Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-94-095 Daily Report 15 May 1994 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Castro Interviewed in South Africa

FL1605174094 Havana Cuba Vision Network in Spanish 0030 GMT 15 May 94 FL1605174094 Havana Cuba Vision Network Spanish BFN [Interview with Cuban President Fidel Castro by unidentified Cuban reporters in South Africa; date not given -- recorded]

[Text] [Unidentified reporter] Earlier this month, an ANC representative discussed the preceding events and explained that, once Nelson Mandela was inaugurated, South Africa would proceed to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba. That is their intent. They even included this in a document known as the New South Africa Foreign Policy Charter.

In view of the fact that we have already attended the inauguration and that certain talks have been held with cabinet representatives, what are the prospects that this will become a reality?

[Castro] Well, from the point of view of our relations with Mandela, the ANC, we have more than diplomatic relations. We have had close ties of brotherhood for many years. I believe we are family. Regarding foreign relations we are not demanding anything, or putting conditions; the closer our friendship with a country, the less we ask to establish ties. We allow circumstances and the appropriate moment to determine the establishment of ties. In the special case of South Africa, at this time, we could not make a definitive statement.

I have been received here like a brother, like a son. However, we have not pressed the issue of formal ties. I believe that perhaps tomorrow it will be brought up in the talks with the foreign minister. Robertico [Robaina] has been talking with the foreign minister. Tomorrow, I will again meet with Mandela. Perhaps he will bring this up and ties will be immediately established. However, we will not bring it up. We must bear in mind what is good for them, and the appropriate moment to formalize ties, rather than bringing it up as a demand or as a request from us.

However, it seems inevitable that those ties will be established quickly because there are few countries with whom we have stronger ties -- kinship and fraternal ties.

Today I greeted almost every minister. I do not speak with ministers of other countries. We talked like old relatives. I am convinced all of them want the prompt establishment of ties; but out of a basic sense of courtesy and respect, we should not exert pressure. They can do it whenever they are ready. Relations, de facto, are very strong between South Africa and Cuba.

Now, it is a matter of formalities. That formality could be fulfilled today, tomorrow, or the day after. Very soon.

[Unidentified reporter] Commander, further on this issue but on another aspect, independently of whenever the diplomatic ties are established: In what fields do you believe that cooperation could be developed the furthest in areas of common interest between Cuba and South Africa?

[Castro] Whenever we speak with South Africans or South African cadres, we discover great prospects. The first thing we notice is in the spiritual sphere. When they talk with us, at times, the things they say truly moved us. They express a fondness for Cuba which leaves us really speechless. There is an incredible bond of affection. I believe that few times has there been such a great bond with any country. When we speak with them and discuss their plans and ideas, given South Africa's condition, on one hand they have great development and high living standards; on the other hand, great social needs, for example, enormous need for housing, public health, schooling, and jobs. I was talking with the transportation people. I was introduced to every minister today at the luncheon. I was told they have many people who lack the means to move. I spoke with the transportation minister who said he has a difficult task ahead of him because means of transportation are inadequate even though it is a developed country. South Africa is a developed country. It has important technology, important industries; yet it has a large population that for many years has lived under apartheid and has a great stash of needs and dreams of a better life.

Therefore, the government is faced with having to find solutions to those problems. When you speak with the transportation minister you find out about these needs. When you speak with the housing minister, you find out about those great needs. When you speak with the sports ministers, you find about their dreams of developing sports. If you talk with the public health minister, you see their dreams of improving their people's health services; thus, the enormous social sphere on which there are prospects for cooperation between both nations. This would be beneficial both ways: cooperation from us based on our experiences, as well as South African cooperation based on their experiences, and technological development.

[Text] I also spoke with the education minister. They have great education projects. In other words, all you need to do is talk a while with each one of these cadres and ministers to understand that there is a very broad field for cooperation between Cuba and South Africa. This is undoubtedly the most developed country in southern Africa.

You should see the road infrastructure. I was telling the transportation minister: You may have a problem of not enough means of transportation, but you have great roads. They have good infrastructure in many areas. The problem is that the wealth has not been distributed fairly. You find, next to a superdeveloped world, let us say, an underdeveloped world.

With no other country, even in Latin America, are there such prospects for cooperation as there are between South Africa and Cuba, to the extent that we seriously work and study possibilities and continue to develop that highly fraternal and warm bond between our two peoples. I must add that we have taken notice of the very respectful treatment extended to us by every social sector, not only by ANC members but by the nonblack and mixed blood sectors, as well. We have also been welcomed by the white population. We have to keep in mind that this is a multiracial nation with millions of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds who have a vital need to cooperate among themselves. Today, we saw this spirit of cooperation.

Everyone is saying, and justifiably, that the hardest part begins now. Everyone knows that the hardest part follows the period of change, of liberation. That is true. I do not think his [Mandela's] task is easy. However, I believe that they have developed a significant talent to find solutions. What we saw today heightened our optimism regarding South Africa's future. Although we cannot say that South Africa's problems are solved, they have solved great problems. They have reached today, but I think they are going to have to continue the struggle. There is no doubt that Mandela is the man with all the qualifications to lead this process. He has secured decisive support. I believe he has to continue working to consolidate what has been achieved so far and avoid divisiveness. A united country is essential. This is what we most hope for, and we hope they attain it. Cuba will be very proud to develop cooperation with South Africa.

[Unidentified reporter] Commander, right now, in such a convulsed world, what does Mandela's victory mean for the progressive forces?

[Castro] I believe it is a great victory, a great victory of the South African peoples, the African people, and all the progressive forces in the world. It is a veritable example and hope. I believe that South Africa is called upon to exert a great and positive influence over the entire continent. It is a renaissance, a revival, proof that great victories can be achieved even after the disasters that have befallen the world and that many things are still possible in a unipolar world.

[Unidentified reporter] Commander, for many years, Cuba and South Africa had great differences because of Angola. Did you ever think then, or later, that you would be here today in the former capital of apartheid?

[Castro] Well, there are two South Africas and two moments in history. For specific reasons, strong clashes took place at a certain time in history. Now, however, there is a new South Africa in which such clashes no longer exist -- only peace, harmony, respect, and affection.

Your question dealing with Angola is very difficult to answer. First of all, we had to save Angola and its independence. We were in Angola for 15 years. From the beginning of intervention by foreign forces in Angola, we gave it our support -- for 15 years. So many things happened. We had a strong presence, but it was not strong enough because we could not, nor did it depend on us alone to, reach a solution to the problem.

In Angola we fought with the greatest selflessness. The rest was the responsibility of the Angolan people. We were not Angola's only supporters. Nevertheless, we can say that we helped, selflessly and with great loyalty. I would say that our support was very efficient, and that Cuba's support was not only efficient, but intelligent. We have no reason to regret anything we did. Rather, we could say that several difficult times were confronted -- difficult but not through our fault. Cuba fulfilled its duty every step of the way. Cuba contributed to the solution of the highly difficult problems that arose. I do not want to criticize anyone. I believe today is not a day to criticize. Perhaps history will record this.

This reminds me of what Jose Eduardo [dos Santos] said to me during today's luncheon, the very heartfelt, friendly words from the depths of his soul regarding the [words indistinct] meaning of Cuba's support to the southern Africa nations of Angola, Namibia, and South Africa. He pronounced truly moving words. This is why, in the analysis of our conscience, we find nothing to reproach.

In one of the most difficult periods, in the end, we had to make very hard decisions; and we did so. They were the correct decisions. The problem had to be solved. We could not afford to be so weak that we had to endure foreign intervention and be strong enough to solve the issues of foreign intervention. In such cases, if you are weak, you may incur a great defeat; if you are strong, you can spare many lives. This is the way it happened in Angola. We accumulated such a potential that it was possible to solve the conflict with a minimal loss of lives. Those were decisions made by Cuba, alone and solely. History has been distorted many times; but in 1975, when we decided to help the Angolan people against foreign intervention, the decision was Cuba's alone. At other times when we had to act in difficult situations, the decisions were Cuba's alone; at times, it is sad to say, in order to overcome mistakes made by others. I do not want to say by whom. However, I am not going to blame the Angolans; it was others.

We found we needed to act; even in the last, very difficult situation, mistakes were made -- not our mistakes. That final situation was decisive or Angola would have been lost, with all the consequences and losses that would mean for the Angolan people and ourselves. All this influenced the events that afterward culminated in those negotiations by virtue of which Namibia's independence was attained with the implementation of Resolution 435.

I think this helped accelerate the process of the South African struggle against apartheid. The main, essential, and decisive merit belongs to the South African people. Our action might have helped accelerate that process. This is how we see it. This is a subject on which we have to be very careful. We should not be the ones speaking about this, but others. The South African and Angolan peoples have spoken of the selfless and noble solidarity of Cuba with their countries. We lived diverse moments which I believe shall be recorded in history as they happened.

To date, I see the events and development of the situation in South Africa as something wonderful. Much depends on what happens in South Africa, whether the country attains peace, harmony, and unity. This is what all of us ought to struggle for and contribute toward, so that the result of the efforts and sacrifices of many create a country that can serve as a model to the world on how to solve such complex problems as the ones experienced here.

[Unidentified reporter] Commander, do you not believe that this history is being written now? Today, Mandela referred to the guests at the inauguration, you among them, and said, and I quote: Not too long ago, we had to fight and in that struggle many nations helped us, nations represented here today.

[Castro] I believe he said more: Nations which even spilled their blood.

Yes, I was moved by that part of the speech. We owe a debt to history for the possibility of giving, offering, and reflecting on the essence of everything that has happened in the last 18 or 19 years. It is now 1994 and this began in 1975. Actually, it began before 1975 with our cooperation with the peoples of Guinea-Bissau and Angola, who were fighting against Portuguese colonialism. All in all, it began over 30 years ago.

The main part took place after 1975 when Cuba made a full commitment, when the Revolution committed itself fully. We have to point out that our Revolution played all its cards in that struggle, and more than once. A defeat under those conditions would have meant the end of the Cuban Revolution.

All this happened after 1975. We have to gather all that information. We have not yet written the history of the Cuban Revolution, but one of the most brilliant pages of the history of the Cuban Revolution was its selfless cooperation and solidarity with Africa. As someone once said, the leader of Guinea-Bissau, I remember, Amilcar [Cabral] said: When we are independent, Cape Verde and Cuba should become a federation. That is what he said. By this, I mean to say that he had extraordinary internationalist feelings. He is the one who said that someday our dead from Angola would rise up to negate the smear campaigns against Cuba by those who say that Cuba had ulterior economic and material motives in Angola.

He said those unforgettable words. Amilcar's death was truly sad. He was assassinated as other leaders have been. It pains me that (Zamora Machel) was not present in this celebration. It pains me that Oliver Tambo was not here today. There were so many people who struggled and deserved to see a day like today. It is painful to remember that they are no longer with us. However, we have the consolation of knowing that their work yielded fruit and is present in all these things we are seeing.

Well, our history could not have been more selfless, more supporting, more noble than that we have written in connection with the peoples of Africa and other parts of the world. I believe we have been steadfast toward our African heritage, our cultural heritage, our blood lines; toward our principles of solidarity with people struggling to gain their independence, their freedom; toward our principles of commitment to just causes in this world. We will never regret this. I believe future generations will always remember this with pride.

However, we must assume full responsibility with history, by ensuring that it gets written. It is about time to write down history. Or others will -- and who knows what they would write?

[Unidentified reporter] We have witnessed the burial of apartheid, yet everyone is filled with happiness and joy; we experienced it this morning at the inauguration.

[Castro] We have witnessed the burial of apartheid and the birth of freedom. What we witnessed today is beautiful in the extreme. One of the most beautiful things we saw was the unity among the South African people, among every sector, and every ethnic group. You cannot imagine how much we wish right now that this process continue developing in that direction.

There are many things remaining in this world to be buried, however; and it seems the number of undertakers is on the increase everywhere. We also saw this in Barbados [words indistinct] irresponsibility which with the world's natural resources and living conditions are being destroyed. The number of undertakers of evil is on the increase, as well as the number of midwives of good.