Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-94-152 Daily Report 6 Aug 1994 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Holds News Conference

FL0808012694 Havana Tele Rebelde and Cuba Vision Networks in Spanish 0100 GMT 6 Aug 94 FL0808012694 Havana Tele Rebelde and Cuba Vision Networks Spanish BFN [News conference by President Fidel Castro with reporters Susana Lee, Luis Baez, Jr., Rosalia Arnaez, and Arleen Rodriguez with moderator Hector Rodriguez at Tele Rebelde's main studio in Havana -- live]

[Text] [Hector Rodriguez] The events of the past few days -- illegal departures which have filled our revolutionary working people with indignation -- have prompted the presence here tonight of our commander in chief, Fidel Castro, president of the Republic of Cuba. Good evening, Commander.

[Castro] Good evening, Hector.

[Hector Rodriguez] We also have a group of reporters: Susana Lee, Luis Baez, Jr., Rosalia Arnaez, and Arleen Rodriguez. Today these events reached a climax. I yield the microphone to reporter Luis Baez, Jr.

[Baez] Commander in Chief, your presence on the streets of Havana this afternoon was an extraordinary event. What prompted you to do this, and what do you believe is the fundamental reason behind the recent events?

[Castro] I believe the presence you refer to on the city streets is very basic. I received reports that there were problems. First I heard about the incident at the port caused by a group of people who tried to take over a launch, which, I believe, did not even have a motor. The people and the police did not allow them to take over this launch.

After midday I received a report that some disturbances, some obviously organized disorders, were taking place at several locations, the zone of Centro Havana and old Havana. From the time I first heard the news, I kept close tabs on the situation. I was in my office when I heard that some people were throwing stones at police, that shots had been heard, and that the police were being provoked in several places.

I then asked what was going on. I was told certain things: that there had been an incident in Regla last night; that the people were taking to the streets to confront these disturbers; and that some police units were being mobilized to reestablish order in those places. Risking criticism, I felt it was my duty to go there, where that disorder was taking place. If rocks were being thrown and shots were being fired, I wanted to receive my share. There is nothing extraordinary about that. I feel -- and this is a habit -- that I should be wherever people are fighting. I want to be where the fighters are, to face any problem.

I also had a very special interest in talking with the people, our people, to urge them to be calm, patient, composed, and not to fall for provocations, because I know by heart all enemy's plan and the imperialist perception about the means to liquidate the revolution, meaning the current strategy.

They want bloody scenes, they want bullets, they want to use the dead as a propaganda tool, to use them as an instrument of subversion and as an instrument of intervention in our country. The imperialist strategy is to create a particular situation with maximum dissatisfaction in our country to divide the population. The idea is to create the most difficult conditions possible and lead our country to a conflict, a bloodbath. Some people dream about this, but we must counteract this strategy.

All this has plenty to do with us. The first thing is to fight alongside the people and die with the people. The people must be led so they act in the most intelligent possible way in each of these circumstances. We know how the people are: vigorous, combative, courageous. We try to keep the people from falling for provocations. That is why I reacted like that and went there.

You ask what is behind this, this provocative strategy that is being implemented to provoke this. This strategy has been used for years. The imperialists thought that the revolution was crumbling only a few weeks after the crumbling of the Soviet camp. They just cannot resign themselves to the idea that the revolution is resisting, that for the revolution to fall apart here they must tear it apart. They intend to make it fall apart at any cost. They want to take advantage of the difficult conditions we are experiencing to create conditions that suit their objectives.

That strategy is being encouraged through many mechanisms. First, through the blockade, as well as through the most incredible pressure aimed at blocking our economic efforts, our opening activities, our negotiations to attract foreign enterprises to Cuba. All of this is intended to obstruct our efforts to overcome the special period. That is one of the things they are doing, they are strengthening the blockade to make our economic situation more difficult and to foment dissatisfaction among the population. They even encourage illegal migration while at the same time prohibiting legal immigration. They do everything possible to encourage the people to leave. They do all that's possible, invent all types of incidents, which have already occurred, as we all know, like the illegal departures stimulated through all possible methods.

Look how the revolution has been creating the facilities so people who wish to migrate may do so, but that is nothing new. That was one of the first things. I think the best evidence of this was when they were able to take 3,000 out of nearly 6,000 doctors. At no time did we prevent them from leaving. We accepted the challenge of those who wished to leave, and we concentrated on developing the medical facilities and faculties. They took tens of thousands of people. I am referring to qualified personnel now. We created universities to replace all those people. We were not the ones preventing emigration; they were. One way or another, we pressured them into leaving. [sentence as heard] They did it first to take away our qualified personnel, but then they decided to establish restrictions.

This ploy of preventing legal immigration and encouraging illegal emigration is nothing new because they use it as publicity against us. That is what gave rise to diverse incidents throughout the history of the revolution such as the Camarioca incident and the well-known Mariel incident. Nevertheless, we have never been the ones who have placed limitations on departures or emigration from Cuba. Emigration is a universal phenomenon, and it primarily takes place between countries with less economic development and highly developed countries.

In our case, it was not Cuba that prevented emigration. We did not have movement in both directions, like we have now, for security reasons. Look at all the measures we have implemented in the last few years. One is the authorization to leave to visit the United States and then return. That was dangerous because they are always organizing conspiracies, all kinds of economic sabotage, biological warfare [guerra biologica], because they have waged biological warfare on our country. Few people doubt this, those who have read the things they did to their own United States citizens. The nuclear experiments they have carried out on their own people, in U.S. hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and wherever else. Who can doubt the things they have done to us with biological warfare. We are aware of this biological warfare against the vegetation, animals, and people. That is why all this coming and going over there is always a risk. Traveling over there is always a political risk but we have liberalized the policy on this despite the risks.

First we authorized persons over 60. After that, we brought it down. Now anyone who wishes to travel can do so as long as he is an adult. Anyone who wanted to travel overseas and return was authorized to do so. That is something really dangerous. It is still a risk in more ways than one since it is a great help to the plans the imperialists have worked against us.

We have not kept anyone from visiting our country except for a few people. Anyone who wishes to come to Cuba to visit their relatives are allowed to do so. Third, we have signed immigration agreements with the United States by virtue of which they were obligated to accept up to 20,000 persons in anticipation of family reunification. In addition, they were obligated to receive an undeclared number of individuals who had been imprisoned for counterrevolutionary charges promoted by the United States. They have not honored the immigration agreement. They simply issue a meager number of travel permits. They did something even worse and violated the agreement even more. Those Cubans in Panama and other countries who wanted to travel to the United States were granted permits, then they passed the bill to us. Since those people were not in Cuba they did not want them. But they encouraged every illegal departure and desertion, spreading the word and making a big propaganda issue out of it. You cannot travel if you provoke discontentedness and want to travel through legal means, but if you hijack an airplane or a motorboat or jump on a raft you get what you want. They do not care anything about those who are in danger of drowning on the way. They only care about something that can be used as propaganda.

Cuba really has nothing left to do to smooth the departure of all those who want to emigrate. We have done everything possible. What else can be asked of us? They have only one policy -- limit legal departures, encourage illegal departures, and create an organization to support those who leave Cuba illegally. That is the immigration policy the United States has followed.

We have a clean record, a totally clean record. In addition to this, we have invested a massive amount of resources to prevent illegal departures and to abide by the immigration laws of the country and of the United States. In a certain way, we have become border guards for the United States so the United States' laws are not violated, because we do not care if they want to leave. We do not have any objection and do not create any obstacles. We give them all the facilities.

So, to fulfill our commitments and our international duty and to comply with our laws, we have become guards of the U.S. borders. Consequently, we waste fuel and human resources to prevent illegal departures and to block vessels coming from the United States to Cuba to pick people up. All of this has been on the rise, and the more difficult our economic conditions become, the more these phenomena will increase.

But this is no longer just a propaganda instrument. This is a subversive plan. This is a plan to create unrest and confrontation in our country. We have told this to the United States 20 times. We have sent 20 diplomatic notes. I said 20 just to cite a figure, but we are tired of repeating to the North Americans that we cannot continue guarding their borders, that they must guard them, and that this situation is untenable and cannot continue.

I can add another very important point: We are the ones who resolved the problem of the plane hijackings in the United States when we took hard, drastic measures; when we imposed harsh sanctions on the plane hijackers. On one occasion, after having said so publicly, two individuals who had gone to the United States hijacked a plane and we returned them to the United States.

Twice we have asked about the situation of those Cubans. They were sentenced to 40 years. Do we ask how they are? Never! They are continuously asking about the situation of prisoners here. We have only asked about those two prisoners. They were two citizens. They went to the United States and hijacked a plane, ignoring our warnings. We returned the plane and the individuals involved. That was the end of hijackings in the United States, which was an instrument invented by the United States against the revolution. We still have a number of U.S. prisoners, hijackers, who were sentenced and are serving time in our prisons.

How much more are they going to ask of us? We brought an end to one of their most serious problems, the hijacking of planes. That should give you an idea of our patience. We have maintained this policy in spite of everything they have done.

The current incidents are part of an overall U.S. plan, an overall U.S. strategy. Because I do not want to respond at once to all possible questions, I would like to give an opportunity to another companero, although I have more to say about this and about the causes behind this problem. I have limited myself to recalling these antecedents of Cuban policy.

[Hector Rodriguez] Commander, Susana would like to ask a question.

[Lee] The enemy's campaign over the radio waves -- over 1,000 hours per week on 17 frequencies -- and the recent campaign involving the embassies, tugboats, and boats, appear to be part of a comprehensive attack to counter the country's efforts to procure fuel and seek capital, issues you discussed recently before the National Assembly. I believe this campaign also seeks to create an unstable atmosphere to discourage people who are interested in doing business with or investing in Cuba.

[Castro] In all respects, this is a comprehensive offensive. The pressure against potential foreign businessmen who want to invest in Cuba is formidable, unbelievable, and it is nothing new because the former government used the same tactics. It was being done not only by the previous government but also by the Clinton Government. Strong pressure is being exerted. As part of their overall plan to destroy the revolution, they want to make the country's economic efforts fail at any cost. Radio waves and subversive propaganda are coming from abroad and are supported by foreigners. Perhaps this tangible phenomenon has manifested itself more clearly in the last few weeks, starting with the 13 March tugboat incident.

I believe the United States displayed one of the most cynical behaviors -- crudely cynical -- following the accident. Everyone knows that the Cuban revolution has a tradition of speaking the truth under all circumstances, that the Cuban revolution has never lied, and that we communicate news as soon as we learn of it. As soon as we received the news on the tugboat accident, an in-depth and exhaustive investigation was immediately conducted based on accounts by those who had been rescued, including some of the hijackers. Each of the people in the tugboat offered thorough and detailed accounts of the accident. The information was disclosed as soon as it was received. Three reports were issued as more accurate information was gathered on the incident. Tugboat workers do not want their tugboats to be stolen, and they take various measures to prevent this. Fishermen, sailors, and all craftsmen act accordingly -- and it was they, the tugboat workers, who moved quickly as soon as they realized the tugboat's hijacking had occurred, to stop them from taking the tugboat.

Those who hijacked the tugboat had accomplices, including the one who had the key to the padlock; they also had another tugboat skipper. They destroyed the communications equipment. The workers of the tugboat had no chance whatsoever to radio the border guards, who learned of the incident later. This incident lasted approximately one hour and 20 minutes, between the time they hijacked the tugboat and the time it sank. The workers made efforts to prevent the departure, and the hijacked boat even rammed into a boat that was trying to prevent its departure. The other tugboats continued to try to stop the tugboat, one way or another, to prevent its hijacking. The border guards reported on this and were instructed to go toward the place where the events were taking place. This happened rather quickly.

It is quite known that a boat positioned itself in front of the tugboat to try to make it reduce its speed; another boat positioned itself behind the tugboat; yet another boat was on one of its sides. Nevertheless, no crew member wanted to sink the tugboat. The crew was doing something very difficult: stopping a tugboat. All this was happening on a dark night and with a rough sea. Given these conditions, they were trying to stop the tugboat until the border guard boats arrived. This is how the accident took place: the boat trailing behind rammed into the tugboat's stern. Seamen and those who know about the sea know it is perfectly feasible to ram into the stern of a hijacked tugboat -- the tugboat Trece de Marzo -- that had been hijacked. So, this is how the accident that led to the tugboat's sinking took place. It was really an accident. Interior Ministry authorities investigated the accident thoroughly and concluded there were no plans whatsoever to sink the tugboat.

What do we do with these workers who did not want their tugboat to be hijacked? They made, let us say, a truly patriotic effort to avoid the hijacking of their tugboat. What do we tell them now that the tugboat is lost? Do we tell them not to worry about the boat? They really tried to avoid the hijacking of their boat, even though it is not their duty; it did not work, but they really tried hard. The border guards had nothing to do with the sinking; they arrived at the scene one minute after the accident took place. The tugboats that were trying to prevent the hijacking tossed the few life preservers they had. The workers were on board a tugboat that had a leak -- a foolish thing to do -- a tugboat in bad condition. The tugboat would have sunk by itself, even if had not been rammed. There were very few life preservers; the tugboats are small, and they have only a few life preservers.

Some people were saved by the other tugboats, which were also in jeopardy, because they could have been hijacked as well. Then bigger boats [grifins] arrived. They have more features, life preservers, and experience. They pulled 25 people out of the water. Between the two of them, they pulled 31 people out of the water. A regrettable, unpleasant, and ungraceful accident took place there. We all regretted this very much. The border guards and workers behaved in an exemplary manner. They tried to prevent the hijacking of their boat. What will we tell them now? Will we tell then let your boat, your livelihood, be taken away? The border guards also behaved irreproachably: 25 lives were saved. In short, this is what happened. As we had more information, more details were made public. There are three different reports on the incident. However, the tugboat's accident became fodder for a terrible campaign against our country; it became fodder for a repugnant, a truly repugnant, slanderous campaign.

The United States deliberately participated in this. Without investigating what had happened and how it happened, it blamed the Cuban authorities for the sinking of the ship. With incredible perfidy it spoke about government ships. In a socialist state, everything belongs to the state: buses, trains, ships, merchant ships, tugboats, but they are operated by civilians.

The authorities were represented in this case, fundamentally, by the border guards. Referring to government tugboats and ships I view as a big perfidy, because the idea behind this is that the sinking of the boat was the responsibility of the government. In addition there have been declarations, an uproar in the Senate, warnings against this use of brutal force. All of this unwarranted, because the fact is that the authorities had saved 25 persons. Why was all this being done? They reported this. This was a slander campaign. They are now even attempting to take the problem all the way to the United Nations. This is all part of the plans and blueprints they are preparing to intervene in other countries by resorting to these international organizations. The intention is clear. The idea, the intention is clear. That is the starting point, and they will then continue with their encouraging.

Meanwhile, the government has been adopting measures, since the days of the first incident -- the Cojimar incident -- and the second incident -- the incident of Regla. The border guards have been instructed by the Interior Ministry that in their actions, they must prevent incidents, avoid as much as possible the use of weapons. Actually they have been told: Do not use weapons.

Stopping a boat of a given size at night by a patrol boat is practically impossible; it is impossible. The border guard people have received many instructions on how to handle this problem. We have no special need to keep a boat from leaving. We do it to fulfill a duty, and we have no special need to prevent a boat from coming here to pick up somebody. This is a U.S. problem more than it is ours. This problem can be resolved through cooperation, sincere cooperation, between the United States and Cuba, but they have chosen not to implement it because they are too demagogic, too hypocritical, too cowardly to establish cooperation with Cuba in this regard. They have left the problems for us to solve, and they also have left us with the incidents.

The border guards are somewhat armed; the police forces are armed. If someone tries to run over a policeman with a vehicle it is very probable that he will try to defend himself. If someone shoots at a policeman or creates a dangerous situation for a boat, it is possible that he may fire. We have instructed our personnel to avoid such incidents, to avoid shooting. We have said it is preferable to let the boat leave. That has been our task.

Can we avoid incidents such as the one involving the tugboat, which resulted in the infamous and sickening campaign that was waged and which some people in the country -- whom I do not want to mention now -- joined? History will always have time to demand of each of us to settle our responsibilities.

An investigation has been demanded from us when the fact is that we were the first ones to investigate the case, without anyone having demanded it or anyone having the right to demand it, because only our conscience, our sense of duty, and our sense of responsibility can demand and demands that we investigate any event of this nature.

So we have demanded an investigation. How do they pay us for our efforts to take care of their laws? Everytime there is an accident they accuse us of being murderers. They have accused us even of storing bodies away. How can this revolution be accused of such an action? There is not one single record of such action throughout its history. And they spread rumors and stories that there are bodies stored up. Now they are accusing us of being body-keepers.

This is the kind of propaganda spread by some radio stations and media. All this greatly encourages, of course, violations of the law, these are calls for violations of the law. By doing what they did in connection with the 13 March tugboat incident, they gave the cue here to steal whatever boat could be stolen. Right, I believe the tugboat was stolen on 13 July. On 26 July, one of the boats that transports passengers from Havana to Regla, or from Casablanca to Regla -- I do not know details -- was stolen. Those boats transport some 10,000 to 12,000 persons daily. The tugboat was stolen, not the tugboat, but a passenger boat was stolen. Some passengers jumped overboard but others were thrown overboard, and there were, of course, women and children among the passengers, and the assailants threatened to blow up the boat or kill the people if the patrol boats approached. They did this with weapons, with firearms and knives, the people who hijacked the boat did.

This is a boat not for long trips, a boat that is dangerous for a long trip, because if the sea gets rough, the boat will sink. But at some point, it was assisted by some U.S. Coast Guard vessels that returned the weapons, the evidence of the act of piracy that had been committed, a hijacking that included hostages. At this point, those who were involved in the plot, plus people who found themselves in such a situation -- in the middle of the sea, with a Coast Guard vessel, a more secure vessel -- boarded the Coast Guard vessel. The others returned.

The Coast Guard returned the weapons, the weapons they should have taken with them as evidence of a crime, of an act of piracy.

This seizing of the Baragua boat took place on 26 July. Only a week later, on 3 August, the boat La Coubre was hijacked. Similar methods were used. People were thrown overboard. There were patrol boats in the area. In both cases, the patrol boats were given instructions: Avoid accidents.

To prevent accidents, do not try to prevent the departure of the boat being hijacked. Follow the boat in case persons are thrown into the sea or in case the boat sinks, to rescue the passengers -- hijackers as well as hostages. However, on 3 August, they hijacked a second boat with hostages. In one week. On 4 August, that is yesterday, while we were talking about the incidents on 3 and 4 August at the National Assembly, they hijacked a boat for the third time -- the Baragua again -- using the same methods. They carried guns, grenades, and in some cases knives. They threatened to kill passengers or throw them into the water. Our men were given the same instructions for a third time: to prevent an accident, do not try to intercept the boat. Follow them in case it is necessary to assist them if the boat sinks. Old people, women, and children were aboard and were taken as hostages during the three incidents. Absolutely despicable.

Well, we only need to establish a route between Regla, Casablanca, and Florida because if we need to, we can establish a route without so many risks and problems. Since they are so affectionately welcomed halfway into the Gulf current. Why do they [the United States] only act this way toward Cubans? Along the border with Mexico, they have a wall that is twice as large as the Berlin Wall, set up with all sorts of sophisticated equipment to prevent anyone from crossing the border. Many people die there every year in an attempt to cross the border.

They have a whole squad to prevent Haitians from entering the United States, and they board boats, and many of these boats sink in the process, and no one knows how many people have gone down with the boats. As a result of the measures adopted by the U.S. Coast Guard to prevent Haitians from coming to the United States, people drown every day, but not a word of this is mentioned. In an attempt to evade these measures, people have drowned in the Mona Passage between Santo Domingo and Puerto Rico. There, no U.S. Coast Guard is available to help Dominican citizens get to Puerto Rico. Nor are there fleets of trucks or buses to take Mexicans across the U.S. border. There are no rights or privileges of any sort for any Latin American or any foreign citizen who tries to enter the United States illegally. If it is a boat full of Chinese citizens, the United States will move heaven and earth to prevent them from disembarking in Mexico or anywhere else, and they have to be sent back to China.

However, if a boat is carrying Cuban citizens -- since the Cuban revolution is in the middle and since the idea is to destroy the Cuban revolution -- fleets of planes, Coast Guard ships, and any other means to assist them are used.

[Hector Rodriguez] The television included.

[Castro] Is this not a blatant and shameless provocation? All of this is behind these events, because they have created a considerable stir and a sense of hope around the entire situation. They know the Coast Guard will not shoot them, and if they did, they would not shoot at passenger boats, because there are old people, women, and children involved, people who have nothing to do with the hijack and who are innocent.

They know that the Coast Guard will not open fire on them; they know they will be received there with all privileges; they know there will be no reprisals whatsoever. This is why they have been fantasizing about their plans to travel abroad. Most of these people are criminals, people awaiting trials, lumpen, and antisocial individuals who, under other circumstances, would never get a permit to travel to the United States. They are part of a group of criminals and antisocial individuals who have fantasized about dodging the laws to accomplish their goals by hijacking boats, reaching the extreme of even obstructing or interrupting transportation across Havana Bay by provoking this type of accident. These are the main reasons, augmented by the increasing boldness and audacity of these lumpen who perpetrated today's provocations.

[Rosalia Arnaez] Commander, I have two questions in one: In this dirty trick by the United States, you already mentioned the, quote, different treatment, unquote, given to Mexicans, Haitians, Chinese, or people from any other country in the world and the treatment given to Cubans. You also mentioned the disadvantage our country has due to the United States' superiority with regard to controlling the media. There are many people in our country who listen to all reports on radio and television stations broadcasting into Cuba from the United States. These are people who have good faith but are incredibly ignorant, because they believe everything that is being said. Then, our government and revolution are continuously being blamed for the boat people's ordeal, the hijacking of boats, the people's lack of security at sea, and their deaths.

My first question is this: Obviously, the incidents that took place in the last few days are not coincidental; they were premeditated and planned. In addition, these situations you mentioned were manipulated. Our border guards are doing everything possible to prevent incidents that could result in accidents in the open sea. How do you think we will be able to guarantee the security of people who have to use this means of transportation every day? These are people who have nothing to do with these types of incidents, people who have to use this means of transportation to go to work and to mind their own business, people who cannot be subject to the whims of common criminals. In addition, in view of this, what is Cuba's position with regard to these problems I just mentioned?

[Castro] I was asked this question this afternoon, and I already gave a response. If the United States fails to adopt immediate and efficient measures to stop the encouragement of illegal departures from the country, we will be dutybound to instruct our coast guards not to intercept any boat leaving Cuba. I am not including hijacked boats. We will have to instruct our border guards not to intercept those boats that want to go to the United States and not to intercept those boats coming from the United States to pick up their Cuban families and relatives here.

We have no other choice or alternative: we can no longer continue to guard the U.S. coasts. We can no longer carry this burden or assume this responsibility, while they do nothing. They only have the noble role of picking up people, while failing to take any measures. I already said this, but I will stress it again anyway: either they take immediate and efficient measures to stop the encouragement of illegal departures from Cuba and measures to prevent their boats from coming here or we will have to eliminate the obstacles preventing any boat wanting to leave for the United States from leaving or preventing any U.S. boat wanting to come to Cuba from coming.

But while already here, the first threats have arrived, and I feel it is my duty to say it publicly. They think we are afraid of them, that we are going to be frightened, and that we are going to allow them to easily carry out their plans, their genocidal plans, their criminal plans, their plans to intervene in Cuba. I think it is necessary for them to know that they are going to have to fight with us -- and very seriously.

They must understand they cannot allow the number of lumpen and antisocials in this country to deceive them. They must realize that our people are sufficiently large in number, brave, heroic, willing to fight, that we are different from people anywhere else, and that we are willing to fight. Therefore, nothing scares us, and nothing can scare us.

We have already received the first threats. I have received them here. Excuse me, Rosalia, I was trying to read and answer your question at the same time. The note reads: Conversation a while ago between [First Vice Foreign Minister Fernando] Remirez and Sullivan, head of the SINA [U.S. Interests Section]. Sullivan said a serious situation would develop if the commander were to speak tonight in the same manner in which he spoke during the interviews conducted this afternoon. I am not only speaking, but also confirming this point.

They, the United States, will take all the measures necessary to prevent the arrival of any boat in Florida; this is terrific. First the threat, now the declaration. They will prevent....[pauses] they will adopt measures to prevent the arrival of any boat in Florida. We must not believe that this will bring problems only for the United States. We must keep in mind that there will be problems for us as well. The threat again. They will take all the necessary steps to prevent another Mariel. The threat. If an announcement were made that all the Cubans on this side were going to leave in vessels, there would be chaos resulting in deaths and many problems. They do not want this to happen and believe that a solution must be found.

That is very good. We agree that a solution must be found. What was Remirez' answer? Remirez told them that anything that would be announced would be the result of a well thought out decision of the national leaders in the light of the events, and that anyone can see that the country cannot allow these things to happen and just sit back with folded arms. That was the answer from our first vice minister.

[Hector Rodriguez] Vice Minister Fernando Remirez de Estenoz.

[Castro] I am taking advantage of the occasion to inform you and all the people of this.

I think I have reiterated, and I reiterate again, all that I said this afternoon. Either swift and effective measures are taken to prevent the illegal departures, or we will remove the obstacles to any vessel that wants to leave for the United States. This is a different matter. Many people have boats and other means but this is a different matter and, in addition, we are not going to let them take the vessels or the tugboats or the ships. We are going to take all necessary measures.

We have told them 20 times that we are going to stop guarding the U.S. borders. It goes without saying that we are not scared by any threats and that we mean what we say. During this last vessel incident, there were 21 deaths. One policeman was murdered and thrown into the ocean. There's another policeman about whom we have no news, but it is said that he might have been shot in the abdomen. His body has not been found. There are no news about him but there is a possibility that he is dead, too.

[Hector Rodriguez] This happened yesterday.

[Castro] This happened yesterday while we were at the National Assembly attending to the nation's problems. We were constantly receiving reports on this and other incidents. That policeman will be buried the day after tomorrow; that is, on Sunday. He will lie in state in front of the ministry at 1000 and at 1800 we will bid farewell to this dedicated and courageous fighter from the Ministry of Interior who was assassinated by those barbarians who are welcomed over there.

Our position remains the same. We have defined our position. We are not opposed to solutions if there is sincerity, honesty, and the desire to seek a resolution instead of a desire to pull our leg.

But we cannot continue to be guardians of the U.S. borders, and we say this before our people and the whole world. We have reported the incidents that have taken place and how they have taken place. If they have another plan, let us know. But they better not threaten us, because they will have to wipe out every last patriot and revolutionary in this country. Nothing will scare us. I think it is somewhat ridiculous to try to scare us at this point. That is why I deeply regret that I must depart from normal diplomatic procedures to inform the people of this threat. It would not be the first time, either. Once in the past we were even threatened with a nuclear attack, but no one trembled here. I hereby confirm what I said before. I am pleased to inform the people and the international public of this.

[Baez] To say what the revolution can or cannot say here shows disrespect on the part of this Sullivan. It is an indication of Yankee arrogance, because this very same Sullivan is the SINA head who refuses to issue visas for citizens as established in agreements. In a document, this same Sullivan informed the CIA of all our moves with the purpose of fanning campaigns against human rights here. To attempt to say what the revolution can or cannot say is arrogant and a sign of disrespect against all Cuban revolutionaries.

[Hector Rodriguez] Arleen?

[Arleen Rodriguez] I think Rosalia Arnaez asked a crucial question. The commander has described very well the strategy behind all this. I wish to relate some of the experiences we had today when we went to the Malecon area. I know many people have not repudiated these actions, not because they do not want to, but because they are waiting for some form of organization. Anyway, we went there and participated in the demonstration. As reporters, we made inquiries. I heard several opinions. More than one person, not precisely among us, commented on the low moral stature of the people who lend themselves to this activity. Evidently, they are undesirables who always remain in the shadows. You can never identify them.

[Hector Rodriguez] That is what Eusebio Leal told me today.

[Arleen Rodriguez] Well, Eusebio was beside the commander when he showed up on Prado Street. I think we will remember for the rest of our lives what we saw when we walked through the streets looking for whoever would show his face. In the end, no one who opposed the revolution showed his face. On our way up the street, we looked back. All of a sudden, someone said: The commander is coming. There was such a delight. What we felt today must have been what the militiamen in Giron felt. We walked shouting: Long live Fidel, and shouted the letters of his name, the national anthem, and the 26 July song. Fidel showed up among us all of a sudden. Words cannot describe this. We again experienced what our predecessors experienced in Giron. The comments we heard included one that said much money is behind all this.

[Hector Rodriguez] Plenty of money.

[Arleen Rodriguez] It is a possibility that certain lumpen were paid to perpetrate these actions. I refer specifically to the actions involving vessels and other destructive actions. Commander, I also heard people say there is an attempt to create the proper climate against Cuba. The people who said this added that the conditions have been created with the situation in Haiti, which is so close to us. Many people see the danger that an attempt is being made to create a situation similar to those in other countries. But this is not Haiti.

Another consideration is that the Miami summit is approaching. Many Latin American countries have asked that Cuba not be not left out. Those countries demand that Cuba be respected in this regard. It is possible that some are planning to arrive at the Miami summit with ideas like these. We heard the people make all these remarks. The people expressed their opinions on the possible causes for all this.

Now, for the question asked by Arnaez. You spoke of the enemy's strategy and the strategy of the revolution, which you have defined very clearly. I think it is very important because the Cuban revolutionaries and patriots are waiting for instructions on what to do in this situation. As you said, we must act calmly and with a certain demeanor yet with energy. The people should be assured that here there are a sufficient number of revolutionaries to crush any of these actions that attempt to destroy the revolution. What is the strategy of the revolution?

[Castro] Arleen, as you know, the revolution has been experiencing many difficulties and waging a very hard struggle since the Socialist bloc disappeared. The great powers knelt down, and we decided to do whatever was necessary to defend the homeland, revolution, and socialism. We have already made a decision. First, we had to face the terrible economic consequences of the disappearance of the Socialist bloc and the tightening of the Yankee embargo. Now we are immersed in this heroic battle that we have been fighting for years. The United States has been establishing contacts and relations with the most diverse countries. They even have relations with the Chinese, whom the United States threatens with removing a certain clause, the most-favored nation clause. The United States talks with Vietnam and looks for solutions to the problems of Vietnam and even talks with DPRK, but it will not talk with Cuba; it will not speak to Cuba. It maintains its blockade against Cuba and calls for Cuba's head. It calls for the head of the revolution, of this country's independence.

Destiny chose us for the task of defending those values, and we are determined to fight and protect them. But they demand nothing less than the revolution's head. The next step in their policy is different from that applied to other countries. They want to find pretexts for casting the country into a bloodbath. They want to manipulate international opinion despite the resistance and scorn the UN agreements even though a great majority in the United Nations wants an end to the embargo. On the contrary, the embargo becomes more and more aggressive. That is the policy they have been applying against the Cuban revolution.

But they will find a worthy adversary in the Cuban revolution. Of this we are all sure. They talk of finding a solution, but they want the people to starve, become ill, live in misery. They compel the people to leave. They hamper our every effort, do everything in their power to make life miserable for the Cuban people. What kind of a solution is that? It is necessary to find solutions. Among other things, it is necessary to take the embargo into consideration because it is an instrument which forces people to depart illegally.

Illegal departures occur in Mexico, a country that produces nearly 3 million tons of crude oil, possesses all kinds of economic resources, and experiences development that is vastly superior to Cuba. If illegal departures occur throughout Latin America, in wealthy countries of this region, why wouldn't they take place in a country like Cuba, which is experiencing a special period in time of peace and is subject to a multifaceted, aggravated embargo?

If we are to talk about solutions, we must speak, among other things, of a solution to the U.S. embargo against Cuba. If they truly want to talk to us, if they have contacts with all countries of the world, why not with us? Why are we blocked, and why does the embargo keep getting tighter and tighter? Why do they want to starve us and leave us to die of illness? If you try to strangle a people, you compel them to depart illegally. They are not doing this to countries that are not being blocked by anyone, countries which get loans from the United States, the World Bank, the IMF, and the Inter-American Development Bank. Those countries get all possible aid. We are not getting any of this aid. They want to strangle us, starve us, and kill us with disease.

Does this or does this not force illegal departures? People who do not think such things should happen should find a solution. I do not know what solution it might be, or if you can characterize as a solution their adopting a few measures and arresting two or three men; they have done that in the past. In the meantime, they have intensified the blockade and increased their efforts to murder the people through starvation and disease. The problem is complex and complicated. Where are the ethics of that policy? Where is the morality in that policy?

Right here I have material concerning what Clinton said a year ago, on 27 July 1993, concerning illegal departures. He said we cannot tolerate the trafficking of human cargo, nor can we allow our people to be threatened by those who enter our country to bring terrorism to North Americans. The solution is to receive legal immigrants and legal refugees and return those who do not abide by the law. We must say no to illegal immigration so we can continue saying yes to legal migration. It will be more difficult for illegal immigrants to enter this country. The creation of organizations devoted to the trafficking of human cargo will be considered a serious crime.

These measures, for which I am asking Congress for an additional $172.5 million in 1994, constitute an important step toward our regaining control of our borders and respect for our laws. To treat terrorists and traffickers as immigrants dishonors the tradition of immigrants who have enhanced this country and unfairly tarnishes the image of millions of immigrants who lead honorable lives in this country and represent a vital segment of our social lives.

What do Mr. Clinton's so clearly expressed words mean? The honorable welcome he extends to people who kidnap the elderly, women, and children and expose them to death on the high seas? What does this have to do with the welcome given to people who use pistols, revolvers, bayonets, machetes, and hand grenades? What do these words have to do with what is happening in Cuba? It is obvious that these words are for everyone except Cuba.

They can receive those kinds of people, lumpen and criminals, but they have not been able to say -- they cannot say -- we have not cautioned them. We have not tired of cautioning them about this problem and about the consequences of this problem.

They also invented airplane hijackings, which I already talked about, and we were the ones who resolved that problem. What measures could they adopt when they are prisoners of the reactionary mafia that has imposed itself in Miami? Who do you believe the people of Florida will vote for in the next elections, based on electoral politics, internal politicking, and calculations concerning the forthcoming elections? The Cuban problem has become a domestic policy issue. The mafia lobbies Congress, and the U.S. Government is fearful. If the United States fears its problem, that is too bad, but it must not attempt to instill fear in us because they will not succeed.

They should have the courage to deal with their problem. In my opinion, they need courage to understand the problem. I am telling it the way it is in a fair, calm manner. In the streets where I held the interview, the people were angry. They said there would be a serious upheaval if the commander spoke tonight the way he spoke during this afternoon's interview. What do you make of this? We are all threatened with death.

[Arnaez] No comment.

[Castro] What are we to do? Place ourselves in God's hands or something like that?

[Lee] They have done this precisely at a time when we must close ranks and struggle against our problems, against subjective problems, and use our creativity to deal with objective problems. This has become a part of the struggle because, as you said just now, the people in the street were angry. Comrades came to the newspaper to tell us what had happened this afternoon. All of this is part of the struggle, of this struggle of ideas among revolutionaries in the streets. We cannot allow a millimeter to escape. We must concentrate on this ideological struggle.

[Castro] The revolutionaries of the fatherland and the revolutionaries of independence are the ones in charge of defending our ideology. You do not know how patiently we have tolerated all these things. We cannot be accused of being irresponsible. It turns out we cannot even travel to Regla now. The historical little boat of Regla no longer exists but we must stand for this because the U.S. Government has warned that it will implement drastic measures and, furthermore, [it will do so] in a slanderous and infamous manner.

The train collision turned out to be an accident -- but we will be blamed nevertheless. The government will be held responsible for the train collision and any phenomenons that take place. They would have ordered the perpetration of truly horrible things. There is the famous case of the clergymen who participated yesterday in a hunger strike. They shot them, exterminated them.

How many atrocities and crimes have they committed? How many deaths burden their consciences from the moment they encouraged departures on board rafts, inner tubes, or any other floating device? Just because they want to spread propaganda, they do not care how many people could die. We are not planning people's deaths; we want to stop this situation in an orderly fashion. If they want, we will put an orderly line [linea ordenada] but they are the ones who are taking the lumpen.

Despite Clinton's speech, they have given up the luxury to select the people who can go there. Most of the people who leave illegally are the worst type of people -- the type that do not even bother to go to the embassy to request a permit. We have behaved impartially and calmly; our patience has been formidable. I believe that whoever knows the history of the Cuban revolution is aware that it cannot be threatened, or intimidated, or brought to its knees, not even if a thousand missiles were pointing toward us. I believe that the patriotic and revolutionary Cuban people, are aware of this; they also know we did not provoke this situation.

[Arnaez] Obviously, the fact that even killers and assassins are being received is a provocation, a mockery for us. As you just reported, they are the ones who recently murdered one of our policemen and wounded another one, who may die as well. We even lack a legal guarantee or instrument to make these people pay for these crimes, thereby making justice prevail in our country. They accept them as part of that demagogic campaign of refusing to accept immigrants from other parts of the world; however, Cubans have a special status.

[Castro] Right now, a third boat is 12 miles away from here. This boat also has hostages on board.

[Hector Rodriguez] Are the killers on board this boat?

[Castro] Yes, they are. They have done everything: they threw people overboard, threatened to blow up the boat should we get close to them, and threatened to kill children, just because they do not want the boats to come close. Of course, boarding this type of boats at any price makes no sense. This is the situation we currently have; these are the types of people who have provoked this situation -- plus the encouragement, and the counterrevolutionary propaganda they are sending here to create havoc, disorder, and conflict, to stain our country with blood, and to find excuses to intervene in Cuba. Their strategy is very, very clear. What they do not know is that they have failed to know our country well, although they have had enough time to do it.

This has nothing to do with people. You know this situation has nothing to do with me; I can vanish today, and the country will remain the same tomorrow. It will continue to fight. They have even murdered me twice, judging from the rumors of a heart attack and another ailment. Fortunately, they have been wrong thus far.

[Hector Rodriguez] Fortunately.

[Castro] But they sparked scary feelings [laughs]. I want to tell you, you have witnessed everything: You attended the 26 July ceremony and listened to Raul's speech. You know of the meetings that were held at the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, the Central Army, the Western Army. I am very poised, because I know there are many cadres, many precious comrades who can replace me perfectly. I can do things like what I did today, because it is my role and duty.

After all, I would rather be the one to be shot at. I told my escorts: not one single shot can be fired. You cannot adopt such a decision without me giving that order, and of course I was not going to give the order to shoot, you can rest assured of that. I tell my enemies: You have no problem in this regard. I am at peace knowing that the country is well-organized, that it has a good party, that we have the government, that we are improving it, that we are perfecting it with very clear measures.

Raul Castro has delivered two extraordinary speeches, one on 26 July in front of the prison and the one he delivered at the National Assembly. The enemy is now facing a more institutionalized, better organized country.

The country, the revolution, has suffered some wear, logically, as a result of the situation it is going through, but the planting of patriotism and heroism throughout these years, for more than 35 years, was not in vain. The results are present everywhere.

There is a formidable institution, a formidable party, a formidable armed forces and army. There are the Interior Ministry institutions, the mass organizations. Decisive meetings were recently held, summoning revolutionaries to combat. Today's harassment summoned the people to combat. It had been a long time since I saw the people with the spirit I saw in them today, on the streets. It reminded me of the time when we went to the Camaguey barracks, without arms, to seize it, in the days of Huber Matos' notorious conspiracy. We went there, we met with the people, and we decided to take the barracks without using a single rifle.

We were late because Camilo [Cienfuegos] had gotten ahead of us and he, alone, spoke. We can stop these agitators without a rifle, we can neutralize them with the people. It is not that we have no use for rifles, it is that we prefer to use them against foreign invaders and aggressors.

We would not like to have to use our rifles against lumpen and counterrevolutionaries when we have the people and the masses on our side. This does not mean that the police and the army will discard their weapons. On the contrary, they must be well armed, well trained and well organized, because we must be ready for anything. Since those people are the fifth column of imperialism inside Cuba we have to see what happens, see if there is a need to combat them some day, but we would rather fight against the imperialists than against their fifth column.

[Hector Rodriguez] The situations that have emerged at embassies have to do with a plan?

[Castro] Everything was planned. The Belgian Embassy matter was planned. There have been other plans. I am not going to say that this is the attitude of the majority of the diplomats. On the contrary, the majority of the diplomats want order in their embassies.

Besides, we have established the principle that whoever enters an embassy by force will never receive permission to leave the country.

He might resort to one method or another but no way will that person receive permission to leave the country. It is established that this citizen will never be entitled to leave. Any individual who forcibly enters an embassy, even if he is later allowed to leave the embassy and return to his homes, will never receive a permit. The principle has been established and I reassert it once more: Any Cuban who forcibly enters an embassy will never receive permission to leave the country. The majority of the diplomats have adopted a serious and responsible attitude. Of course, we would need to have a castle like El Morro in each embassy to prevent anyone from entering an embassy by force. All they would have to do is to drive a truck or any vehicle against the embassy. To prevent this we would have to place an army around each embassy. This is impossible. How much would all of this cost? We had to establish the principle that no one who enters embassies by force will be allowed to depart or receive permission. This is the policy that is being followed with respect to those provocations. They did it in other countries also. We have practically ended up being the empire's single adversary. All its malice and treachery and power is focused against us. We are aware that this struggle is a tough one. However, we are not afraid of this struggle.

[Hector Rodriguez] Luisito.

[Baez] Commander, some glass windows were broken today. Rocks were also thrown. The revolutionaries' reply was exactly what you suggested. I believe that it is only fair, since we are speaking over national television, to say that the reply of all the Coiba Hotel workers, the revolutionary neighbors in that community, the reply of the Deauville Hotel workers, the reply of all the Politburo and comrades of the Union of Young Communists [UJC] who were there in the streets along with their first secretary was quite extraodinary. I believe it is important to point out that the moral countenance of those individuals who were throwing rocks, is exactly the same as those who would burn down a daycare center, as occurred in 1980 when they set fire to the Levantal day care center. I believe it is important to mention that here. These are antisocial elements, lumpens. They are the essence of the counterrevolution. To them, throwing rocks at us is the same as throwing rocks at a crowd without any consideration for children or women. The counterrevolution has never selected its victims. Their victims can be any revolutionary citizen in this country. It is the same to them to massacre Yuri Orosman or Rafaela Pelaez Quintosa as they did on 8 January 1992. I believe this is important. As you mentioned a while ago, the revolution is obligated to adopt any measure to ensure the safety of all revolutionary citizens.

[Castro] As well as to raise combativeness. I am aware that the pronouncements that have been made during the past few days have made a strong call to raise the combativeness of all sectors of the population. Today, I was able to witness the population's combativeness at its best. The accumulated moral values of this nation cannot be underestimated, nor can its willingness to fight back. Anyone who is willing to fight back will emerge victorious. No one can defeat a nation that is determined to struggle. No one can defeat a nation that counts on the number of combatants and revolutionaries as our nation does. I am convinced of that.

[Hector Rodriguez] Any further questions? Susana? Luis? Rosalia? Arleen?

[Castro] I do not know if I myself offered to come to the television station. But the fact is that I was going to answer your questions in the street. However, there was too much noise. It was very difficult to hear adequately. In addition, it was very emotional to listen to the people singing the 26 July anthem, as well as the national anthem.

I said: It is better if I can convey these same impressions, and I offered to make a television appearance with you since we had to explain all that happened today. The media needs to continue talking with the people, asking them questions, and informing them because I do not have all the details. I have come, as I said, still sweaty from walking the streets. After that, I watched television. I have not really had time for anything. I know some of the details, particularly that people behaved exemplarily. The masses behaved in an exemplary fashion. Police officers behaved well and did not approach the situation violently, but in a calm, cool, and persuasive manner. They were firm yet careful and persuasive. Our enemies want to stir up violence and make us lose our heads. I am truly proud of the way our people behaved -- the revolutionaries, the workers, the masses, and the police agents. We can be truly pleased. All of this is good training for us. It prepares us for future combat, regardless of the degree of difficulty.

[Arleen Rodriguez] A communique indicated that the mobilization of the masses was absolutely spontaneous.

[Hector Rodriguez] The reaction was very prompt, spontaneous.

[Arleen Rodriguez] I don't think one single person there was called or forced out of his home. It was a spontaneous mobilization. I say this because there were people in the newspaper who wanted to stop working, and I told them to stay and others will go because not everyone can leave their jobs. First we worked, then we took to the streets. We were the vanguard, and the reaction was truly spontaneous. That is why I was saying that some people were not aware of the situation because they did not have electricity, were not listening to the radio, or were not told. It could have been much more crowded.

[Hector Rodriguez] Yes, of course.

[Arleen Rodriguez] It was truly an impressive view, and I will cherish this experience for the rest of my life, especially when we learned that the commander was coming on foot. When he was coming down Prado and turned the corner of Malecon, the people wanted him to have a loudspeaker so they could hear him speaking on television. People could not hear you. That is why it is so good you were able to come here.

[Castro] That time I did not take my camera or photographers or anything because I learned you were there, and I left immediately. You said you were moved to see me there. I was even more moved when I saw so many of you there. I met [UJC First Secretary Juan] Contino and many other people there. I saw you there, in the front lines, fighting. These are not revolutionaries in name only. These revolutionaries are those who engage in the fight, in combat once the zero hour has come.

This reminded me of this revolution's most glorious moments, Granma, those who fought in Giron, Moncada, those who fought for their ideas. We were unarmed soldiers, and even then, armed only with our ideas, we defeated all those lumpen. That's for sure. We prefer to save our weapons for the imperialist troops and their allies. I am convinced that we can win armed only with our ideas. No stones, weapons, or anything else can stop the people. It was very moving for me to see all those cadres, because I saw many of them. I saw ministers, people from all walks of life. Party cadres were there on the battle field.

[Arleen Rodriguez, interrupting] But the workers ...

[Castro] I believe the people dealt a remarkable political counterblow. The people were enraged. The enemy knows he will find a fight, and what a fight it will be.

[Arnaez] Commander, you told us that the deceased combatant will lie in state at the ministry?

[Castro] He will lie in state at 1000 at the ministry and he will be bid farewell at 1800.

[Arnaez] Ten in the morning. I am sure that all the revolutionary and sensitive people of Havana will attend the funeral.

[Hector Rodriguez] What day will it be done?

[Castro] He will be bid farewell at 1800 on Sunday.

[Arleen Rodriguez] Sunday.

[Hector Rodriguez] Today is Friday.

[Arleen Rodriguez] Today is Friday.

[Castro] And I must decide whether or not to travel -- with all these threats -- because I have been invited to the inauguration. I am not afraid of the terrific threats, but of the people thinking I am afraid, and this is why I am trying to decide whether or not to go. Yet I am calm. I have unlimited trust in the people, the party, the masses, and the combatants. It is a matter of details, but Mr. Sullivan's threats will neither stop me nor rob me of my sleep. You can rest assured of that.

[Arleen Rodriguez] You speak with that certainty because you know what you can rely on.

[Hector Rodriguez] Commander, to have had you here with us tonight has been very stimulating for our country and homeland. We truly thank you very much.

[Castro] I thank you all for this opportunity to communicate with the people and this group, made up of young people, which is very stimulating.

[Hector Rodriguez] Yes, young -- a new army of journalists.

[Castro] An army which includes you.

[Hector Rodriguez] Yes, I am still a child.

[Castro] I dare do some of the things that young people do. [laughs].

[Hector Rodriguez] Thanks, Susana, Luisito, Luis Baez, Rosalia, and Arleen for joining us in this very encouraging presentation of Cuban President Commander Fidel Castro.

[Arleen Rodriguez] In this historic news conference.