FBIS-LAT-93-247 Daily Report 28 December 1993 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Castro Views U.S. Administration, Socialism AU2712183593 Hamburg DIE WOCHE in German 22 Dec 93 p 24 AU2712183593 Hamburg DIE WOCHE German BFN [Interview with President Fidel Castro by Jas Gawronski, editor of the Italian newspaper LA STAMPA and member of the European parliament; place and date not given: "`Clinton, Man of Peace'"] [Text] [Gawronski] Commander, one still talks of "revolution" and "socialism" in Cuba, as if nothing had changed over the past few years. Thirty-five years later, do these terms still have the same meaning that they once had for you? [Castro] Today, these terms simply cannot have the same meaning for two reasons: First, we had a very ambitious program and we have largely realized it so far; second, the international situation has indeed fundamentally changed. Nevertheless, we still remain faithful to our ideals, our social and political goals. [Gawronski] However, has the collapse of communism in those countries in which power was in the hands of communists not made you consider whether something should not change in Cuba too? [Castro] In my mind, communism destroyed itself. If communism committed suicide in the Soviet Union, that does not, however, mean that we have to follow suit. The defeat of communism surprised everyone -- it surprised us just as much as it surprised you in the West. All those great values on which society was founded were destroyed. I still believe that Lenin and the October Revolution genuinely assumed lofty goals of historic importance and that the Soviet Union performed unbelievably great services for mankind; something that cannot be overlooked either is that the Soviet Union had a leading role in the struggle against fascism and the liberation of the old colonies. I still maintain that the USSR and socialism should not have been destroyed but rather improved. [Gawronski] What does all of that mean for Cuba today? [Castro] The disappearance of the socialist camp was a severe blow to us. The embargo is still in force, but the support is gone! We are being subjected to one of the most difficult tests ever. Nevertheless, we have never doubted that we should follow our own path. We have proved that we are not a satellite, but a star that shines thanks to its own energy. Apart from that, neither China or Vietnam have followed the Soviet path of self-destruction. So much is being said about the disappearance of socialism in the USSR, but so little is being said about its survival in China. [Gawronski] Is China the new, shining example? [Castro] One should learn from examples: The Chinese themselves say that one should not imitate things according to some fixed model. One of the criticisms that they have leveled against themselves is that in the past, they used Soviet experience in a mechanical manner. However, if we are on the subject of socialism, then you should not forget that in socialist China mass starvation and poverty are a thing of the past. Recently, Chinese President Jiang Zemin paid a visit to Havana. He is an intelligent, educated, and understanding person -- he really impressed me. [Gawronski] However, even if China wants to remain socialist, it is also trying to change the economy. Cuba on the other hand insists on socialist principles. [Castro] I am convinced that China and Vietnam are still socialist nations. There is no pure theory. There are many private forms of ownership in Cuba. There are thousands of private farmers: In Europe they would be described as large landowners, because they possess over 100 hectares of land. Every Cuban owns his own home. However, all that does not mean that Cuba is no longer a socialist country. We welcome foreign investment without it changing Cuba's socialist character. We will not change the character of the country simply in order to introduce something new. [Gawronski] However, this socialism that is highly praised in Cuba is always identified with you personally. What will happen to socialism in Cuba when you are no longer here? [Castro] Socialism cannot be identified with me personally -- I did not invent it! When I was student, I studied the political economy of capitalism. Because I could not understand the contradictions, distortions, and injustices of capitalism, I became a utopian socialist. However, I never developed the idea that I should be identified with socialism. That would be too great an honor for me, an honor at the expense of the socialist theoreticians! [Gawronski] I recently listened to a speech in which you talked of the United States with a touch of admiration or at least recognition. [Castro] I have always recognized the achievements of the American people. One should not forget that the United States was also a colony once and waged a struggle to achieve independence. I always admired Lincoln and I have considered Franklin D. Roosevelt a great statesman since my youth. Or let us take Kennedy. He was the one who imposed the embargo against Cuba and was president when many assassination attempts were planned against me. Yet I harbor no negative feelings toward him. I concede that he was a dynamic, intelligent man who possessed excellent qualities. [Gawronski] My apologies for interrupting you, but how many assassination attempts have you actually survived? [Castro] Were it an Olympic discipline, then I would have won a gold medal by now! I have survived hundreds of such attempts -- some were organized directly by the CIA and others were inspired, coordinated, and paid for by the CIA. That has been the case for 30 years and I am still alive, even if on several occasions they were very close to eliminating me. However, I do not give it much thought, and sometimes I almost find it amusing. [Gawronski] There have been eight U.S. presidents during the time you have been in power. Clinton is the first president who is younger than you. Things change, and that also applies to relations between Cuba and the United States. Is there a possibility of improving those relations and have there already been initiatives in that direction? [Castro] U.S. presidents are all slaves of many masters, including the election campaigns in which they have to make many statements and assume many obligations. Unfortunately, Clinton made very hostile statements regarding Cuba. He even came to an arrangement with Congressman Robert Torricelli, who introduced a law toward the end of the Bush administration that made the boycott of Cuba tougher and harsher. At the moment, there are lower level negotiations with the United States on such subjects as the problem of immigration. I do not consider Clinton to be a warmonger of a president, but a man of peace who wants to achieve something for the American people. It is difficult for me to talk about Clinton, because if I say something good about him, his friends become worried. I have noticed that he is very susceptible to pressure from conservative circles and that he often changes his position on certain subjects as a result of that pressure. He is undoubtedly still undergoing a learning process, and life is an excellent teacher. Kennedy learned a great deal from the failed "Playa Giron," [preceding words in Spanish], Bay of Pigs landing, a plan that he inherited from Eisenhower and Nixon. Later, he understood that it was a mistake to underestimate Cuba and its revolution by carrying out that mercenary adventure against Cuba. [Gawronski] Is it true that Khrushchev called for a nuclear first strike during the missile crisis? [Castro] The situation at the time was incredibly tense because we expected a U.S. invasion at any hour. After we had made all the necessary defensive preparations, I decided to write to Khrushchev. I wanted to convince him to remain steadfast and not to lose heart. I personally delivered the message to the Soviet ambassador on 26 October. He barely spoke Spanish and there was no interpreter, so I repeated every word, every sentence, and every assessment several times. He wrote everything down, but I do not know what he actually communicated to Khrushchev. [Gawronski] Did Khrushchev reject your suggestions? [Castro] He did not have time to respond, because the crisis suddenly reached a peak. An American U-2 spy plane was shot down from a Soviet missile base in the eastern part of Cuba. It was an incident that was never satisfactorily explained. The facts are that a few days later, Khrushchev wrote to me and complained that I had suggested a nuclear attack in the middle of the crisis. That was completely wrong -- that was not what was contained in the demarche that I handed over to the Soviet ambassador. However, that shows what he took to be the meaning of the message. So, I wrote a message to Khrushchev in which I stated on my honor that these accusations lacked any kind of foundation. My position was: If your enemy begins a war, you should not give him the opportunity of delivering the first blow. [Gawronski] But Commander, why should the United States have found it necessary to employ nuclear weapons against Cuba? [Castro] The fact of the matter is that there were tactical and strategic nuclear weapons based in Cuba. The situation was very tense. At the time, I said to myself that I do not want a nuclear war, but I am convinced that such a war will take place if there is an invasion. The Soviets' position was -- and Khrushchev repeated that to me on several occasions -- that any war between the United States and the Soviet Union would become a nuclear war. That was Soviet military doctrine. [Gawronski] How did the Soviets actually arrive at the decision to base missiles in Cuba? [Castro] They made the suggestion. Shortly after the Bay of Pigs, the Soviets told us that according to their information, Cuba was in great danger. They then sent a high-ranking delegation that suggested stationing the missiles on Cuba. I told them that I had to speak to my comrades first. We agreed for two reasons: First, the missiles would strengthen the USSR's strategic position and that would also mean protection for us. Second, we also had to be prepared to bear part of the risk if we wanted the Soviet Union to protect our interests. That is why we signed a military treaty. I believe that we should have made the treaty public as if it were one of the most natural things in the world. It was a completely legitimate case of self-defense. However, Khrushchev decided to deceive Kennedy, which put him in the right in moral terms and allowed him to present himself to the world as someone who had been deceived by Khrushchev. [Gawronski] This is just to satisfy my own curiosity: Commander, why do you always wear a guerrilla uniform? The heroic days of the Sierra Maestra already belong to the past! [Castro] It is the clothing that I have worn all my life: comfortable, simple, costs little, and never goes out of fashion. I do also own some formal clothing, ties and so on. But excuse me, during your interview with the pope, did you ask him why he always wore white?