikita-and this is in the letters-that in that case, there would also have
to be observers in the Black Sea and the ports from which the weapons had sent
to Cuba. The United States refused to accept observers, and that fact is in the

23.  So that addresses our willingness to make commitments.  We could not do
it. At that time, the agreements were unjust. I do not understand why we were
the only ones who were to be inspected. There should have been bilateral
inspections. They should have let us inspect places of possible clandestine
attacks in the United States and all that. We might have accepted some kind of
observation on a reciprocal basis. It was not necessary, you know? I think the
governments' sense of responsibility is the most important thing.

24.  We could have published the agreement, put it totally in the public light.
In short, I was observing events, and we were leaving the initiative to the
adversary. That was not the language we used: We said we were leaving the
initiative to the imperialists, the enemy, and all those things. But here with
the elegant way we are discussing things, we should say that. [chuckles] I am
translating it into elegant language. I told Khrushchev that we were leaving
the initiative to the United States because of the line we were taking and that
we should publish the agreement. I sent that message to him.

25.  But I also said that in any case we would let them make the final decision
on the matter. Why am I saying this again? Because they knew the global
situation and the correlation of forces between the United States and the
Soviet Union better than we did. We did not know more.  Therefore we said that
the Soviet leadership, and specifically Nikita, who knew the situation and had
much more information than I did, should make the final decision. In fact, he
made the final decision to continue with the same idea he had at the beginning.
He made the decision to continue the same way, that it should not be published,
that it should not be talked about.

26.  The idea of the elections, waiting for the 4 November elections, may have
influenced him. I think he always had that in mind, not to create any scandal
about all this.  The fact is that that was the decision. It also anticipated
that if a crisis arose because the operation was discovered, it would be
something legal that was discovered. It is as if a boyfriend and girlfriend go
to the movies. They may not have told anyone, but they are not doing anything
illegal. Or if a married couple goes to the beach and stays at a hotel. They
are not betraying anyone; they are not hiding anything. They are not committing
any offense, any crime. But, well, what we were doing was absolutely legal.