Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC



Castro Gives News Conference 24 Feb
Havana Cuba Vision Network

Report Type:         Daily report             AFS Number:     FL2602051493
Report Number:       FBIS-LAT-93-037          Report Date:    26 Feb 93
Report Series:       Daily Report             Start Page:     1
Report Division:     CARIBBEAN                End Page:       5
Report Subdivision:  Cuba                     AG File Flag:   
Classification:      UNCLASSIFIED             Language:       Spanish
Document Date:       26 Feb 93
Report Volume:       Friday Vol VI No 037


City/Source of Document:   Havana Cuba Vision Network

Report Name:   Latin America

Headline:   Castro Gives News Conference 24 Feb

Author(s):   President Fidel Castro in Santiago de Cuba on 24

Source Line:   FL2602051493 Havana Cuba Vision Network in Spanish 0201 GMT 26
Feb 93

Subslug:   [News conference given by President Fidel Castro in Santiago de
Cuba on 24 February-recorded]

1.  [News conference given by President Fidel Castro in Santiago de Cuba on 24

2.  [Excerpts] [passage omitted] [(Yoli Mascarena) of AZAI Television, of
Japan] Good evening, Commander. I would like to ask you two questions. First,
among the latest changes....

3.  [Castro, interrupting] Is everyone going to ask two questions?

4.  [(Mascarena)] It is a two-part question. Among the changes that have taken
place in the government as of late, such as allowing workers to keep tips, and
to open bank accounts in dollars; why was this done? And, will this not bring
about social inequality by allowing a group to buy with hard currency while
another cannot?

5.  [Castro] Well, what is being done regarding tips is an experiment. There
is a reality, many times we are in conflict with realities but the realities
are persevering and persistent. We have outstanding people working in the
hotels but there is a rigid policy regarding currency exchange. Most of the
workers follow it. In other words, they exchange to pesos the hard currency
they get in tips.  A large number of the workers do this but a number of them
do not.

6.  This is the result of the great objective difficulties we are
experiencing. Many times they get tips in the form of items or products. This
promotes the fact that there are things outside the established policy, that
violations are made regarding this. We have to accept the reality that tourism
brings along certain problems. Inevitably, this is so. But we cannot renounce
tourism because we do not have large oil deposits. I can assure you that if we
had the oil deposits which Kuwait and other countries have, we would not
promote tourism as much, but basically promote domestic tourism, as we did for
many years.  [passage omitted]

7.  Tourism is one of the biggest prospects for our economy.  We decided to
develop tourism. In our experience with tourism we have learned all these
things regarding tips.  This promotes violations by workers who otherwise are
very good workers. We decided to take the realistic approach. This is why we
are conducting this experiment to allow then to exchange the tips for certain
certificates and be able to buy in stores created for this purpose.

8.  We cannot speak of dollar accounts. The enterprises are the ones which
have accounts in dollars. We can talk about the ownership of certain
currencies in the form of certificates which can be used in certain stores.
This is not ideal but we have no other alternative because we do not have
enough resources to give to everyone and decided to give it to certain sectors
such as the sector which works in tourism. There are other ideas which we are
realistically developing regarding other sectors.

9.  This will mean, that, yes, some citizens will have opportunities which
others do not have but the income derived from their work and purchases in the
stores will serve to buy powdered milk for the children, buy medicine for
hospitals, and help the rest of the citizens. This will not be done to make
anyone wealthy but to improve....[changes thought] If $1 million, or $10
million are collected in this manner, you can be assured that this goes
directly to the rest of the workers. If we do not do this, this money can be
put away and become a source for illegal exchange, the black market, and all
those types of things, or a worker might ask a tourist to buy him something
instead of giving a tip.

10.  We did not invent tips. Tips were invented by the world, life,
capitalism, and Western societies. I do not know if Eastern societies give
tips, but the Third World is generally so poor that I doubt they can be blamed
with coming up with the idea of tips. You, the Western world, invented it. We
are your hosts and have to welcome you with all your virtues as well as some
of these diabolical inventions which you have brought into this world and with
which we have to reconcile. Our goal is not to give privileges to anyone but
obtain resources for the rest of the population which is what all our
resources are aimed at. [passage omitted]

11.  [Diane Sawyer of ABC Network of the United States, in English] Mr.
President, I have a question about the elections the next time around. I am
just curious if you will be seeking changes in them or you would like to see
run exactly as they were today. And also, say, five years from now, will you
definitely be a candidate?

12.  [Castro, in Spanish with simultaneous translation into English] [passage
omitted] You are asking me a personal question. I hope my fellow citizens will
not demand from me that in five years I be again nominated as a candidate to
the National Assembly because although I consider myself a slave to duty, and
I consider that I am a slave of the Revolution, I hope that the conditions in
five years will be different to the present conditions. To accept the
nomination in the midst of the special period, I think it has some merit. Once
the special period is behind us, I would feel I have the right to protest. But
even if we still have a special period, I hope that my fellow citizens will
understand and accept that someone else can do the same job or do it even
better, or much, much better than I can. I say this with all sincerity. Time
passes by and even marathon runners become tired and this race has been a long
race for us. It has been a privilege to have acquired so many experiences, to
have lived so many years of experiences, all kinds of experiences, many of
them marvelous but it has been a very long race, too long. Much longer than
the race recorded in Greek history which took the life of the runner who
delivered the news of a victory after running 42 km. I think that I have run
more than 42 km in this revolutionary marathon.

13.  [Sawyer] May I just clarify: You do expect to be president five years
from now?

14.  [Castro] Well, I wish it would not be necessary. Because, five years at
the present rate of work is a very, very serious thing. Therefore, I hope not.
On the other hand, there is life. We have to see what life will bring. What
will the health be like. What will everything be like. So far, I have resisted
everything perfectly well but all of us are biological beings. Time passes by.
The years go by. I would have to wait for nature to grant even more privileges
in order to be able to discharge my duties properly. But I can assure you that
my personal work, my personal office, my personal work [repeats] is the least
important thing to me. What is important to me are the ideas that I have been
defending. What I care about is the fatherland, the Revolution, and socialism.
This is what I care for the most and for this I am willing to sacrifice
everything. It goes without saying, that above all, I will be willing, like
millions of my fellow citizens, to give up my life for this.

15.  [Sawyer] Thank you. [passage omitted]

16.  [Enriqueta Castillo of Radio Nacional de Espana] You said before that
these elections have represented a real revolutionary change. I agree with
that, and in addition I think there is another revolution that is to take
place within the Revolution, which is handling the increase....[rephrases]
opening doors to investment, as you have done. But my question is whether you
think Cuba is prepared to handle that revolution, because opening doors to
foreign investment also assumes a very profound change in the country's
productive system and infrastructure. This can take years. This cannot be done
overnight. So, is Cuba prepared to handle this period, which may be lengthy,
of adapting to this new revolution within the Revolution?

17.  [Castro] I was seeing some reports that had come in, but I will try to
answer your question because there is nothing new here. It cannot be said that
we are totally prepared. That is also a new experience. We were not prepared
for this system we adopted in these elections either, but we have handled this
experience successfully.  Of course, the other thing is more complex and
difficult.  But we can say that the opening we have made in the economic
sphere-which is not a total opening-is greater than the opening the Chinese
made 10 years ago.  They very wisely did it gradually, and they have
undoubtedly had great successes. They have accumulated important experiences.

18.  I think that the basic difficulties in obtaining results from this
economic opening are not due to our inexperience, because we have shown that
we have the ability to manage some things. We have shown that we have the
ability to carry out joint ventures and develop excellent relations with the
joint ventures and foreign capital that is invested in our country in those
areas in which the opportunity to invest foreign capital has been offered. So
these are partnerships with foreign capital that do not involve giving up the
country's socialist system. This is not a change in the system. It is an
economic opening, and it includes accepting investments in all those areas
where we need capital, technology, markets, or experience.

19.  There are many areas, and as we have been looking further into this
subject, we see very clearly in what areas foreign investment will suit us and
in what areas it will not suit us. In producing of our food and many things,
we have no need for that foreign investment. In other areas we do have a need.
If we are going to develop tourism, we need capital and foreign investment,
although part of the investment comes from our capital. This hotel where you
are staying was built entirely with Cuban capital. It is Cuban. This does not
rule out the possibility of a partnership to run this hotel with some foreign
company which will guarantee the tourists or can supply all the experience
that is required for the best management of a hotel. Even in joint ventures
with 50 percent ownership, we prefer that the foreigners, who have more
experience, manage the hotel, so that we can gradually acquire that

20.  The major difficulty is the economic embargo, the enormous pressure the
United States brings to bear so that investments will not be made in our
country. That is not the case with China. The United States has good relations
with them and a lot of trade, and also investments there. The United States
not only refrains from investing in Cuba, but brings enormous pressure to bear
throughout the world so that no one will invest in Cuba.  It brings pressure
to bear not only on governments but also on private businessmen. So the
businessmen who have made investments have done so in defiance of the U.S.
pressures. That is the major obstacle to the progress and success of this
opening we are undertaking. It is not our inexperience, because if it depended
on our inexperience, there definitely would be no obstacles. We are
intelligent, flexible, and able to learn quickly what we must learn. The
economic embargo is the major difficulty in our way with respect to this
economic opening we have made.

21.  [(Cathy Salermo) of ANSA, Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata, of Italy]
Mr. President, my question has to do with the subject of the null and blank
ballots. I have talked with many Cubans about their positions regarding the
elections. Many have told me they are going to vote for all the candidates
because they fully identify with the Revolution and because they understand
that the country is going through a special situation. But there are also
others who are unhappy and intend to cast blank or null ballots. Some are
unhappy about the economic situation, others because they believe that they
cannot fully exercise their civil and political rights, others because they do
not know the candidates, and others because although they know the candidates
they do not think they are the right ones for the assemblies, even though the
candidacy commissions worked to select the best of the country's citizens.

22.  So, I am going to ask two questions, following the tradition we have
established. I would like to know first of all why the null and blank ballots
are not considered valid votes if in fact they also express the opinions and
feelings of a group of voters, even if this group is small?  The second
question is what civilized alternative is there for these people to express
their opinion through the ballot, which is the democratic way of doing so, if
their opinion is not taken into consideration?

23.  [Castro] Let me say that the citizens who cast blank ballots have not
exercised their right to vote. Those who cast blank ballots have not exercised
their right to vote.  Those citizens who deface and nullify their ballots have
not exercised their right to vote, as defined by the law and the electoral
commission. That is why the null ballots....[rephrases] What are the valid
votes? Of course, the blank ballots are not included among the valid votes. 
The null ballots are not included among the valid votes.  There is a tradition
of concepts. If someone wants to nullify his ballot by drawing lines on it or
making a big X, why should his vote be considered valid if he did not want his
vote to be valid? He knows what the law is. If he wanted to, he could choose
not to nullify his ballot. He could choose, or vote for one person. He has a
lot of possible alternatives. So his ballot is valid; he is the one who
nullifies it. Those who cast blank ballots are the same as those who do not
vote, those who remain at home. They can stay at home. They receive the ballot
and cast it blank.

24.  But here the important thing is-and I know why you have asked a lot of
questions and want to know how many blank and null ballots there are-that the
electoral commission has promised to give all the figures once the entire
process is completed. Because some were interested in this.  It would seem
that the Revolution has no opposition. It would seem that imperialism was not
the Revolution's greatest adversary, and that this country was not fighting
against the most powerful empire in history and in the world. This is a
challenge that no small country has ever faced in the history of humanity.

25.  Do not forget that those who are against the Revolution are following
instructions. I am not talking about someone who did not like the candidate
and did not want to vote for him, because that is an opinion. But as a rule,
the Revolution's opponents identify totally with imperialism and imperialism's
policies. They have so many media outlets, dozens and dozens of radio
stations, and hundreds of hours of radio time per week, of propaganda directed
against Cuba. More propaganda is directed against Cuba than has been directed
against any other country in the world. You are referring really, as a rule,
with some exceptions, to the sector that follows imperialism's line and

26.  Unquestionably, the electoral commission members thought it best to wait
for the end of the process to give all these figures, and they are going to
give them. Because they wanted to find out how much strength the Revolution
has. There have always been blank ballots, and there have always been null
ballots in our elections. But they have never shown so much interest in the
problem, and they have never said so many lies. It has been said that 40
percent of the ballots were null or blank, or 30 percent, or things like that.
Really, I can say, without getting ahead of the electoral commission, that on
20 December there was about 10 percent null and blank ballots. About 10
percent, which is one out of 10. It is insignificant.

27.  Many of the null ballots were nullified involuntarily because of mistakes
in voting, the place where the cross was written, because it was not very
clear where it was, or because things were written on the ballot. They did
this by mistake. Many even wrote revolutionary slogans. We have asked our
voters to please save their enthusiasm and not express it on the ballots.
Because if they express it on the ballots, they nullify them. Some of the null
votes were like that. Others were blank. All of them together totalled one in
10. It was a little more in some provinces, a little less in others.

28.  So I very much doubt that in these elections it will be more than one in
10. This means that nine out of 10, at least....[changes thought] We are going
to wait for the electoral figures, because I do not want to speak too soon,
and say out of eight, nine, 10, 11, or 12, about the null or blank ballots.
But that is insignificant-one in 10-out of an electorate in which 98 percent
have voted.

29.  Now, imperialism is doing everything to smother the Revolution, to make
our people surrender out of hunger and disease, so that we cannot receive food
or medicine.  They want to strangle us, smother us. By creating a crisis in
our country, they want to promote a counterrevolution. Imperialism 's failure
is really very great, as it has not succeeded even in getting the support-and
we must see if it is support-of each person who cast a null or blank ballot.
Assuming that each one was trying to follow a political slogan or political
instructions from imperialism, its failure is very great. Because the whole
campaign they did was directed at nullifying ballots. A single radio
stations-I heard it today also on television, the specialists were explaining
it-a single radio station had stated more than 1,000 times, more than 1,000
times [repeats], a radio station in the United States, the slogan of
nullifying one's ballot, more than 1,000 times between 8 and 24 February.

30.  That was the motif they started, which became the enemy's slogan, while
the Revolution's strategy was focussed on voting. So it was a question of
deciding between imperialism's line or the Revolution's line. That is what has
happened here in the elections, and not only in the elections for the
delegates to the provincial assembly and the deputies. They have enormous
resources. Now, if imperialism succeeds in putting the Revolution in crisis,
if one day they are the majority, then they would defeat the Revolution in a
very simple way, by going to the district assemblies, presenting their points
of view, proposing their candidates, nominating them, and electing them. The
counterrevolutionaries could do exactly what the Revolution did, if they were
in the majority. The problem is that they are an insignificant minority. That
is their problem, and that is imperialism's problem.

31.  They have been very interested in seeing how much the special period our
country is experiencing has weakened the revolutionary forces. I think they
have received a conclusive lesson today about how the revolutionary forces
have acted. Because they have acted not only in the opposite direction from
the slogans imperialism had issued, but they have acted in a united way, with
solid unity, and based on awareness. Because as we said, there is a strategy,
not a slogan but a strategy, of the united vote. [passage omitted]

32.  If others want to return to a capitalist society, if they want to return
to the past, if they want to destroy the Revolution, they must persuade people
as we did. It will be very difficult to persuade this nation, young and old
people, that they must abandon the nation, the Revolution, and socialism,
because they are aware of what it has meant to them. Their path is very easy:
Go to the district assemblies, nominate their candidates, and elect them. 
Because when the people nominate and elect, the counterrevolutionaries, those
who are disaffected with the Revolution, those who disagree with the
Revolution, have as much opportunity as the revolutionaries. [passage omitted]

33.  [(Name indistinct) of LE FIGARO of France] Commander, this is a question
on economics. In China, President Deng Xiaoping [as heard] has undertaken a
new system called the socialist market economy, with a policy which is still
communist but with a capitalist economy on the other hand. What do you think
of this system, and is it possible to use this system in Cuba to overcome the

34.  [Castro] We have not gone that far, nor are we in a position to establish
a socialist market economy. That is a Chinese hypothesis and (?conviction)
which we have read about and heard about with great interest, and we are
observing it with great interest to see how it goes. But the conditions in
China are completely different from ours, because China is not under an
embargo. We are under an embargo by the most powerful economic power in the
world, a country of great influence. They have expanded their embargo against
us to the rest of the world. That country does not have trade with us. We have
to struggle hard in conditions of survival, which are not the minimum ideal
conditions to carry out some of these experiments that the Chinese are
carrying out.  What we will do, as we do with all countries which are
undergoing some new experiment, is to observe, pay a lot of attention to all
that and see how that experiment goes.  If something useful can be taken from
it for our country, do not doubt that we will use it. [passage omitted]

35.  [Andres Martin of Portuguese radio, from Uruguay] I want to ask you if it
was not a political mistake for the Cuban Government to sign the
nonproliferation treaty for nuclear weapons....[corrects himself] chemical
weapons, because the United States, which is the mortal enemy of the Cuban
Revolution, has weapons of that kind and of all kinds. Why is the Cuban
Revolution not arming itself (?with that kind of weapons)? That is my first
question. [passage omitted]

36.  [Castro] Well, about the treaty on chemical weapons.  The treaty on
chemical weapons is not based on a principle of fairness, because it is really
not fair that a country that is threatened, under an embargo, and against
which military plans are constantly being made, should renounce a weapon. So
it is not fair. It is not just.  The problem....[rephrases] There are two
reasons. First, there is a matter....[rephrases] There is a worldwide movement
against chemical weapons. Libya has not signed; Libya does not give as much
importance as we have to this worldwide movement against chemical weapons. In
order to have coordination with many countries in the world, we have supported
the elimination of chemical weapons.

37.  That is a political reason, but there are also two practical reasons. Our
capabilities for having chemical weapons are remote. We do not have the
resources to undertake production of chemical weapons, with all the needs the
country has. Another practical reason is that we would be competing against a
country that has all the chemical weapons it wants, and superdeveloped
technology.  Would it be good for us to introduce the use of chemical weapons
in a war between the United States and Cuba?  If they introduce them even if
we do not, we would have no other alternative but fatherland or death. So
death is better than not having a fatherland. It is better to have a nation
than to die, but it is better to die rather to live without a nation. As Marti
said: Without a nation, but without a master, I want to have over my tomb a
wreath of flowers and a flag.

38.  That is clear. But we are not going to ensure that by manufacturing
chemical weapons. That is the problem.  They have them, but in practice, if
they have them to use them, then they should use them, because there will not
be so much difference. Because chemical weapons not only need to exist, but
you have to have the means to deliver them. We would not have the means to
deliver those chemical weapons, neither the missiles nor the planes to deliver
them, nor enough of them to make an impression in a chemical war.

39.  We would have greater capabilities for making progress in the field of
biology, or trying to make biological weapons. We have never even thought
about making biological weapons, because of morality, simply because of
ethics. They have used biological weapons against us.  We apply the same
reasoning to biological weapons as to chemical weapons. We could apply it to
nuclear weapons, even though it is a matter of that kind of principle, I could
say. We have not signed the treaty on nuclear weapons because we have not felt
like it. But we do not have the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons, and
it would be folly to get into an arms race with the United States by making
nuclear weapons.

40.  With this I mean, with a lot of common sense, that would not strengthen
our defense or help our defense. It would also serve as a pretext for attacks
against our country. In addition, our concept of war does not include the use
of that kind of weapons. [Words indistinct] we base our defense [words
indistinct] war of the entire people, the kind of war we think we can carry
out if we are attacked by the United States, the kind of war we can do to
defend our country, and which the enemy would not have any way to counteract.
(?The only way to counteract it) is to exterminate us. If the United States
wants to exterminate us, it can do so. It can also exterminate other
countries.  It can also exterminate many other countries in the world if it
wants to, or if it decides to do so.

41.  Morally, practically....[rephrases] Well, Vietnam is proof that. They
decided not to use nuclear weapons, but the socialist bloc existed then as a
tremendous counterbalancing force.  In a war today against Vietnam, could we
be sure they would not use chemical weapons? In the war against Vietnam they
used chemical weapons, but not directly against the populace. Could we be sure
they would not use nuclear weapons? We could not be sure.  But we want to be
in a strong political and moral position and do things in what we consider the
sanest, most sensible way. Because otherwise we would get into an impossible
competition, an impossible balance of weapons and technology which we cannot

42.  We already have enough to do with the need to cope with conventional
weapons, which are the only weapons we have for our defense. These have been
the views, the principles, that have guided our policies. To do otherwise
would be an impossible task. That is why we prefer to maintain our concept of
the war of the entire people and defend ourselves with conventional weapons,
because we are sure that with conventional weapons in the war of the entire
people, we can make imperialism pay too high a price for an invasion of our
country. That is our concept. [passage omitted]