Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-94-166 Daily Report 26 Aug 1994 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Castro Holds News Conference on Ties With U.S.

FL2608025094 Havana Tele Rebelde and Cuba Vision Networks in Spanish 0000 GMT 26 Aug 94 FL2608025094 Havana Tele Rebelde and Cuba Vision Networks Spanish BFN ["Excerpt" of impromptu news conference by President Fidel Castro with unidentified reporters following his 24 August interview at Tele Rebelde Studio 11, in Havana, on 25 August; from the "NTV" newscast -- recorded]

[Text] [Reporter] Commander, are you prepared to meet President Clinton face to face?

[Castro] I have no objection. I do not know if it will become necessary or if, perhaps, one day it might be possible. I have said that I do not feel any personal animosity toward President Clinton, that I do not have a bad opinion of him, that I have no interest in harming him.

[Reporter] What steps are you willing to take to try to resolve this crisis with the United States?

[Castro] As I said tonight, we are in the best disposition. We have a constructive outlook. We are willing to talk, even if they want to talk about a specific subject. We are willing to broach it. I was explaining that the entire situation is very complex and difficult. Intelligence must prevail in the search for answers, because there are no easy answers for either side. They want to make us use force, and we refuse to use force. This problem, as I explained today, took a long time to develop. It is now a reality. It is not something that happened yesterday or last week. As the figures I use proved, it has been mounting and is already there. It is now everyone's duty to contribute to the solution. However, we would have to discuss many things. You have to understand that this problem is not solved by bringing Mas Canosa [president of the Cuban-American National Foundation] to the White House. With Mas Canosa as a White House adviser, there is no possible solution to this problem or any problem in the world.

[Reporter] Commander, you have implemented certain reforms these past years. Are there any specific reforms that you are willing to implement?

[Castro] There are many things that can be done, but as long as we are involved in problems like this, we will not have much time to think about that.

[Reporter, in English with passage by passage translation into Spanish] I am Mary Murray, from NBC News. Is it necessary, from the Cuban viewpoint, to sit down and talk about the U.S. embargo, the U.S. blockade to begin to see results on the immigration crisis?

[Castro] It is impossible to solve the immigration problem if we do not solve the other problems because they are tied very closely, as the figures I used tonight prove. However, I am not afraid to discuss any specific issue. As long as it is tied to the other issues, it will be easy to see that a solution is not possible unless the determining factors are solved.

[Reporter] Commander, will Cuba maintain its policy of not guarding U.S. borders?

[Castro] We are maintaining the policy that I discussed tonight, the one included in instructions to the coast guard. We are still guarding U.S. borders in a way: We have persuaded 1,500 people in just a little time not to leave because of the unsafe means that they would use.

The fact is that no country is the guardian of another's border. Just consider that we have prevented 37,000 people from traveling to the United States in 4 and 1/2 years. The United States received 13,000 illegal aliens during that period, welcoming all who arrived. It is a tremendous issue because we take care of their borders without pay. They do not give us a single liter of fuel or a single screw. We were not the ones who invited them to leave: The radio stations invited them. We have not encouraged them.

[Reporter] Commander, you denounced this situation in your three televised discussions. Remirez de Estenoz also held a news conference at the United Nations today. If the situation worsens, will Cuba present the problem to that international organization?

[Castro] The problem must be presented wherever it is deemed necessary. It is only logical that we turn to all international organizations as this situation worsens.

[Reporter] Has the U.S. Government responded to the Cuban soldier's murder?

[Castro] No. They have not said a single word.

[Reporter, in English with passage by passage translation into Spanish] President Castro, NBC News has spent a lot of time on the shores watching the rafters leave. The rumor that U.S. speed boats have come in and picked up people has been spreading among the crowds on the beaches. Do you have any information on any U.S. boats coming to pick up people here?

[Castro] No, I have not heard anything about that. I do not have any information on that.

[Reporter] Commander, you said that you had spoken with other leaders from the United States and Latin America who are trying to solve the crisis, not just in recent weeks but in the last year.

[Castro] I did not say that I have spoken to them. I said that some are working on this. They expressed interest in the crisis very recently, in the search for possible solutions to the crisis. While I have not spoken with them, I do know of people who have spoken with U.S. political personalities. However, I would not want to be indiscreet. I do not want to start mentioning names.

[Reporter] Why not?

[Castro] Because that would not be helpful. In other words, I do not know what their views are on the matter.

[Reporter] Are negotiations with some of these leaders on the way?

[Castro] No. There have not been negotiations, but there have been contacts and exchanges.

[Reporter] Who can best negotiate or mediate some kind of resolution to this crisis?

[Castro] The best way? The people who have expressed interest can express their views. The truth is that they play a positive role. We have not objection to their being intermediaries, but there could also be direct contacts with the administration itself.

[Reporter] Has there been pressure on Cuba from any other country to sit down with the United States to discuss a solution to the crisis?

[Castro] No. I would not say there has been pressure, but there has been interest in this problem being solved. Many people are very interested, and they have communicated this to us. They would like the problem to be solved, but no one is the winner in these matters.

[Reporter] Could you mention any specific country?

[Castro] I do not want to name any specific country because they might get offended. They might not want to speak to me if they heard that I was telling the press everything they told me.

[Reporter] Commander, you mentioned that sending Cubans to Guantanamo violates the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base agreements. Will Cuba use this argument at some point in time?

[Castro] We mentioned that this was just one of the problems, during a review of the situation. I said today that there is a positive aspect to Clinton's decision: They have spoken of measures to discourage these emigrations for the first time. We do not agree with how he said it or with the fact that the base is being used. This just complicates the problem. It does not benefit the United States to use that base for that purpose. We are not pleased with this. We do not know [word indistinct], but this is not the main problem.

[Reporter] As far as investments in Cuba are concerned -- joint enterprises, etc. -- has this situation affected possible investments in any way?

[Castro] I have not received any information on important effects. So, far...[pauses] Of course, when it comes to investments, the best thing is peace and security.

[Reporter] In addition to trying to end the blockade, is Cuba working in any other way to alleviate this situation? Is there anything in the immediate future that could solve or ameliorate the effects of the blockade from an internal point of view?

[Castro] We now must make great efforts to preserve what we have and to try and improve on it. However, this is not easy under the present blockade conditions. Many people are putting forth their greatest effort. We are striving for everyone to put forth their greatest effort to improve. We have seen some progress. The people cannot imagine how harmful it is, the full burden of the blockade. The blockade would not be so harsh if the USSR and the Socialist bloc still existed.

[Reporter, in English with passage by passage translation into Spanish] Mr. President, I am from NBC News. I want to ask you about Guantanamo: Analysts believe that Guantanamo could become a flashpoint for both nations. U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry warned Cuba to be careful about allowing Cubans to enter the base perimeter.

[Castro] It would be better if he did not advise us on our actions. We do not want to complicate matters. Our goal is to search for ways to improve the situation and to find a solution. I do not understand what that warning means. It could be seen as negative, if it was meant to intimidate. That is not good language to be using right now. He may be concerned about rumors that people wanted to enter the base. Some were even trying to travel and enter with the hope that from the base [words indistinct] it was logical to go directly to the base. Some people were thinking along those lines. We have not encouraged this in any way; rather, we have taken measures to reinforce the measures already in place to avoid any such attempts there.

[Reporter] I understand that, Mr. President. However, the last time Cubans were sent to the United States -- for example, those sent to Fort Chafee -- there were problems. There were riots in Atlanta. Ed Ravel announced that accommodations for up to 60,000 Cubans are being set up in Guantanamo.

[Castro] They have plenty of land for that.

[Reporter] Do you think the time has come for quiet diplomacy to resolve this crisis?

[Castro] I addressed quiet diplomacy just a few minutes ago. Even so, there are certain things that we must express publicly, our position and our view of the problems that have been created and of what has been happening. We are within the framework of quiet diplomacy. We are more discreet than the present administration.

[Reporter] Commander, some of the Cuban people I have spoken to in the streets say that they want to leave because they do not have jobs, food, gasoline, because they have no future here, and because they no longer believe in socialism. Do you understand their feelings? Or do you resent them leaving?

[Castro] No. I understand. It hurts me, of course. However, I have pointed out another reality: There is a strategy to suffocate the country, defeat it by hunger and illness. This has, of course, created difficult situations. What we have done to guarantee everyone a minimum income and to meet everyone's minimum needs has not been enough. It is a hard and difficult situation. Our people's attitude was different when the economic situation was different. Surveys show that many have said that they would not leave Cuba if things were as they were in the '80s. This is logical and human nature, considering the conditions of the special period.

[Reporter] What about the older loyalists? Those who defended the Revolution and did not leave in the '80s? Those who have defended the Revolution and now, many years later, see that the dollar and foreign tourists are here and that so many other things that you abolished at the beginning of your Revolution have come full circle?

[Castro] Of course, these things did not exist when we could afford not to have them, when we did not have to take them into account. We have not changed our ideas or our wishes. We favor equality and a more ample social justice, and this situation creates certain privileges. They are real. But the consequences of not accepting certain privileges can be even more harmful. Under these circumstances, which...

[Reporter, interrupting] Then, would you accept a full free market economy in line with that thinking?

[Castro] I would not say that we could solve all our problems with a full free market right now. We are studying the experiences of Vietnam and China, what they call the socialist market. We are studying all those mysteries...[pauses to chuckle] and all those [words indistinct]. In today's world and under the current circumstance, we must sacrifice some of our wishes and some of our ideals. We must stop hoping that some of the things we are doing today we will be able to do in the future. We will always defend the principles of social justice and equality. We will not be able to do as much as we would like to do. We must do what we can.

[Reporter] Mr. President, the Pentagon is supposed to deploy a few thousand more U.S. soldiers to Guantanamo over the next few days. Does Cuba see this as a threat to the island's security in any way?

[Castro] They announced publicly that they would increase personnel in light of developments, to fulfill a mission that has no military significance. We already know that they will increase the number of people there. They have made the gesture of reporting it.

[Reporter] Do you believe that they do not have military intentions?

[Castro] Yes. There is no military intention. The truth is that the base itself, from a military point of view, is of relative value. The Pentagon has various options, some much more efficient than that base. The base has become a political problem, an instrument to humiliate us and nothing more. The base does not have great military value. I do not think it would be the right strategy to smuggle people onto the base to organize an aggression against Cuba. Nor do I think its objective is to intimidate us. That is my sincere point of view.

[Reporter] Commander, the Clinton administration hopes that this crisis will force your hand to step down.

[Castro] Clinton may believe this. I do not know what Clinton thinks. It would not harm me, personally. [chuckles] I do not know if his wishes toward me are as noble as that. [chuckles]

[Reporter] Has it been easy to follow Clinton's position around this crisis? Or has it been contradictory, as some analysts say in the United States?

[Castro] No, it has not been too difficult. However, I am disappointed by the fact that the head of the Cuban-American Foundation has been in the White House discussing U.S. foreign policy decisions. Where is U.S. pride and the sense of honor? I thought mafia heads like this one were not welcome to discuss important foreign policy decisions. That was very disappointing to me.

[Reporter] Commander, in your opinion, what influence could the attitude of the Cuban community in Miami have in boosting a solution to this problem?

[Castro] They are concerned. They have been affected by all these measures. I know that many people there are interested in finding solutions which could have an influence. Mas Canosa did horrible things to the Cuban community. He has affected a large part of that community. He has affected relatives here, as well as many other people, with the policy that he is proposing. He is talking about a blockade. He is talking about an invasion. These are words of a madman. Wouldn't it be better to send him to a hospital?

[Reporter] Do you think the protests in Miami against all these latest measures will continue to increase?

[Castro] I am not up to date on protests in Miami. I have only heard that there have been some protests. However, I am sure that the awareness of the people in Miami, the Cubans in Miami, is increasing.

[Reporter] Comrade Fidel, what advice could you give to the Clinton administration at this time?

[Castro] That they be level-headed; that they analyze the situation seriously; and that they seek realistic and fair solutions to this problem, solutions that would benefit the United States and Cuba. That is the only recommendation I have to offer. And to wish him a better birthday next time. [crowd laughs]