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FBIS-LAT-95-028-S Daily Report 2 Feb 1995 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Mexican Newspaper Interviews Fidel Castro

Part VIII Reviews Regional Integration

PA0802003195 Mexico City EL SOL DE MEXICO in Spanish 2 Feb 95 Section A, pp 1, 20 PA0802003195 Mexico City EL SOL DE MEXICO Spanish BFN [Part VIII 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 -- Talking to Fidel Castro is like opening a book that was started more than 30 years ago and whose last page is yet to be written. His political, economic, geopolitical, and social experiences are so numerous that, regardless of whether or not one agrees with him, it is always interesting to glance at his views.

Fidel has a different view of what NAFTA, Latin American integration, and Latin America's relationship with the United States should be.

Humorously, he relates a juicy anecdote on how and why he applauded a speech by former Panamanian President Guillermo Endara, with whom he had no friendship or ideological ties.

[Vazquez] By the year 2000, only you, the king of Spain, and Menem, if he is reelected president of Argentina, will have attended 10 Ibero-American Summits.

What problems do you expect will be resolved by then?

[Castro] "Several aspects have been implemented following the summits, including several education, health, and cultural programs, which can be implemented with the cooperation of the Ibero-American countries.

"However, I believe the most significant outcome of the summits has been the rapprochement among our countries. Perhaps the summits stirred the concern and zeal of the United States and helped create the idea of the Summit of the Americas.

"Perhaps, something useful will result from these summits. I would hope that Latin American governments became more independent and aware of our interests and our common destinies!

"However, all of this will depend to a great extent on the evolution of the world economy and on future events. It will depend on the policy followed by the United States and by those who rule that country.

"If the United States continues its policy of increasing interest rates, it will continue causing serious problems for Latin Americans.

"The foreign debt problem can reemerge again and with great strength. It has not been resolved: Programs accumulate, and at times, governments seem to be impotent in light of the serious situation they face, therefore, there are many factors involved.

"There are many doubts about the future. You must have some doubts about the nature of NAFTA yourselves. You told me yesterday that you believed NAFTA will be beneficial in the long run, that you are certain it will bring advantages.

"There are others who want to join NAFTA. The Chileans want to join NAFTA, but from this partnership between the beggar and the millionaire, and from this concept as viewed by the Americans who tell the entire hemisphere about NAFTA, no one knows what will happen because it all remains a mystery.

"I have talked to economists and different people and have not yet heard a consistent theory on what will happen in the coming years, particularly if the current course is not changed.

"No one knows what will happen in the world either. I believe great blocs will be created and they will compete for markets. The United States will try to form a large bloc with the countries in its backyard. The Asians will try to unite, and the Europeans are already uniting. I believe they will compete among themselves. I am a genuine supporter of Latin American integration and Latin American unity.

"I would go even further to say that I support not only an economic, but also a political union. I prefer integration among the Latin Americans, among us, as an initial step instead of the integration of the Latin American economy into the economy of the United States, because the United States is a very strong country and will reap all of the advantages and benefits.

"Take, for example, airlines: No one knows in whose hands they will end up. However, I believe they will end up in the hands of the United States, along with telecommunications, insurance companies, financial institutions, banks, and many other sectors.

"The economies of our countries will be left unprotected as a result of this radical change that has occurred between the time of Raul Prebish (Chilean economist) and today's neoliberalism advocated by the United States and the IMF, which endorse the total privatization of companies and services and the absolute disenfranchising of the economies of developing countries. I do not and cannot agree with these ideas, because the consequences can be tragic.

"If all tariffs between the United States and the rest of Latin America were eliminated tomorrow, I believe the United States -- with its experience, technology, patents, and financial resources -- would seize control of the strategic and fundamental sectors of the hemispheric economy.

"I had thought NAFTA would attract many investments to Mexico -- there have been a few -- because with the elimination of customs barriers many people from other regions would want to enter the U.S. market which logically would attract investment to Mexico.

"Although it is true that investment in Mexico has grown, we still do not know how much.

"I also ask myself: Will large Mexican chain stores be able to compete with the large U.S. chain stores?

"I have the impression that many things will disappear and are going to fall into U.S. hands. So you see, the destiny of this hemisphere is still unclear. We still do not know if we are going to be servants of that great integration, if our industries will be contaminated, or if we are going to do the lesser jobs, or if we will gain anything in the long run.

"There are other problems that should be analyzed. All the issues surrounding intellectual property must be analyzed, because they own almost all the copyrights, many of the copyrights, and they are also the owners of many research centers.

"Their scientific and technological hegemony is tremendous. They have taken the best brains in the world, even the best Latin American brains, the most intelligent people. So, what is going to happen?

"This may not be immediately apparent, but in a short time our problems could increase and worsen. No one knows what might happen between now and the year 2000.

"I can assure you, Mario, that we will not be able to do much about it. There is not much that the king of Spain and Menem will be able to do. It is something that all Latin Americans must do together.

"On the other hand, I am not looking forward to the year 2000. I see it as a distant date.

"I have been in this job, this task, this position for years, and I can say that I am not especially interested in what my role will be. [Llevo muchos anos en este trabajo, en esta tarea, en este oficio y no tengo, digamos, especial interes sobre mi papel.] I believe we can all do something together and that our peoples will decide what to do.

"Our country can continue to make contributions to the extent that it is capable of resisting, to the extent that it can find formulas to resolve the problems it faces today, to the extent that it is capable of handling its difficulties, and, above all, if our prestige grows.

"And it will grow, because the fact that our country has resisted a blockade for 35 years is really remarkable. It is really remarkable that our country has continued to resist and struggle alone and that its morale has remained high.

"Now, because of the blockade, our economy must recover under very difficult conditions; we must increase our production. We must achieve results, and I believe we are already seeing some results. It will all depend on us, our ability to fight and to maintain our unity around several important factors.

"But it is very difficult to predict what will happen. As I said: Latin America's future is very uncertain. I would need a crystal ball to know what will happen in the year 2000.

"It has always seemed to me that they realize what such a situation would entail for their so-called security.

"They have seen what is happening the world over -- this is happening today to all wealthy countries. The phenomena of migration and tremendous pressure of migration from the Third World on the most developed countries: They see this happening, there is growing concern. This is creating xenophobia, not only in the United States, but also in Europe and many countries. It is already causing fear.

"I repeat that the best advice that can be given to the U.S. Administration, Republicans and Democrats, to both of them, is that it act with prudence and common sense and that it should understand this, because it would achieve nothing by giving financial support to Mexico while destroying the authority of its rulers. The only thing it will do is waste money with the crazy conditions it has outlined."

[Vazquez] Mr. President, have you met with President Zedillo yet? What was your impression?

[Castro] "Mario, I tell you with great sincerity I have a very good opinion of him. I already told you I listened to his speech with much attention, a brief speech. I think he was impartial, serene, not arrogant.

"This is why I view him as an unpretentious man who is humble and not arrogant and who has encountered political difficulties of various kinds that had been accumulated -- 1994 was a tremendous year for you from the standpoint of political developments -- and Zedillo's behavior is in keeping with his words.

"He is working to find a peaceful political solution to the conflict in Chiapas. He is currently trying to establish the necessary political coordination and unity in Mexico. I think it was an important success to have achieved this agreement with different parties; he achieved this at the right time, and he is now facing serious difficulties and goals such as the problems related to the financial crisis facing Mexico.

"I think he will be successful if he continues to work like this with the support of everyone -- national unity is very important -- the cooperation of various groups [factores] within Mexico.

"We are very interested, not only because of our friendship with and fondness for Mexico, but because of our own interests. It is advisable for us, and we need stability in Mexico, development in Mexico, progress in Mexico. This is our view.

"I already told you I always had doubts about this free trade agreement -- I am referring to the free trade agreement for all of Latin America -- I have examined its prospects, where it was headed.

"When a journalist once asked me about the Mexican free trade agreement I said I respected Mexico's decisions, that this was a Mexican issue, that only Mexicans knew what is most advisable for them, that we could not behave as judges and much less as analysts of the advantages and disadvantages of the free trade agreement for Mexico.

"We had to respect Mexico's will and whatever Mexicans decided in this regard. We thought that anything that would be useful and contributed to the industrialization and development of Mexico would also be useful for us, for the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

"I would have preferred Latin American integration during a first phase as the main issue, and then a search for integration, as much as would be possible and with a much greater strength, with more powerful resources, with a superior negotiating position, for negotiating even with the United States and Canada.

"I did not like very much seeing a Latin American country do that on its own. I had the feeling that it was drawing away a little from Latin America.

"I was pleased to hear Mexico say on many occasions that it would not depend exclusively on the free trade agreement, that its strategy would not exclusively depend on trade with the United States, but that it would try to develop its economic relations with Southeast Asia, with Asia, with the rest of Latin America, and with Europe. I read on many occasions statements by Mexican authorities that they would not bet everything on the free trade agreement.

"I thought it was interesting that if there was a free trade agreement it had to be matched [calzarse] with broad relations with the rest of the world and the rest of Latin America. That was our view.

"Of course, we want the best for Mexico as it walks down a new path, one that is unexplored and about which it is difficult to make predictions.

"The most difficult thing in the world right now is making predictions. I think that life, that experience will teach us what each one of these things will yield and what the trends will be in the near future, but this will come later.

"What we must think about today is how Mexico will overcome its differences and hope that it will do so. I think it can; this is what we wish the most."

[Vazquez] Mr. President, Cuba is taking gigantic steps toward free trade, just as China started to do some years ago. Why is the United States treating the two countries differently?

[Castro] "There is a double standard of behavior, a double standard of moral values. I think that their policy toward China is absolutely correct, and I think that the only way to live in today's world is through cooperation, not confrontation.

"But there is one difference. China is more distant, but they are everywhere. China is a large country, an enormous market, a powerful country in which they see many economic and political possibilities.

"Some U.S. citrizens have said: `At any rate, the Cuban issue is not as important, because Cuba would not be as large a market.'

"I have heard that argument used, without regard to principles or ethics, on more than one occasion. The U.S. government have used it.

"They are implementing a similar policy with Vietnam today.

"That is the difference in China's case. A powerful country, a country with great resources, a country that will become a world trade power, and U.S. businessmen are struggling to get there, and the whole world is struggling, because the entire world wants to invest in China.

"Cuba is a small country in this hemisphere that will not yield, that is resisting, that is struggling. They thought that the collapse of the Socialist Bloc was the right time to liquidate us for good. They are simply treating us differently and are intensifying their hostility and blockade.

"This is aside from what we were talking about previously, that the Cuban issue has become a domestic political problem for the United States.

"There are other theories. They sometimes talk about corroding the revolution and socialism from within, and perhaps they harbor hopes that socialism will disappear in China or Vietnam.

"We would accept the challenge of peaceful coexistence with the United States; we would even accept the challenge of investment. We believe in the country, in the fate of the country, in the will and determination of the country. We do not fear the challenge of coexistence.

"Some argue that in order to liquidate the revolution it would be better to end the blockade and establish normal economic relations with Cuba, like those with other countries, and the revolution would grow weak and disappear one day. We are willing to accept this.

"But well, Mario, this question must also be posed to the North Americans, because what you said is very logical. There are two patterns, one for certain countries and another for others. We are now the only country facing a blockade."

[Vazquez] Mr. President, during the invasion of Panama, Noriega and the PRD [Democratic Revolutionary Party] were both condemned. The PRD won the elections irrefutably. Does this confirm that the invasion of Panama was a political mistake by the Americans?

[Castro] "It was an act of arrogance. These are the consequences of interventionism, of not respecting sovereignty, of not allowing the peoples to solve their own problems.

"It is really paradoxical, and it really calls my attention to the fact that only five years later, the friends of Torrijos, the Torrijist party, the one that struggled to reach the agreements with Carter to recover sovereignty over the Canal, are now back in government.

"It is there; it stands as a lesson of history, although we must recognize the government the North Americans installed there played a certain nationalist role.

"I remember a very interesting development when I was in Guadalajara: Endara was there -- I saw him for the first time -- he made very strong and categorical statements that on this day and that hour sovereignty over the Canal would be recovered, the facilities would revert to Panama, that he would not yield an inch.

"I was really afraid the North Americans would take advantage of that period to eliminate the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, and I must admit that Endara honored his words in Guadalajara. He said no, that he would not yield in this regard, he said this in such a way, so categorically, that the most unexpected thing happened: I started to applaud.

"Imagine, the others saw me applauding a statement that deserved to be applauded, and they applauded too.

"Then Endara approached me; he was moved and pleased by my gesture to applaud. Of course, I might develop a liking for Endara: He was there on a U.S. base when the invasion took place. I viewed the Endara government as one installed there by the North Americans, but when I saw his attitude, I did not mind applauding Endara at all, something that I never thought would happen in my life.

"I think that history will have to undoubtedly recognize, regardless of how he got there, of the U.S. influence, that Endara did not surrender the sovereignty of the Canal, that he did not eliminate the Torrijos-Carter Treaties. I must honestly recognize this role.

"I saw him later. I spoke to him in Cartagena toward the end of his mandate and reminded him of that, of his statement in Guadalajara. But I would have never imagined, after that invasion, that I would applaud Endara one day.

"Most important than anything was the sovereignty of Panama, the future of Panama, its independence, and if there is a man in that position who makes a categorical statement in this regard, he must be applauded.

"This is an unusual story, and I noticed he was sincerely moved when he stood up after the session concluded, and he came to thank me. We have to be fair, right?"

(To be continued)