Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-94-121 Daily Report 19 Jun 1994 Cuba

Castro's Cartagena News Conference 16 Jun

FL2206014194 Havana Cuba Vision Network in Spanish 0140 GMT 19 Jun 94 FL2206014194 Havana Cuba Vision Network Spanish BFN [News conference by President Fidel Castro with unidentified domestic correspondents at the conclusion of the Fourth Ibero-American Summit in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, on 16 June -- recorded]

[Text] [Correspondent] Commander, how does this summit differ from previous summits?

[Castro] I cannot say that there are paramount differences between summits. Progress was made at all of them, and altogether they represent something positive. The summits are being honed. We are never fully satisfied with everything discussed or said at the summits. Yet, the fact that the summits are taking place is an important step in Latin American history. As I told representatives of the solidarity groups today, it is the first time in history that we have met or held meetings without consulting third party countries because this is the fourth meeting we have held.

These Latin American summits have been consolidated; they have been institutionalized. Each one has made a contribution, fostered certain accords, and promoted specific results. There are specific results and a general result. They have fostered greater awareness, understanding, and a spirit of cooperation among Latin American leaders. This is reflected in the diverse steps the Latin American peoples are taking toward integration. The value of the summits does not lie in what is accomplished, but in what is fostered. The summits have truly fostered a lot.

I liked this summit. Guadalajara was first; Rio was also good; some things came out of Spain. The Caribbean atmosphere, Cartagena's atmosphere, hospitality, spirit -- although also present in Rio and Guadalajara -- contributed to this summit. We felt closer to our climate and character.

You can see how important these summits are by the fact that they have prompted the Miami summit. Our northern neighbors are worried and envious of the fact that this movement continues to advance and has attained specific results in establishing subregional integration mechanisms. Therefore, they want to have their own. We do not know if they want to hold it annually. Of course, they began by excluding us, which is a clear act of cowardice. They fear debate and discussion. They fear the truth.

They know that I would go to the summit even if it were held in the very city of Miami. I would go to the summit [words indistinct] because it is an opportunity. One cannot reject an opportunity to have the Latin American and Caribbean peoples go there and talk with the alleged masters of this hemisphere. I hope they have enough spirit and courage. There are always certain courageous men that will express certain truths at that summit and defend the many interests of Latin America and the Caribbean.

This summit has the characteristic that it was held before that one, although nothing was actually said about that summit because one of the goals in a summit like this is to discuss what Latin America will jointly propose there, in Florida. The issue was not discussed, however. That would be asking too much. Nevertheless, I decided to dedicate practically three-quarters or, better yet, my entire speech to analyzing that fundamental issue, the Miami summit, and to introducing some ideas, which you have heard.

[Correspondent] Commander, Cuba has been present at the four summits. What has Cuba's contribution been in these summits and how have these summits benefited Cuba?

[Castro] Well, I would say that Cuba has made a contribution with its very presence. Its presence there is something that is exceptional, new, and unprecedented. For the first time, there was no exclusion. Mexico had much to do with that, as well as our other important Latin American friends. Therefore, Cuba's presence gives the summit more seriousness and dignity because the cowardly exclusion is no longer committed.

Cuba freely stated its viewpoint, opinion, and criterion. You know how these summits are: there is a public part and a private part; you speak once and you speak many other times. Cuba has participated in all the meetings on different issues. It pointed out the importance of education, health care, scientific research, and social development. We can say today that social development issues are gaining importance at these summits. We can say that one of the characteristics of this summit was that we finally began to speak of social development and to talk extensively.

Cuba's presence helps this. We have truly striven to lift the spirit of the summits and to give them substance. The Cuban delegation has nothing to regret about each of its statements at these summits. All of these summits have been serious, correct, and just, particularly this summit since we face the famous Miami summit. We began to discuss the Miami summit. These summits have obviously created an awareness.

One of the fruits is that they have created an awareness about integration. We should not measure them by material things as much as by the awareness they have created and the rapprochement they have caused, the contacts they have originated between Latin American leaders. This is what I say the summits have obtained from Cuba's modest contribution. Cuba has made a modest contribution in these areas.

You asked about contributions to Cuba. The summits have helped counter Cuba's isolation and create an awareness against the blockade. They have helped teach the United States a lesson. They make its decision to exclude Cuba even more ridiculous. In other words, Cuba has also enjoyed the benefits. It has improved its relations with Latin America, and it has found a more favorable atmopshere for economic relations and trade in many areas. The summits have allowed us to establish contacts with many Latin American leaders, politicians, and many valuable people in the political sector. This has helped Cuba get closer to Latin America and develop its relations with Latin America. Those are some of the benefits for Cuba. I cannot tell you there have been specific economic and material results, but great results have been immediately evident. We are working not only for the present, but also for the future. Even then, Cuba achieved important results at these Latin American summits.

[Correspondent] Commander, even when the main topic of this summit was the Latin American economy and integration, in your opinion, what are the greatest obstacles which currently prevent Latin America's integration?

[Castro] The United States is the main obstable. The United States wants to disintegrate it. The United States opposes real Latin American integration, where Latin American countries move on their own and as independently as possible toward integration. The United States sponsors bilateral integration with different Latin American countries. Almost the same thing happened with the external debt. The United States refused to allow a coordinated Latin American discussion. The United States does not want to allow a coordinated discussion in Latin America. It wants to reach agreements with countries, one by one, to adjust them to its specific interests and, in this way, prevent true Latin American unity.

What happens is the United States wants one thing, and another thing may happen because the Latin American countries are reaching many bilateral agreements on their own. Mexico is sponsoring bilateral free trade agreements with several Latin American countries. It has already done this with Chile, despite Mexico's participation in the famous NAFTA. It has just signed an agreement with Venezuela and Colombia. The Group of Three also entails free trade. Therefore, ideas about free trade and Latin American integration are making way little by little.

Of course, all this takes place amid a struggle between blocs. Europe looks at the U.S. attempt to become the owner of the Latin American markets with mistrust. Although it is true that Mexico carries out most of its trade with the United States, South Americans carry out approximately 20 percent or less -- I cannot recall the exact figure right now -- of their trade with the United States. South American countries carry out important trade with the rest of the world and important trade with Europe. Of course, that counters hegemonic U.S. interests and its plans to seize control of the Latin American markets.

This Miami summit could be very interesting if it addresses all these things. That is why I said in my address that I hope those issues are discussed and that if it only adopts measures to dominate, seize control of the Latin American markets, isolate Cuba, and eliminate Europe, Japan, and other areas from trade with Latin America, then the time will come -- as Marti said --to declare Latin America's second independence. The truth is that all this entails a conflict. I do not think the other blocs will fail to put up a fight even though GATT has already been established. GATT still has many weak points. The impositions by the great powers, mainly the United States, were strong, particularly in the area of services and intellectual copyright. All this must be analyzed better because agreements were reached. Those agreements represent some advantages, but those agreements were undoubtedly more advantages for the larger blocs and the United States.

Obviously, it would like to monopolize trade in its backyard, namely Latin America. Latin America knows this. That is why we welcome the fact that Mexico is sponsoring free trade agreements. We welcome the fact that the Latin American Integration Association, Mercosur [Common Market of the South], the Central American Common Market, and the Andean Group are advancing. Let us say they are subregional organizations that seek subregional integration. It is good they prosper because they, thus, become a form of resistance to the great effort to swallow the Latin American and Caribbean markets and to impose the U.S. conditions, which would give it the greater advantage.

[Correspondent] Commander, the Cartagena summit provided tremendous support to subregional economic organizations as you have just mentioned. Do you think this is a tendency that might continue developing on the continent, and do you think this tendency would form part of the Latin American economic integration strategy? Another question I would like to ask: If Latin America were to present a united front at the hemispheric summit summoned by the United States, in your opinion, what issues should it discuss?

[Castro] Well, your question is very long. First of all, Latin America's interest and effort toward subregional economic organizations has come about naturally, spontaneously, and instinctively. Whether that becomes a strategy of the Latin American summits is something else. This remains to be seen, but I believe it is bound to be a more important player.

On the strategy that I think we should follow -- and I say this as an absentee-Latin American to the Miami summit, of which I spoke in my speech -- many of these issues would be a bit too long to detail, but there are important aspects. We said that resolution No. 301 should be rescinded and not used as a negotiation weapon, as is the issue of intellectual property. We must find a definite solution to the problem of the debt and the fact that more aid is needed for development. We could add many other things. The issue of unfair trade should be discussed in more depth.

In just 12 years, Latin America has paid more than $700 billion, for two reasons only: First, in payment of the foreign debt; and second, because of unfair trade during the past 12 years. It has lost more than $700 billion because of these two things, in just 12 years. This is without including capital drain. I believe these are important issues and ought to be discussed at that summit. There are many other issues, but we are speaking of economic factors. I do not want to speak long because I already mentioned all these things. I put emphasis on the issue of social development. I also mentioned the seriousness, the graveness of the dismissal of human rights, as important as the rights to education, health, the right to work, the peoples' right to dignity and to their ethnic and cultural identity. I spoke about the defense of sovereignty, the principle of nonintervention in Latin American affairs, renunciation of the pretexts that are increasingly used to meddle in domestic affairs, such as the drug trafficking problem. This should not serve to allow the United States to limit the sovereignty of Latin American nations and turn their armies into police forces.

In other words, there are economic aspects as well as political aspects. I stressed that if it is true, as they said, that they seek to establish more mature relations, and to close their bases in Latin America, they should not forget to close down the Guantanamo base, meet their accords, and withdraw their forces from Panama and any other country. There are many security, political, and economic problems to discuss at that summit. If they want the opinions of the nongovernmental organizations, they ought to ask the opinion of all -- the indigenous peoples, women's groups, and unions, without excluding any, as well as civilian organizations. There are entire world of things to be discussed there. [passage indistinct]

I advocated the Latin American discussion [30 second break in reception] that it not be allowed to become another catch phrase of the day. I am glad that as a result of the summits we have held independently, free from third party meddling and without asking anyone's permission, they have been forced to summon the Miami summit. They could have, of course, selected a different city. Miami was chosen. They did not hide the fact that it is part of a political ploy responding to U.S. domestic politics, and once again, returning to their loathsome exclusion in the end reflects -- I repeat -- political cowardice, lack of valor to face the debate, lack of valor to face the truth. They do not want to catch sight of anything like my uniform or guayaberas.

[Correspondent] All these U.S. political views, however, are grounded in the basis of a so-called democracy. You also said at the summit that much could be said about democracy, or even that a summit on democracy could be organized. What is the true level that democracy should have in Latin America?

[Castro] This is a difficult issue because we held some closed door meetings. I, however, spoke about concepts of democracy and said democracy cannot exist without equality, without fraternity, and without social justice. I spoke of the Athenian democracy, which had 30,000 free citizens and 70,000 slaves.

I mentioned some of these things. I had no choice but to explain certain concepts, to ratify my principles and beliefs, and to mention Carl Marx, his theories and hope for the disappearance of the state. I mentioned that there are countries that remind me of that Greek democracy. I am simply giving you a glimpse. I do not want to be indiscreet. I simply want to say that I spoke and spoke with firmness and conviction about some of these ideas.

I also had to point out some things about Cuba, such as our institutionalization; our Constitution, approved by over 90 percent of the citizens; and our electoral system. At times, they talk as if Cuba is not a state of law, or has no Constitution or elections. This lack of knowledge then becomes an axiom. I was forced to speak very clearly about some of these concepts, above all, in light of certain superficial, cliche comments regarding these concepts. I, however, do not want to say anything more or they will say I am a (?blabbermouth).

[Correspondent] Commander, again regarding the Miami summit: Do you think that some of the presidents in attendance might bring up the issue of the U.S. blockade against Cuba?

[Castro] Well, that was already brought up in Cartagena by Brazilian President Itamar Franco. He rejected the blockade. Now, we will wait and see how the summit goes. I can imagine. I do not know how many minutes each speaker will have. It involves many people, and if organizing these summits, which include about 20 countries, is difficult, when you add all the others, who knows how it is going to come out. I do not know how long Clinton will speak or how long the others will speak, or the agenda, or the pressures that the far right might try to exert there. It is not bad, however, for the leaders of Latin America and the Caribbean to get to know Miami.

There are many good people and many good Cubans in Miami. There is a Puerto Rican population, and Mexicans, and Colombians, and many others from many parts of Latin America. They will also get to see, however, the mafia of fascist gangsters of Cuban origin who own the city by virtue of their financial might, terror, and the political lobbying conducted through the media under their control. It is a good chance for them to see this.

There are many other places. I believe it would have been more politically correct for the United States, in wanting to summon a summit, to choose a Latin American country. That would have highly pleased the Latin American peoples. They, the owners of the hemisphere, are seeking to turn Miami, however, into the capital of the hemisphere.

[Correspondent] Commander, the convergence of regional integration schemes as a way to attain the definitive integration of Latin America was discussed at this summit. Of the 21 Latin American countries, I believe that all except Cuba are involved in some regional integration commerce scheme, such as Mercosur, the Andean Pact, the EU [European Union] in the case of Spain and Portugal, and the Central American Common Market. How do you see....

[Castro, interrupting] We are tactically in the South. We belong to the Latin American Economic System, SELA. Do not forget.

[Correspondent] Yes, however, from the commercial point of view, do you see in the near future a possibility....

[Castro, interrupting] We still do not have [words indistinct]. We have to think about this. We have to discuss this. The most appropriate time, however, for this is yet to come. Logically, we have to attain these goals and objectives. We have to become integrated. The important thing is for integration to develop, to come to fruition. Without integration, there will be nothing to integrate.

[Correspondent] Commander, how did the other heads of state react to your second, historic address?

[Castro] What second, historic address?

[Correspondent] When you addressed them at the end of the first day.

[Castro] Well, they listened with respect. I said several truths. I said: This and this, and these points have not been discussed. I, however, do not want to talk about the second address which was longer. It lasted 25 minutes.

[Correspondent] That was the closed-door one.

[Castro] I had already hinted at some of the things regarding democracy that I had no choice but to discuss. I, however, do not want to reveal anything else about the content of the talks or I would be breaking my word. I do not know what the others will do, or how much they will say, but I have to respect my commitment to be as discreet as possible regarding the content of the closed-door meeting.

[Correspondent] There were many presidents who said farewell during this summit and others who participated for the first time. What is your impression of these new voices in the summit and bilateral meetings?

[Castro] In general, positive. In general, they are intelligent people. Some are more outstanding than others. Some have clearer views. Some speak in more specific terms. This is so of the older ones as well as the new ones. In general, they are intelligent people, capable people, who express themselves well.

[Correspondent] What were the results of the bilateral meetings?

[Castro] [Words indistinct] great kindness, a growing kindness from everyone, with no exceptions. This is what I noticed.

[Correspondent] Commander, what about the presence of U.S. observers at this summit?

[Castro] I think that those who are trying to organize the Miami summit were trying to learn how this summit was organized. I do not know. This one was difficult to organize. They wanted to include too many things in the agenda. The Colombian organizers truly worked hard to organize the summit as well as possible. From the beginning, we saw the agenda was overloaded, intense. I was afraid there might be delays, and it happened. By the end of the first day, we had not completed the discussions on the first point. Later on, 10-minute coffee breaks lasted half an hour or 35 minutes. There were dinners, and lunches in various locations. We had to go by boat, travel, return, then have recesses and fulfill many engagements.

Everything was scheduled precisely, but in general, in this type of thing, schedules are not fully met. I would say it was more disciplined than the nonaligned meetings and everyone was usually present at the beginning of the meetings. These summits are much smaller. A summit with 22 heads of state is not the same as a meeting of 100. The Colombian Government made a great effort, and selected a good site despite the fact that it did so close to two other important events: elections next Sunday [19 June] and the World Soccer Cup. There are many soccer fans. At least many people did get to focus on the summit while it was being held, and act accordingly.

You had asked me about....

[Correspondent, interrupting] About the presence of U.S. observers.

[Castro] That is what we were talking about. They came to learn. That is what they say. I would truly like to see how they organize the Miami summit. This makes me curious: how many minutes each speaker will have, how long it will last, how it will work. I do not know if they will put people out in space for this and do spectacular things like they did during the Olympics. We will see [snickers] how far the Americans' common sense goes.

[Correspondent] The Caribbean States Association is going to be created at the beginning of July. I would like to know, since Cuba has been invited to join, what the range of possibilities that this represents, will mean for Cuba?

[Castro] I think it is an important step forward, and somehow, the Barbados meeting was part of the efforts aimed toward the creation of this association and Cuba's participation. As you know, the Yankees strongly oppose Cuba's participation in any of these types of associations. We have to wait to see how events develop, whether the pressures can be overcome, and if Cuba gets to belong to this association.

[Correspondent] Commander, do you believe that in Latin America, as well as in Ibero-America, there is currently a true commitment to integration? And in this case: What roles would Spain and Portugal play? Secondly, I would like to ask your opinion on the final document and its frequently-referred to content of neoliberalism and its praise for the Uruguay rounds and GATT.

[Castro] A true, full commitment is still lacking. We could say there is progress, which we could call significant, toward developing that awareness. That awareness still has to develop and to this end, the summits help. Spain and Portugal might play a role in one way or another. They have advocated certain interesting initiatives and have served as a bridge between Latin America and Europe. As the threat of a war of large economic blocs looms, the presence of Spain and Portugal is an advantage, not in regard to integration because Spain and Portugal cannot integrate into a joint Latin America, but they can contribute to this integration. They can and are, as a matter of fact, doing so. This is the way the summits were conceived. On occasion, we have an opportunity to see the advantage of their presence.

Was there a third question?

[Correspondent] Yes. The second question was about....

[Castro, interrupting] Well, I already answered the second question about the role of Portugal. What was the other one?

[Correspondent] It was about your opinion on the final document of the summit.

[Castro] One is never satisfied with the final documents of these meetings. These are documents that have to be discussed and negotiated extensively, keeping an eye on every comma and word. The burden of neoliberalism is present in the reality of Latin America. It is very strong and pervasive. Some have not sympathized much with neoliberalism and certain personalities and countries are beginning to show a not-so-blind faith in neoliberalism. Some have turned it into a religion and others are beginning to discover the other face of that religion. For example, there is the case of Venezuela, which has huge problems despite its wealth. They no longer speak in terms of neoliberalism. There are other countries that do not express the same enthusiasm. I do not want to mention them, so they cannot be singled out. There is still, however, a strong neoliberal following.

It would take awhile to explain. Many things have been privatized, and much revenue as been accrued. It does not last, however. There have been certain advantages, given the low interest rates that have prevailed for a number of years. If the interest rates, however, were to reach the 1985 level, when we waged the fight against the foreign debt, a $487 billion debt would be a catastrophe. There is much euphoria. Many are euphoric following the implementation measures that have reduced inflation and fiscal deficits and such, but at the cost of a general shearing in terms of the budgets for social programs.

They are now beginning to realize that they might be digging an abyss. Neoliberalism, the way it was advancing, was digging an abyss. This is why, even the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank, are now speaking of social costs. No one knows, however, from where or when these monies will appear. What is true is that circumstances have worsened and despite certain favorable macroeconomic indexes, the per-capita income of Latin America -- not under a blockade, not under the harsh double blockade that Cuba is experiencing, and not undergoing a special period -- is the same as 16 years ago. The levels of education and health, in general, are experiencing heavy setbacks, to the point that they have realized this could result in far-reaching social explosions. They greatly fear social explosions and are beginning to talk about formulas to tackle what they call social development; even the Yankees are becoming aware of this. Neoliberalism is still strong. The neoliberal euphoria will last for some time.

[Correspondent] Commander, your arrival at the summit made us remember Raul Ferrer's line: The Fatherland is a Mambi dressed in guayabera. How did wearing a guayabera, after 37 years, make you feel?

[Castro] I feel as good in a gala uniform as in an olive green uniform, pajamas, shorts, or a guayabera. What happened, as I explained today to our friends, is that we were all asked to make an effort to show up in short sleeves and guayaberas because of the heat. To tell you the truth, I did not have a single guayabera. I had to borrow some and try them on to see if they would fit, but none did. They made some guayaberas for me in a few hours.

First, they had to find the fabric. We did not have any fabric. They were trying to make a green guayabera, but we could not find the fabric anywhere. They tried a strong blue hue, but the only fabric that the people who do this for the Council of State and institutions, that outfit people when they have to fulfill a function, had available was this clear color. They are good at this. They made a great effort, did not sleep. It was chaos. I was scheduled to depart on Monday night, and by midmorning, they tried a guayabera on me that they had finished at who knows what hour. They were concerned about the length of the sleeves, the fit of the shoulders, and whether it needed to be a quarter-inch longer. The first one they made was like a dressing gown. I fit in it twice. I said: I am really not this fat. [laughter] They did not have my measurements or anything. They fixed it. I am pleased. They came out quite well. They were even concerned about what type of collar was in fashion. One of the ones I borrowed was from (Chon) and had a longer collar. [laughter] I am taller than (Chon) and it did not fit right. Then, they said that the modern style was shorter. What do I know about fashion? I do not want to be bothered by this. Luckily, I did not have to have a suit made. I told them to find a compromise. What I did was wear the white guayabera over the cream shirt of my uniform. They had time to make at least four pairs of pants. [laughter]

[Correspondent] It was a hit.

[Castro] This guayabera made history. Many praised it. Some people were against it. A little girl asked me why I changed to it, and I told her: No, I am still wearing my uniform, but inside me. The boots were the same ones I use everyday. They are really a bit old, but I am used to them. I wore the same boots and the same uniform pants.

[Correspondent] Some said you were half civilian, half military.

[Castro] Yesterday, I changed further so no one could say I was wearing a uniform -- the same guayabera and pants, but I wore navy blue and a darker blue guayabera, but the same boots. I have only taken off my boots to sleep. I think this was the right thing to do. Some have made all kinds of assumptions because I was not wearing a uniform. I did it in response to my host's request. I did not want to be the discordant note and different from the rest.

[Correspondent] [Words indistinct] in guayabera or uniform?

[Castro] I still do not know. I still have things to do. Perhaps my conscience will begin to bother me and I will put my olive green uniform back on again. I could return in a guayabera, but tomorrow I will not wear a guayabera. I cannot say the final word, however. [laughter] I do not want to say that I am never going to wear it. What do I know. Perhaps, there is a reception I will have to wear it to. They are truly comfortable and cool. Perhaps I will borrow one of Robertico's [Robaina] uniforms. [laughter]

I have been comfortable. It is truly hot here. I think I am going back to my old olive green uniform, however. It is an old custom. That was the history of the guayabera; it was an odyssey. I did not have anything to wear to comply with my hosts except my pajamas. [laughter] My pajamas were the only outfit that met their requirements. We solved the problem, however. But I do not have a single suit. If one of these times they forced me to wear a suit, I assure you, I am going to have to borrow one.

[Correspondent] Commander, whether wearing a guayabera or an olive green uniform, what are Cuba's dreams for the fifth summit?

[Castro] We have spoken of dreams so often. My guayabera and my uniform, hwoever, are the Latin American of which Bolivar and Marti dreamt. As I said today to our friends, we are not worthy of speaking about Marti and Bolivar until we attain a united, politically and economically, integrated Latin America. This is my dream, and I believe, the dream of every progressive and revolutionary man of Latin America. I can also speak of a dream for a progressive and socialist Latin America. Yet, that is looking far into the distance. If you said such a thing in a summit, well, you can imagine. [laughter] Quite a brouhaha.