Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-AFR-94-092 Daily Report 11 May 1994 REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA

Cuban President Interviewed on Relations, Socialism

MB1105202594 Johannesburg SABC TV 1 Network in Afrikaans 1830 GMT 11 May 94 MB1105202594 Johannesburg SABC TV 1 Network Afrikaans BFN [Interview with Cuban President Fidel Castro by correspondent Pieter Theron in Pretoria "yesterday"--recorded, Theron's questions in English; Castro's responses in Spanish, with English translation of answers by unidentified female interpreter and superimposed Afrikaans translation; introduced by correspondent Max du Preez on the "Agenda" program]

[Text] [Du Preez] One of the many dignitaries at the presidential inauguration yesterday who received a rousing welcome was President Fidel Castro of Cuba. After years of sworn enmity between Cuba and South Africa, President Castro arrived on his first visit to South Africa, and what a moment it was. Pieter Theron asked him about impressions of South Africa.

[Begin recording] [Castro] It is wonderful to be in South Africa. It grabbed my imagination. It is indeed an extraordinary country in every respect -- the organization, nature. I have only been here for a short while, but I have spoken to many people. I was impressed by their hospitality and the warmth with which I was received. I felt a sense of harmony and unity, quite the opposite of what a stranger would have expected. I followed the news every day and was impressed by the country's people. They are well brought up. I realized that what has taken place over the past few days was without doubt an historic event for South Africa, for Africa, and for the world. It has been a privilege to witness the events. I was really impressed by what I saw. It is something I will take with me when I return to Cuba.

[Theron] How do you see future relations between South Africa and Cuba?

[Castro] I would like to believe we are more than friends. We are like family. A family does not discuss formal relations. The ties which have grown between the people of Cuba and South Africa are so deep that we feel at home here. My visit has also provided the opportunity for even better relations between the two countries in the future. This could be of mutual benefit.

[Theron] What has South Africa got to offer Cuba, and what has Cuba got to offer South Africa?

[Castro] Regarding trade, there is a long list of products which South Africa could offer to Cuba. We do not want gold, as we have no use for it. Apart from that, we could use almost anything you could imagine. South Africa has advanced technology. In many areas such as agriculture, you produce everything. There are many areas for cooperation between our two countries. South Africa will play an important role in Africa and in the Third World. We have been doing it for many years now, and I believe our experience could be of great value for South Africa. South Africa is now involved in a great experiment, and the whole world would like this experiment to succeed. It is important to mankind, which is involved in serious conflicts in many places.

[Theron] Cuba was involved in the conflict in Namibia and Angola. You were engaged in war against South Africa. Do you think your involvement contributed towards the changes that took place in South Africa?

[Castro] Our involvement in Angola led to many sacrifices. But we took the decision on our own, without the Soviet Union's knowledge. We did it out of sympathy and historical ties. It was not without risk. One always runs the risk of being defeated.

[Theron] President Castro, communism collapsed in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Why do you think communism is still the right system for Cuba?

[Castro] Communism was not imported to Cuba. It was our own creation, and it developed differently from the way it developed in other countries. It was the result of our own struggle against a dictator. No one brought socialism to Cuba. Rather, it was a case of Cuba finding its own solutions. We achieved a great deal, but we lost 80 percent of our trade -- many of the things we imported from the Soviet Union. Nevertheless we overcame that setback. Not many countries could have achieved that. But Cuba is a united country, with a spirit all its own. This is the spirit which emerged in Angola. At one point, without any assistance, we supported more than 50,000 troops almost 10,000 kilometers from home. That is proof of a strong nation driven by certain principles.

[Theron] Will the future system of government still be communism for Cuba?

[Castro] We see it as socialism. We want to maintain it, but we have left an economic opening. We lost capital markets and technology, which we now need in order to develop our country. So there is room in the economic field. We need investments in many areas. There is a process of change under way in our country, to keep us in touch with the present realities of the world. But we have not given up our principles. [end recording]