FBIS-LAT-94-003-A Daily Report 5 January 1994 ANNEX Cuba

`Exclusive' Interview With Castro PY0301221594 Buenos Aires CLARIN in Spanish 2 Jan 94 pp 28, 29 -- FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY PY0301221594 Buenos Aires CLARIN Spanish BFN ["Exclusive" interview with Cuban President Fidel Castro by LA STAMPA reporter Jas Gawronski; place and date not given -- copyrighted by CLARIN] [Text] [Gawronski] Cuba continues to speak about "revolution" and "socialism" as if there had been no changes in the rest of the world. Do these two words have the same meaning they had, in your opinion, when you started your odyssey 35 years ago? [Castro] No, they cannot have the same meaning. For two reasons: First, at that time we had an ambitious program that has to a considerable extent been implemented; second, the international situation has undergone decisive changes. We, however, remain committed to our ideals and to our social and political objectives. [Gawronski] But hasn't the fact that communism fell to pieces in the countries in which it was in power made you conclude that something should also change in Cuba? [Castro] I might say that communism destroyed itself, that it committed suicide in the USSR, and that it had no reason for committing suicide. It was a big surprise, both to us and to you in the Western world. All the values that were the foundations of that great country were destroyed. A country that rendered great service to mankind, because I believe the commitments Lenin and the October Revolution assumed are extraordinary deeds in mankind's history. The USSR's role in the fight against fascism was crucial, and so was its role in the process of liberating old colonies. What I mean to say is that if the world has changed, it is because of the USSR's decisive contribution. I maintain that the USSR should not have been destroyed but improved, and that socialism should not have been destroyed but improved. But what was the result? The current unipolar world is under U.S. domination. A large sector of the world is suffering the consequences of this. [Gawronski] But how did that happen? Do you believe Gorbachev is to blame? [Castro] No. Gorbachev spoke about socialism and about making socialism more socialist, about improving socialism, not about destroying it. We should therefore wonder about the factors that caused the destruction of socialism, and how is it that what Hitler failed to achieve with hundreds of divisions and tens of thousands of planes and tanks, happened without a war, without armored divisions, planes, or tanks. Soviet leaders managed to accomplish what Hitler could not do. [Gawronski] What are the current consequences of all this for Cuba? [Castro] The disappearance of the socialist bloc has been a hard blow to us. Against the U.S. blockade we had been able to benefit from trade with socialist countries, which served as the basis for the development of our economy. The blockade is still in effect today but the basis has vanished, and we are being put to one of the toughest tests ever known in the modern era. However, our decision to keep our ideals has not weakened. Everything shows that it was an insult to Cuba to say that we were a satellite of the Soviet Union. We have demonstrated that we were not a satellite but a star shining in its own light. Moreover, although it is true that the Soviet Union has destroyed itself, that did not happen with China nor with Vietnam. Much has been said on the disappearance of socialism in the Soviet Union, but why does no one say anything about Chinese socialism? [Gawronski] Do you think China is an example that must be followed? [Castro] It is an experiment that must be studied. The Chinese themselves say that no one should automatically imitate what others are doing. They criticize themselves for mechanically applying the Soviet experience during its first years. But if you want to talk about socialism, let us not forget what socialism achieved in China. At one time it was the land of hunger, poverty, disasters. Today there is none of that. Today China can feed, dress, educate, and care for the health of 1.2 billion people. [Gawronski] But although China has maintained a socialist political system, it is trying to modify its economy. On the other hand, Cuba seems to be still solidly socialist. Isn't it difficult to keep being the only socialist nation when everything else is changing? [Castro] I think China is a socialist country, and Vietnam is a socialist nation as well. And they insist that they have introduced all the necessary reforms in order to motivate national development and to continue seeking the objectives of socialism. There are no fully pure regimes or systems. In Cuba, for instance, we have many forms of private property. We have hundreds of thousands of farm owners. In some cases they own up to 110 acres (some 150 hectares). In Europe they would be considered large landholders. Practically all Cubans own their own home and, what is more, we welcome foreign investment. But that does not mean that Cuba has stopped being socialist. What is evident is that we will never fall into the error of destroying the country in order to begin something new. [Gawronski] It could be said that in Cuba socialism has always been identified with you personally. Have you ever thought what will happen to socialism when you are no longer in power? [Castro] I do not think socialism can be identified with me. I did not make it up. Of course, individuals can have a decisive role in a historical moment, but I have never thought socialism could be identified with me. That would mean depriving those theoreticians of socialism of such a great honor. An individual by himself cannot achieve anything. Only a people can do it. [Gawronski] Since you assumed power, you have had to deal with eight U.S. presidents. Now there is Clinton, the first to be younger than you. Things seem to be changing. Do you think there will be a change in relations between the United States and Cuba? Is there a possibility to improve current relations? [Castro] Look, U.S. presidents are slaves to many things, among them, electoral campaigns. During the course of their campaigns they make statements and commitments, and Clinton, unfortunately, had a hostile attitude toward Cuba. But they are also totally different during the first term when they are very careful about everything to be re-elected, and in the second term they seem to have their hands less tied. I am not going to defend Clinton. He is not my friend nor foe. I am only trying to make an analysis that will allow me to make an objective assessment of his personality. And I have realized that he is very susceptible to pressures from the right, the most conservative elements. In a given moment he adopts a position and then changes as a result of pressure. What is happening with him is the same that happened with Kennedy in the beginning of his presidency. But I think he is still in the process of acquiring experience. Clinton is also conditioned to things he inherited from Bush. Somalia, for instance. But there too a starving and disorganized people have been able to oppose an invasion, and I think Clinton has learned a lesson from that experience. He did not react arrogantly with new acts of aggression, with new attacks. He reacted in a courageous manner and with a cool mind. [Gawronski] Are you trying to say that to improve relations with the United States it will be necessary to wait until Clinton is re-elected so he will no longer be conditioned to those forces? [Castro] No one can say what will happen tomorrow. For the time being Clinton seems to be focusing on his electoral promises and on his country's internal problems. Moreover, let us be honest: This is a little country. We are not China, and I do not think the United States is particularly concerned about Cuba. The government has other problems it considers more important. [Gawronski] Commander, to conclude, I would like to satisfy a personal curiosity. Why do you always wear your guerrilla uniform? It has been a long time since the days of the Sierra Maestra. [Castro] These are my clothes. I have worn them throughout my life. They are comfortable and simple. They are cheap and they are never out of fashion. I also have another suit, a more formal one with a tie. But forgive me if I ask you a question: When you interviewed the pope, did you ask him why he always wears that white vestment?