FBIS-LAT-93-205 Daily Report 26 October 1993 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Castro Terms Denial of U.S. Visa to Maradona `Absurd' FL2510193293 Havana Radio Rebelde Network in Spanish 1800 GMT 25 Oct 93 FL2510193293 Havana Radio Rebelde Network Spanish BFN [Text] Commander in Chief Fidel Castro has sent a letter to Argentine soccer player Diego Armando Maradona, who recently sent him a No. 10 soccer jersey with an inscription conveying friendship toward Fidel. Argentine journalist (Daniel Van der Becken) personally handed the jersey to Fidel and received the letter for Maradona. Herewith a recording of the conversation between Fidel and the Argentine journalist: [Begin recording] [Van der Becken] I am being received here by Commander Fidel, who is now working hard. Has a minor change been made to your letter, Commander? [Castro] Yes, because I realized that I did not review it carefully. Diego is a dear friend and he deserves the best possible treatment. [Van der Becken] A few hours ago, I asked Diego how his love affair with Cuba started. He told me that more than with Cuba, with the people, primarily with...he said to me there is no one like Fidel. He remembered that you talked with his mother about cooking, about Argentina. [Castro] Right there, where you are sitting now, he was here with his family. We chatted here for a long time. Then I gave him a beret as a gift, which I believe he took even to Italy. It was a very pleasant, homey, friendly conversation. I have just seen the interview and I was able to appreciate his great maturity. Maradona spoke very well. He spoke with great wisdom, with great intelligence. I and all of us here were greatly impressed by your televised interview with him. [Van der Becken] Besides, he touched on specific topics. For instance, he said: if the Americans denied me an entry visa because I am Fidel's friend, so be it; if the pope criticizes me because I have ties with the Cubans, so be it. These are major statements, right? [Castro] I believe, however, that the pope has not criticized him. I have not heard any criticism from the pope because he is our friend. I was not aware that he had been denied a visa to enter the United States. This is incredible, absurd. When did that happen? [Van der Becken] It happened this year, a short time ago, when.... [Castro, interrupting] This very year? [Van der Becken] This very year, Commander. [Castro] Under this administration? It would be more logical to me to expect such a decision from Reagan or Bush than from the new U.S. Administration. [Van der Becken] It was under this administration. First, they said Maradona had to go personally to apply for the visa. When he went, they told him that he had to wait 45 days. He had been invited to attend a TV program taped in Miami for Argentina. He had been invited by his brother, who plays soccer in Miami. [Castro] Yes, in his interview Diego said his brother is playing soccer in Miami. I also enjoyed his joke that perhaps he will not be able to come to the World Soccer Cup [chuckles]. [Van der Becken] Diego also said many other things. For instance, he said: Can you imagine, when I arrived there Fidel held my daughter -- who was then three months old -- in his arms. He said: I state that there is no one like Fidel. This remark by Maradona, who is such a popular figure, has been widely reported. Foreign reporters accredited here in Cuba, as well as major world media organizations, have reported on this friendship between Maradona and Fidel. [Castro] Well, that is just because he is extremely kind. He said that because he is extremely generous and kind. [end recording]