Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-95-028-S Daily Report 1 Feb 1995 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Mexican Newspaper Interviews Fidel Castro

Part VII Views U.S. Immigration Policy

PA0402121895 Mexico City EL SOL DE MEXICO in Spanish 1 Feb 95 Section A, pp 1, 20 PA0402121895 Mexico City EL SOL DE MEXICO Spanish BFN [Part VII of nine-part "exclusive" interview with President Fidel Castro by EL SOL DE MEXICO Director General Mario Vazquez Rana in Havana; date not given -- first three paragraphs are EL SOL DE MEXICO introduction]

[FBIS Translated Text] Havana, Cuba -- When the exodus began and we saw videos of groups of Cubans leaving their country aboard flimsy vessels, the world was certain that things had worsened in Cuba. Nevertheless, the government explained that the situation had been provoked and that there was no reason why it should serve as a coast guard for the North Americans.

Gradually, the veil was drawn back and, in fact, the Cuban economic situation was bad, and it had gotten worse due to some unilateral U.S. decisions, among them, denying visas to those who had been waiting for eight years even though they had proven they had relatives living in the United States who would be responsible for them.

The emotional arguments by both sides were followed by negotiations, then an agreement, and finally, the end of the exodus. Now, the United States is racking its brains not knowing what to do with the thousands of rafters who in the interim have been left in limbo, better said, in Panama or Guantanamo, where they are neither immigrants nor emigrants, but victims of the blockade and foolishness.

[Vasquez] Mr. President, do the people who want to leave Cuba have economic or political reasons for doing so?

[Castro] "Initially, Mario, the emigrations were essentially political. First among the persons who wanted to leave Cuba were the Batista supporters. Hundreds, thousands of people associated with the Batista government and who committed crimes and murders and who stole a lot of money, all those people left for Miami. They were the first.

"Afterward, when the revolutionary laws were issued, many who were affected by the revolutionary laws left. Later, the emigration was basically an economic phenomenon.

"It is as if I ask you: Mario, the Mexicans leaving for the United States, are they leaving for political reasons or economic reasons? Beginning at a certain point, the great majority of those emigrating to the United States were doing so for economic reasons, but the political pretext was good for them, because it granted them a privileged situation, since the mere arrival in the United States through any means gave them the right to remain there.

"For a time, the United States granted visas, almost unlimitedly, to travel to the United States. They wanted to deprive us of technicians and skilled personnel, but at some point they changed the policy and significantly restricted the legal entries; on the other hand, they applauded and greatly promoted the illegal departures, because they served as the basis for propaganda against the revolution.

"All of this created a special situation: Cuba was the only country in the world whose citizens could go to the United States and automatically receive residence status and aid. That was an element that encouraged illegal departures, but the fundamental reasons for emigrating were economic.

"Now then, when the situation became much more serious in the economic arena, because after the disappearance of the USSR the economic situation became very difficult, creating problems and demanding big sacrifices from the population, it can be mathematically proven, with statistics, that the number of persons trying to illegally leave was increasing annually.

"In other words, you can mathematically show how, on the one hand, as the situation became more serious, the number of those who tried to illegally leave Cuba was increasing.

"On the other hand, a tremendous incentive was created in the United States by organizations to help those who wanted to illegally leave the country. They could steal a vessel or an airplane, commit a murder or a crime, and they would be received with much publicity, with many honors in the United States, as an element of propaganda and destabilization against Cuba.

"Nevertheless, a migration agreement existed by virtue of which they should grant 20,000 visas annually. In those years they granted less than 1,000, and this number was decreasing to 900, 800, every year. It was decreasing. In the past few years, they have granted approximately 800 to 900 visas.

"Here are the exact figures about what I am explaining: in 1990, 2,060 tried to leave; in 1991, 8,093 tried; in 1992, 9,584; in 1993, 15,772; in 1994, 15,067 tried to leave in just the first half of the year; in total, 50,000 people tried to leave in those years. The numbers grew as the economic situation became more difficult and the blockade became harsher.

"The data of the immigration accord show that in 1990 they granted 1,098 visas out of 20,000; in 1991, they granted 1,376; in 1992, 910; in 1993, 964; and in 1994, 544. In all, they have granted 4,892 visas over the past four and a half years, during which time they should have granted approximately 90,000 visas. In other words, they were giving out fewer visas each time and were receiving an increased number of people arriving there without a visa. During that same period, 13,275 people arrived illegally in the United States. All radio stations, all propaganda media instigated the illegal departures.

"Some 51,076 had attempted to leave illegally and we prevented 37,081 from leaving, so we had become the guardians of their borders. No country has ever done this, because you, Mexicans, are not the ones guarding the U.S. border. They are the ones guarding their border. Nor do Dominicans guard the border between that country and the Mona Passage; it is the North Americans who are guarding it. And the Haitians, it is not the Government of Haiti; it is the U.S. Coast Guard that is trying to prevent them from leaving.

"Here things were the other way around. They were promoting the violation of the law and the illegal entries, and we were making a great effort to prevent those illegal departures from occurring.

"Then, when any incident occurred, like what happened with a boat because the workers of three other towboats tried to prevent them from taking it, resulting in an accident, this was used to wage a great campaign against Cuba.

"Our Coast Guard had the order that when a boat loaded with people was spotted at sea leaving the country, they would not try to intercept it in order to avoid accidents. Cuba was blamed for anything that happened.

"We warned them that this situation could not continue. It was then when we said: `We cannnot continue to guard the U.S. border.'

"We warned them until we adopted a policy to ease off: well gentlemen, we will no longer guard, we will stop being the coast guards of the United States.

"A high number of people began to emigrate using their own means. Then they became aware of the problem and began to come up with things to prevent it. The responsibility for what was going on fell entirely on the United States.

"Imagine this being organized in Mexico and the U.S. Government and everyone instigating Mexicans to cross the border with the assurance that they will immediately receive automatic residence in the United States; or that this offer is made to the Dominicans, or any other Latin American country. Well, the United States would then be filled with Latin Americans. And that is what they were doing with us, and it was the reason that sparked the crisis we mentioned.

"The reasons behind this are economic. The economic blockade is the fundamental factor behind the illegal departures. That is why we made our proposal. The U.S. economic blockade must end.

"Many surveys were made and many people were consulted, and over 90 percent of the people have left the country due to economic problems.

"There is another phenomenon: many people had relatives there, their relatives claimed them, but the United States did not award the visas it shhould have granted based on the existing agreement.

"Since said agreement went into effect, between 1985 and 1994, they should have granted 160,000 visas on the basis of family reunification and legal emigration, but they only granted 11,222.

"In less than five years, they in turn received 13,275 illegals, like I explained. That was the game, and it forced us into adopting the measures we took, Mario.

"They were hard, but we were forced to take them. And that is what they know, that we cannot continue to be the guardians of the U.S. border.

"We now have an agreement. We must see how they fulfill it. We have to observe how it progresses. This agreement was no easy job, I must say to you. It was complex. We are watching how they fulfill their part."

[Vazquez] Are you satisfied with the terms of this agreement?

[Castro] "Yes. I think that after a great deal of discussion, we reached a very reasonable agreement.

"We have fulfilled it strictly, because, indeed, 150,000 people were left here awaiting compliance with the preceding agreement. There are people who spent eight years expecting a visa, Mario. It is a desperate situation, but we are watching to see what the conduct of the U.S. Government will be.

[Vasquez] Recently, rumors have been circulating that the Cuban rafters who arrived in Panama are apparently going to leave Panama in a few days. What is you opinion about this? What will Cuba's position be regarding this issue?"

[Castro] "Well, that is a problem the U.S. Government created, which we do not have to solve. The persons in those places who have asked for permission to return have been granted permission to return. Several hundred of them in Guantanamo base have asked for permission to return.

"Now, more than 700 of them have crossed minefields to return to Cuba. There have been accidents, deaths, and injuries. In a way, the U.S. sentries on base have neglected their vigilance knowing that those fields were mined.

"Our soldiers have saved many people's lives. When night fell and our soldiers detected a large number of persons entering the minefields, they, using loudspeakers, asked them to wait -- because it is impossible to enter a minefield at night -- and in the morning the sappers, at great risk to their own lives, got them out.

"Approximately 700 persons have crossed the minefields to return to Cuba. We have received and given attention to all of them. The heroic efforts of our border guards has kept the number of victims to a minimum.

"Approximately 500 persons have asked for permission to return, and permission has been granted to them. They arrive little by little because we cannot assimilate all of them at once. We cannot allow a massive exodus in reverse. Every week, a number of those who asked for permission to return arrive here.

"As I have said, the United States has neglected its vigilance. I believe the idea of reducing their vigilance has been partly intentional so that those person wanting to return may do so, at great personal risk. In my opinion, that was intentional. We have observed that.

"They have received some women and children. We have not objected to that despite the fact that it goes against the agreement. But we have not wanted to object to them receiving the women and children. Some of them were taken despite the fact that we took steps and prohibited anyone from using their own means to take children. But some managed to take their children during the initial days, or in some other way. There are 3,500 km of coastline."

[Vasquez] Mr. President, does the agreement include anything regarding those persons in Guantanamo or in Panama?

[Castro] "Strictly speaking, there are no differences made. In the agreement we spoke of discussing through diplomatic channels the cases of those persons who wanted to return to Cuba and, up to this moment, we have strictly enforced that.

"We have facilitated the return of those persons who have expressed through diplomatic channels their wish to return to Cuba.

"It is a problem that is present. I do not know what ideas they have, but without a doubt, those persons who are in the camps have great hpoes that they will be taken to the United States.

"Since the United States has already begun to admit women, children, and persons in other categories, that, in a certain way, stimulates illegal departures. But they are pledged to discourage illegal entry into the United States. In a certain way, technically, the United States has broken that agreement.

"But since we are dealing with cases that involve women and children, or sick persons, we have raised no objections. There are still are few thousand cases whose final solution is not yet clear."

[Vasquez] Fidel, what would happen if the United States said: we are going to include those persons who are at Guantanamo in our quota for visas?

[Castro] "We would not accept that under any circumstances. That would be a trap, because then those who have remained here, who have obeyed the law, to whom we have said not to depart illegally, would be left waiting.

"Moreover, we stopped the exodus without the use of arms or violence. There is a phrase we included in the agreement. It is not theirs, it is our phrase: `by persuasive means.' We proposed that phrase in the agreement because we were not going to use force.

"We used the persuasive method a lot. We gave them time. We said: Pack your belongings. There is an agreement now. Now there is a possibility to travel, but without the least bit of violence. And the departures stopped completely.

"They have to solve that problem without encouraging new illegal departures, because if they encourage illegal exits they will surely be creating the former situation once again.

"They have to act very tactfully, and they cannot create anew the problem we have mentioned because then it would be their responsibility."

"I think our cooperation is essential for resolving this. We have not objected to the departure of women or children, although technically, this is in contradiction with what the agreement establishes.

"However, if they open up and begin taking many people there, they would be recreating the problem, which right now is under control, and the people who are acting in a disciplined fashion and are prepared to wait for their visas and those who want to emigrate but do not receive visas would be encouraged to use illegal means.

"In resolving the problem of those who are there, they must take into consideration the terms of the agreement. They have the obligation of not encouraging illegal departures."

[Vazquez] Mr. President, do you think the U.S. intervention in Haiti resolved the essence of the problem?

[Castro] "I am categorically against this type of intervention. I do not believe the political problems of a country have to be resolved with foreign troops and interventions.

"I think the sovereignty principle is sacred and in this world, we cannot give ourselves the luxury of renouncing the principle of sovereignty.

"I have already spoken to you about the UN Security Council policy and the interventionist trend unleashed there, which led to such things as the case of Somalia, where the North Americans learned a lesson from a very poor country enduring difficult problems.

"In a trigger-happy fashion, they sent there a military force, and they had problems. If they were to take that road, they someday would have to invade all of Africa where hunger and deserts are growing.

"In spite of hegemonism, there is enough power in the world to struggle, and nationalist feelings are very strong. This feeling has to be backed by a right that guarantees sovereignty and independence.

"I think the Mexicans, better than anybody else, can understand that the implementation of the principle on whose basis the intervention in Haiti was carried out is infamous.

"Imagine that you, a big country like Mexico, a country of brave and struggling people, were to someday have a serious problem, a serious political complication.

"It is you who must resolve the problem. We cannot imagine UN or U.S. Army troops going to Mexico to resolve the problem. That would be crazy.

"Imagine if France, a nuclear country, or Russia, someday were to have some kind of problem, domestic wars, let's say. Can you imagine this principle being implemented? It is not possible.

"I am sure there is not one single Mexican in favor of outsiders coming in, of a military intervention, to resolve Mexican problems and to establish peace, order, democracy, and I don't know how many other things.

"Nobody knows how long foreign troops will remain in Haiti, a small country.

"Aristide knows I think. I appreciate Aristide very much. When I spoke with him at the Rio Summit, I told him: The ideal situation is for the people themselves to resolve the problem, because when a country gains stability based on the presence of foreign troops, it will always need foreign troops to maintain that stability. What will happen there when the troops leave? How long are the troops going to remain there?

"I am sure there is no Mexican who knows history, loves the fatherland, and has political awareness who could be in favor of the intervention formula for resolving a country's political problems.

"Brazil had problems and resolved them, so did Argentina. Chile had problems and it is resolving them. Bolivia, Uruguay, and Paraguay had them and all have been resolved. In the end, there was no need for foreign troops. That would have been a huge error.

"The people do not need intervention. It would be terrible if in this unipolar and hegemonic world, a powerful country armed to the teeth like the United States were to make use of an intervention right at the world level.

"This would be crazy and also volatile. This is why I defend the principle that nowadays sovereignty is as important or more important than ever. Without this principle of sovereignty and independence there can be no peace and no future for our countries."