Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-95-131 Daily Report 9 Jul 1995 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Castro Election Day News Conference

PA0907210095 Havana Radio and Television Networks in Spanish, 1533 GMT 9 Jul 95 PA0907210095 Havana Radio and Television Networks Spanish BFN [News conference by Cuban President Fidel Castro with unidentified reporters at the District 266 polling place in Havana -- live relay]

[FBIS Translated Text] [Reporter] Good morning.

[Castro] I can see you are making a tremendous noise.

[Reporter] I want to ask you some questions on behalf of Cuban Television.

[Castro] You are certainly anxious, young woman. [laughter heard in background]

[Reporter] The nomination of candidates was great; it was wholly supported by the people. Do you think that will also be the case on this occasion?

[Castro] You mean the previous one. Well, I asked about it. [Words indistinct] the assemblies and many people have told me that participation here in Havana was even greater, meaning the participation in assemblies.

[Reporter] For nomination.

[Castro] Yes, they were quite public, serious, with a lot of quality. A lot of work went into this. The people worked well. That is what I know. And today is election day. I had doubts about exerting myself and going to Santiago. I would have liked to go because I was a deputy there, but it turns out this was not legal. Therefore, I could not go.

[Reporter] You had to exercise your right to vote.

[Castro] I had to -- here.

[Reporter] Do you know about the candidates' biographies?

[Castro] Yes. I read them carefully, and I also requested some references. It was not an easy choice.

[Reporter] Commander, the struggle for sovereignty ...

[Castro, interrupting] There were only two, and there was no woman. Too bad. When there is a woman, I do not read the biography. I vote for her.

[Reporter] Why do you vote quickly for the woman?

[Castro] Almost on principle. To participate in the search for equality. I am quite aware of this.

[Reporter] Commander...

[Castro, interrupting] But there was no woman [words indistinct].

[Reporter] Commander, it has been said these elections will send a message to the United States. Do you agree? What can you tell us about this?

[Castro] Well, this has nothing to do with the United States. It seems the Helms-Burton Law and the barbaric things they did have helped achieve results in these elections -- or at least I saw a lot of assemblies and conferences. I heard Alarcon speak many times. He knows this law by heart. He knows it better than I do, and debates have been extensively held on this topic to such an extreme that, one day I talked [words indistinct] Helms and those people actually helped the elections.

There must be a position of rejection, but we cannot forget we currently face a very difficult sitution. These have been difficult times. We cannot exactly specify how much good it did [words indistinct]. It is impossible so the [words indistinct] totally unpredictable. I do not dare make an estimate, but I certainly have confidence in the country, their level of awareness and [passage indistinct] combat against these elections, threats of new laws, the criminal policy being implemented against a whole nation. I believe those factors exercise influence but, until we see the results [words indistinct].

[Reporter] [Words indistinct] have voted.

[Reporter] Yes, commander. Right now 90 percent of the people in the polling place have cast their ballot -- this polling place -- and more than 70 percent in this district.

[Castro] Let us see what percentage [words indistinct].

[Reporter] No, Commander, I called the commission, but they are still receiving reports.

[Castro] [Words indistinct] electoral commission?

[Reporter] Ninety percent at the commision level.

[Castro] I am not included. I had not come. [chuckles]

[Reporter] We thought you would come earlier.

[Castro] No. I specifically [words indistinct]. Besides, I knew you were all here. I already told Susana: Susana, do not go early.

[Reporter] Yet we came early.

[Castro] No, you got here early. I got here around noon.

[Reporter] Commander, we have ended a half year in 1994 [as heard]. A half year ...

[Castro, interrupting] Do you own the media [words indistinct]. Go on, go on, go on. In the middle of ...

[Reporter, interrupting] No. The television -- you know it is very aggressive, and this is live coverage.

[Castro] Yes, you have brought the [words indistinct].

[Reporter] Commander, the young men you see there have been here since yesterday. They were at the Karl Marx Theater, and they came here. They have not slept.

[Castro] What young men?

[Reporter] The young men -- all of them, all of them. The whole television crew.

[Castro] They could not sleep?

[Reporter] Well, they had to cover this. They were at the Caribbean Festival.

[Castro] Oh, well, they were doing something else. Do not blame the elections.

[Reporter] No, no way. Commander, I wanted to ask you a question: Six months into the year, what evaluation do you make from the country's economic viewpoint? What is your evaluation?

[Castro] Well, an economic evaluation.... [pauses] I would say that there is a much better spirit, and people are working in general. All the cadres are much more....[pauses] Obviously, the results are not noticeable, but a certain recovery is mentioned -- within what is possible, because you must not forget that we are working in extremely difficult conditions, a serious shortage of resources [words indistinct] struggling from the subjective viewpoint, struggling better, making more demands; spirit is still high.

You must not forget it all happened suddenly, unexpectedly you might say. Relatively unexpected. For some time we expected these events, but entrance into the special period was too abrupt. People were groggy, like in a boxing match -- one, two, three heavy blows -- and that results in grogginess. [Words indistinct] more or less, but I can say the revolutionaries' spirit is higher; a great effort has been exerted. We still have some accumulated effects. For example, [passage indistinct] nevertheless an important activity, but it accumulated [words indistinct] more metals for the sugar mills and, subjectively, [words indistinct]. This lifted our morale and [words indistinct] next sugar harvest and the people's effort is evident, there have been other victims.

[Reporter] What about other sectors, commander?

[Castro] Things have improved in other sectors -- some more or less. Nickel has improved a lot; oil is progressively improving. Great efforts are being exerted; all that takes time. We must drill and explore. There is an increase in the nonsugar industry this year [words indistinct] natural resources. Tomato production sustained a tremendous blow with 400 mm of rain in a few hours. It may have also affected the tobacco. It received a blow, but it improved. Remember there were heavy rains in Pinar del Rio. These are new phenomena that are taking place in nature, and this has its effects -- but nevertheless things have noticeably improved. I do not know how the rice production fared in Sancti Spiritu. You should have seen those fields. They were flooded. Referring to the sugar harvest, I forgot to tell you this year we have managed to get some resources to finance the purchase of fertilizers, herbicides, spare parts, and metals.

[Reporter] This is for the next sugar harvest?

[Castro] For the next harvest. Let me tell you, the people are full of hope concerning a relative recovery in the pineapple sector. We are desperately committed.

[Reporter] Commander, much emphasis has been placed on allocating the resources where they can be most effective.

[Castro] I have wondered how much of total resources are allocated for fertilizers. [words indistinct] At present, I do not know how much of the total of 250,000 to 300,000 arrobas was used. This is 300 percent of what had been done. Some sugarcane was not getting phosphorous or potassium. [words indistinct] Much more can be weeded manually. Several initiatives are being applied. I have been told of sugarcane fields yielding between 10,000 and 15,000 arrobas and which, now with the rehabilitation, are yielding between 50,000 to 60,000 arrobas.

There are several initiatives -- such as tilling the soil with animals, deep-soil tilling, and using some fuel for irrigation purposes -- which are being implemented. Then we got the June rains. It rained and [words indistinct]. This was better. The month of June is dry here, not anywhere else. Not much rain has fallen in the eastern areas. Some rain did fall in the past few days. Even when the weather is unfavorable, human labor in the sugarcane fields is very important. You can ask Ramon, who is familiar with that [words indistinct].

[Reporter] A three-day meeting was held recently. Can we expect better and closer control of the enterprises that handle dollars due to the emergency economy?

[Castro] As you know, plenty of meetings are held. Those who were in that meeting were journalists [words indistinct]. A serious analysis in every sense was made. The lack of efficiency, saving as much as possible, and other points were discussed. One of them was the struggle against attempts at bribery, corruption, habits that are created gradually in some people. Attitudes that run contrary to the spirit and morals of the revolution. These things cause irritation. And then there is confusion. There is everything.

Here are enterprises that are really foreign representatives' offices. There are several hundred representatives of foreign firms. The people think they are all the same. [words indistinct]. Some of these enterprises are managed by the state, and others are state-supervised. All of this is new.

I can say that in more than 30 years of trade with socialist countries there was not even a single case of bribery. Not a single one, in more than 30 years. We can attest to that.

Nevertheless, many of these phenomena start to emerge in contact with capitalism. Many people try to influence, bribe, or corrupt officials.

In addition, accounting and financial control was not much used. [words indistinct]. I can tell you that several comrades participated. I did not attend all of the meetings, which lasted three days. Nevertheless, yesterday afternoon, one of the important subjects was discussed in the afternoon of the day before yesterday. I read each of the reports presented by the ministers in charge of this area.

The Government Ministry's report is the subject mentioned earlier, corruption and all that. I had never seen such serious analyses and reports as those prepared by each of the ministers. The reports were brilliant, the reports of the National Bank, finance, economy. The commerce minister and the others, although new, are well trained. Their reports were very good. All of these subjects were discussed openly.

My impression of the meeting is that it was very good. It will naturally lead to some changes and improvements. This is a long battle, because there are thousands of people managing dollars around, including cashiers, managers. [words indistinct] They are all new to corruption. There have always been corrupt people. This has been a struggle. Management of dollars created a more difficult problem. There are new phenomena that are associated with all these measures we have taken. For instance, prostitution. But we are fighting these things. We cannot afford to say that we are not fighting. Repression and strong measures are not used, but there is unceasing activity and pressure on these things.

As for the economy, a tendency is seen in those who administer and have to do with all those things to be alert and work hard to exercise political and moral control. Not all those in those activities are stimulated. You have to stimulate people regarding, for instance, the use of electricity. This field has increased, despite the lack of sufficient resources as to availability and capacity of the plants. Workers [words indistinct]. It is as if they were receiving 50 pesos, more or less. We have to take into consideration that the peso's value has increased 300 percent. Last year, there was a time when the rate was more than 150 pesos to the dollar. The rate is now little more than 30 pesos.

Measures were taken very carefully. They were discussed once, twice, at the National Assembly. These measures have yielded results they have not yielded in any other country. These measures translate into practical, immediate results regarding production. Many people no longer want to work. The number of people who [words indistinct] has increased. The excess circulating currency had been hampering and discouraging work. Very positive occurrences are observed. There has also been much activity of people who start working as farmers one way or another and have started to receive the benefits of those measures. Many measures have been and continue to be taken in various areas.

The list of activities permitted for self-employment has been expanded. What we have to do is to be much more efficient in all branches of the work, in particular at home. Some branches of work are fundamental, such as economic associations and work with foreign investors. As you know, the state used to keep most of all [words indistinct] socialism.

[Reporter] Lage has laid great emphasis on the efficiency of state enterprises. We must struggle to make state enterprises the most efficient of the state enterprises.

[Castro] Undoubtedly, they require some more incentives. Many mixed enterprises are in trouble [words indistinct] clothing, footwear, and other things. [words indistinct] Nevertheless, there are certain state enterprises that have received some stimuli [words indistinct] oil and other activities. It is very important to give them some kind of incentive, whenever possible.

We do have to make some kind of difference, because we cannot help them all. That is impossible. Generally speaking, of course, when companies with foreign capital investment start out, they always do so with more resources. Some have their raw materials secured, or parts and components, and even working capital and fuel, and other such things that state enterprise does not usually have much control over.

State enterprise is usually struggling at a disadvantage with the others. Whenever we can do something that would seem to help, we do, but when it comes to patriotism and [word indistinct] we are not under the same conditions. All the same, we cannot give up the struggle, no matter what the conditions. Anything we can improve, we will improve. There are many, many people waiting, but we have to wait for time itself. We [words indistinct] and we do not want to seem overly optimistic.

[Reporter] Commander, in that context, what role do the ANPP delegates play?

[Castro] You know that. They are heroes, because when there were almost 4 million tons of cement here it was a lot easier. Now it is more difficult than when we had more resources. I admire the delegates of the ANPP of today. They have to face the people every day, and every day they must deal with the community's problems. There are many problems and in many areas, and we are well aware of this. The delegates are expected to solve all of them.

Here we should mention the Peoples' Councils. Now the delegates have at least the support of the councils. These councils I believe are a very important step forward, so we encourage them. The council is the united strength of a group of delegates and not just the delegate standing alone. The councils have become quite professional. Before it was just the delegates working in the community after they left their regular jobs. Surely you can imagine what it must have been like to try to see everyone's problems. That is why people burned out so quickly as delegates; it was a very difficult task.

Now the council presidents are professionals, and they can dedicate more time to the community. They can coordinate better as well. We have implemented a coordination system, and the delegate no longer has to travel so far from the municipalities. All of this is in conjunction with other factors, such as major factories and such.

[Reporter] Commander, returning to the issue of the elections. Many people in other places around the world -- both friendly and not so friendly -- criticize and demand that there should be more democracy in Cuba. What do you say to this?

[Castro] They are accustomed to another kind of democracy, more like the democracy of Athens. That was the democracy of the rich. How many millions do they spend on their campaigns? There are countries that spend billions on their campaigns. One candidate in the United States spent 200, 300, [numbers as heard] of his own money and the money he got from corporations.

To finance those campaigns, one must have plenty of money; it is the democracy of the wealthy, as a rule for those who have the means and the resources. How much did this campaign cost? The paper, the votes? Who has been chosen here to run for money? Who has been nominated here by a party? In our country, not even parties make nominations. In other words, there are no nominations by party, because parties do not nominate candidates. In all the other countries, the high-ranking leadership of parties usually makes the decisions. It is a (?useless) rule [words indistinct] with the masses to elect any candidate.

One has to see how the people are here. As Alarcon says, what happens here does not exist in any other country in the world. I believe it constitutes a great advantage to which we cannot and must never renounce. We cannot return to petty politics; we still remember the past: the streets full of advertisements, paper, and banners and all streets painted [words indistinct] had money could think about running for a post. Money was the determining factor, and there was horrendous corruption, which is no longer characteristic only of third world countries; it even reaches the most developed countries, where there are formulas to seek money for the parties. This does not occur here.

We do not spend a single penny. People make efforts by going to the Assembly and vehicles to move around [sentence as heard]. Money, without money there is no campaign. This is the democracy of the plutocracy...

[Reporter, interrupting] And in the capital...

[Castro, interrupting] ...and this is the democracy of a really poor country.

[Reporter] What role do you believe the capital plays at this time [words indistinct]...

[Castro, interrupting] Let us see it, let us see it now, let us see it. The capital has a great deal of merit. (?Laso) recalled this. In other occasions, we recalled the large [word indistinct] the capital has [words indistinct] the capital. However, there is more foreign influence in the capital than in the rest of the country. There is no doubt about it.

The forces were always more polarized here. We have also witnessed the phenomenon of uncontrolled migrations here in the capital, which keeps growing and growing. Houses are built, and the population doubles. In general, it is not those who are born here; it is people from anywhere. I am going to say that neither of the two candidates we have here was born in Havana; this is only one case. One was born abroad and is a nationalized citizen, and the other is from eastern Cuba.

If you go around, you will realize people from the provinces have crowded Havana, which is getting more crowded, thus complicating water supply, electricity, and housing. We have built tens and tens of thousands of houses, and half-empty houses are again full of [word indistinct]. There has been no control; we have to really think about controlling migration in Havana. We cannot allow the situation to worsen; we cannot build more houses for the people who are arriving.

The population does not understand this problem. Those who came are already here, and I am one of them. I am from eastern Cuba too, and I came here. For whatever reason, most Havana residents are not from Havana [words indistinct] many of them are the children or grandchildren of those who came here from the countryside years ago.

This phenomenon really worsens the situation in Havana, and regardless of how many efforts we make in Havana, situations like this worsen the problem. We have scant resources to keep up buildings; we are doing miracles and trying to see if we can repair and construct.

Today, we are facing the eternal dilemma, we must repair and build when the cases are critical, and at the same time, if we do not invest in repairs, the other cases will become critical. We must share the [word indistinct] resources with buildings that can be restored, while others cannot be restored, in which case we are forced to build [words indistinct] special effort with regard to housing, in order to build a number of houses in Havana. We have made [word indistinct] efforts.

It is unfair, however, for the country to be making great efforts while people move to the capital without any order. When they arrive here, they face all kinds of problems and even change their mentality [words indistinct] Havana people refused to do construction work, and it was necessary to bring in people from Oriente, Villa Clara, who then remained here. Not too long ago we even had to bring nurses to work in the capital...

[Reporter, interrupting] Policemen...

[Castro, interrupting] Policemen, no one wants to be a policeman in the capital. There are more serious problems here. On the other hand, there are people who want to be delegates, although they receive no salary for this, no matter how hard they work.

[Reporter] Commander, going back to financial matters. There seems to be the idea that we are near or have almost completed the first phase of the country's financial adjustments. How are we going to handle the second phase, during which the average family or person who earns a salary will feel the pressure of the financial adjustments? These new sectors that have been created, these new opportunities, such as the self-employed worker, farmers' free markets, to a certain extent capitalize part of the money, or a significant part of it...

[Castro, interrupting] Look, people really want the farmers' free markets...

[Reporter, interrupting] Yes, but [words indistinct]

[Castro] Otherwise people would not [words indistinct] but anyway, people used to have plenty money, but now they have less money. Now people are beginning to feel that they are short of money. As for the earnings, there is a minority that earns a lot, they earn plenty money. Some through self-employment and others through the farmers' free markets. There is an unequal distribution, a [word indistinct] difference.

The situation is worse now that the price of the dollar is down. Some people are buying dollars to satisfy many needs they cannot satisfy with the peso. Logically, this creates different social levels, in some cases very significant.

Well, this is one of the results of self-employment. Some are selling their products at very high prices [words indistinct] competition among them.

[Several reporters speaking at once] [Questions indistinct]

[Castro] [Words indistinct] raw material. We know how to get textiles. If you have fuel, cotton, and raw material, you have everything you need. We know how to make shoes. You will need hides and other raw material necessary to make shoes. Some people even take the hide from a dead animal and process it at their own farm or enterprise. We used to have more discipline in this before. Now things are more difficult. In the past there was more food for the cattle, and everything was more centralized for the use of raw material. You could bring some hides if you had the resources.

In other words, we know very well how to do these things. The state knows this [words indistinct] raw material [word indistinct] greater effort in the industrial markets in which the state participates. Perhaps it should participate even more. As we seek resources [words indistinct] industry too. The [word indistinct] industry plays a very important role, and since it has resources, it works very well.

It would be good if the state could collect some of this excess currency, because the state must pay for everthing. It must pay for the education, health, social security, defense, domestic order, projects, solutions for the cities, and sanitary problems. The state must pay everything, and therefore needs resources.

[Reporter] [Words indistinct]

[Castro] That was necessary. How was the rest done? Organizing progressive collection is difficult at the beginning. Quantities were established, but [words indistinct] flexibility. For example, two coachmen [words indistinct] earned 4,000 [currency not specified] he had several people working with him, one had to cut the grass, another one groomed the horse, another one took care of the carriage. Nevertheless, [words indistinct] ridiculous sum of 30 or 40 pesos. The law, the resolution authorized the municipality, the people's government, to allow that fixed rate. The first thing that was done was to remove the fixed rate. Independence, because all jobs are not the same. Of course, some earn more money than others.

[Reporter] What do expect to see at the meeting of Nonaligned Countries, Commander?

[Castro] I have had hardly any time to think about that.

[Reporter] Are the Venezuelans giving us everything we had expected?

[Castro] We hope the Venezuelans, as well as the Colombians, are successful in their endeavors there. There are many people awakening to reality. Do you remember what they said after the changes in the Socialist countries? The sky is falling! We were all headed for a consumer market. What has happened? What is happening? Nothing was published [words indistinct]

[Reporter] [Question indistinct]

[Castro] They said we would not have enough paper for our newspapers. Then they go back [words indistinct] an organized and orderly country, which is what many visitors saw. Then, of course, all kinds of people started coming: serious capitalists and others who are not so serious. Adventurers and people out to make a quick buck also came. The [words indistinct] would describe the whole procedure [words indistinct].

You see, when someone wants to come here and set up shop, you need to know who it is and how solvent this person is. You have to have the support of the international banks to find out about each prospective financial situation and [words indistinct]. There are even those who try to forge their way in, because the enemy is also sending people here. There are others who come to make us waste our time, to try to fool us, and even try to harm us.

You have to realize that we are fighting a battle that no other country has ever fought before. No countries are blocked off like we are. [words indistinct] and there are countries that are limited, but have other resources that we do not. We have energy needs, for example. We have to spend almost everything we have on energy. So we are always lacking electricity or some kind of medicine. We all live in real anguish. Administrating resources is a government responsibility, but it is truly stressful and difficult. We have to make an extra effort to do all this because of the blockade. Without the blockade we would progress incomparably faster.

They are all over the place. U.S. representatives are trying to obstruct and dissuade people from coming to invest. These barbarians do not even mention the law, by which the blockade would remain in place even if the revolution is destroyed, unless they get $100 billion. They have threatened everyone. What used to belong to the bourgeoisie now belongs to the people and will continue to belong to the people.

[Reporter] Could one call this election an improvement in our democracy, when compared to the last election?

[Castro] I would say it is an improvement. We do things better, and the process is taken more seriously. These difficult times might be another reason the people are concerned about the election. Organizations such as the CDRs [Committee for the Defense of the Revolution] have also worked on this. They have done an excellent job. Many people at the ANPP have worked hard. Hard times make people reflect, particularly the better people. Many of these better people are included, but there is always a certain degree of wear; there has to be some degree of wear and tear associated with this kind of work. Nevertheless, there is a significant number of good people participating. [words indistinct]

[Reporter] [Question indistinct]

[Castro] We want the very best people as candidates. However, there are many good people who cannot be elected, because of their job. I know many cases of people who have said they cannot participate. Their sense of responsibility made it impossible. Nevertheless, I feel we have a very good selection of candidates.

[Reporter] Commander, at the beginning of the special period, you spoke about persistence. Now, four or five years after having presented that...

[Castro, interrupting] I trusted we would be capable of enduring. We were the only ones to do so among so many capitalist and socialist countries facing a crisis. The revolution itself never suffered a crisis. It struggled and fought and faced much worse conditions, because the U.S. destabilization policy is very extensive. The United States promoted the situation that led up to the 5 August [1994] incidents with all [words indistinct]. Now, 5 August was not a bad day for Cuba. It was a great revolutionary victory, as we were able to restore order in such a short time, without using weapons, without using any weapons [repeats himself], and without any deaths or wounded -- except those the masses inflicted among themselves. You see, 5 August was a great victory for the revolution. As I said then: How can there ever be another 5 August? There is no need for another 5 August. That happens every time the counterrevolutionary forces seek to disrupt the revolution, playing the imperialists' game and following imperialist watchwords.

The other thing should be done progressively. [words indistinct] and logically, we must see how this evolves. The fairest thing would definitely be to impose a progressive tax.

[Reporter] [words indistinct], would this lead to overproduction?

[Castro] We must keep in mind that the state does not only need to collect (?taxes); it has a budget to meet. This is not only about reducing liquidity.

I have heard there is very firm discipline regarding salaries [word indistinct] because there is no point in collecting (?taxes) and reducing prices [words indistinct], because there are thousands of people [word indistinct] in the previous situation. I believe people are currently more educated about economic matters and [words indistinct] avoiding as much as possible throwing money into circulation. The efforts we are undertaking are considerable. We cannot throw our achievements overboard, that is, [words indistinct]....

[Reporter, interrupting] [words indistinct]

[Castro] In the first months, people spent more than 20 million pesos [words indistinct] and at present, they spend 8 million. There you have a clear example of the free market. [words indistinct] the state invests the resources it collects in the needs of the people [words indistinct]. We must face the problem of having a group of people that has so much money that they do not know what to do with it.

[Reporter, interrupting] [words indistinct] unemployment?

[Castro] That is just another problem [words indistinct] conditions. We must rationalize and seek efficiency [word indistinct] jobs. Some people will have to work as inspectors [words indistinct] self-employed. The audits are necessary, and so are all sorts of inspections by the Labor Ministry and the Foreign Trade Ministry, which must oversee [words indistinct]. The Finance Ministry must perform audits; therefore, it always needs well-trained people, people who are qualified to work. [words indistinct]. We cannot fail....

[Reporter, interrupting] [words indistinct] of the controls.

[Castro] [words indistinct]. Currently, computers [words indistinct]. It is difficult to find people because every inspector [words indistinct] whether or not people pay and the collection of taxes. [words indistinct] Concerning housing [words indistinct], the regulations on the transfer of real estate ownership [words indistinct] whether people have purchased legally or people [words indistinct]. Among other things, Havana has become a large hotel because there are people who rent a room or an apartment; others move elsewhere. [words indistinct] the revolution has enabled people to acquire their own homes [words indistinct] resources. Under these conditions, 85 percent of the people own their homes, and this you cannot find anywhere else.

[Reporter] Concerning jobs, [words indistinct].

[Castro] We should not mix up [words indistinct]. If we had an immediate solution, we would have implemented it already. For instance, we need people in the area of agriculture, and we also need people for many other activities. However, the excess cash, (?the squandering), and other factors have affected this situation. At this point, we must assess the scope of self-employment. [words indistinct] has to do with the area of agriculture, which is not easy at all, because those people who leave the countryside for the city can hardly [words indistinct] to grow food for the capital. [words indistinct]

Lazo's speech the other day was quite accurate and excellent -- I listened to it with much admiration -- as well as the statement by Alarcon, when he remarked that we must wage the battle until we reach the [word indistinct] in the talks and conferences (?that are held here] for people to become aware of the nature of the problems we face. Moreover, it is our responsibility to raise and maintain high morale. This a difficult task because as we all know, material circumstances exert a tremendous influence on people's consciousness. [words indistinct] and all the others are experiencing an implacable crisis.

[Reporter] [Words indistinct]

[Castro] Consumer societies are not the solution. Political chicanery is not the solution. The capitalist democracy is not the solution. We can adopt some economic measures, but they should not lead us astray from what we have said.

Today imperialism's main efforts are aimed at destabilizing the country from within. It is its number one strategy. We must be prepared for that today, without the economic means and with new things. There are still dumb people. There are dumb people, and some are really dumb, because they do not realize the strategy and tactics that imperialism is using against our country. It is trying to infiltrate us by all means. It has many names now.

Some want to destroy us one way, while others prefer another way. The essence of their strategy, however, is promoting destabilization from within. They have studied their ideas and plans very well. We must also prepare the country well to face the methods used by imperialism in its attempt to destabilize us. Imperialism has not given up its plans [words indistinct] has seen the bone is hard to chew in all aspects. It has seen the country would have resisted [words indistinct] people grow [words indistinct] capacity, confidence in him, and aware that everything is at stake here: independence, sovereignty, right to life, the survival of our people.

We live in a country where there are no death squads, where people are not murdered or tortured. I tell them: Ask the people, talk to the people, ask them if they know of any case of murder or missing people. Ours is the only country in this hemisphere where that phenomenon does not exist. Still, we are accused of violating human rights. Here, we do not have this phenomenon, which occurs in other countries. Today we see that there are thousands, tens of thousands of missing people. In just Guatemala, there are more than 100,000 missing people. Ever since another Giron [referring to the Bay of Pigs] was applied to Arbenz, there have been more than 100,000 cases.

There is also the category of the so-called political or (?official) prisoner. They are called political prisoners. You cannot call political prisoners people who were at the service of imperialism, who acted in defense of their homeland, as people did in Playa Giron. They have paid mercenaries here...

[Reporter, interrupting] Commander, aside from the elections and the day by day economic struggle in July, we will have another important date, which is 26 July. I understand that a group of attackers [of the Moncada barracks], a few days before leaving Santiago, met in Cacahual, in front of Maceo's tomb, where they made a commitment or oath.

[Castro, interrupting] Well, [words indistinct]. I have not been in Cacahual [words indistinct] have been here and there. I carry the oath inside, and I made it before all the altars of the fatherland. Our comrades who made this beautiful gesture [words indistinct] because what they did reflected nothing. Yes, I understand... [pauses] I did not participate.

[Reporter] Do you know who was there?

[Castro] Well, so much has been published, that I cannot say. You probably know more than I do. Your smile is incredibly mischievous.

[Reporter] No, I heard that someone said he had been there, but had not yet complied with his promise.

[Castro] Well, forget it, the others complied.

[Reporter] Commander, speaking about 26 July, what do you think about the response from Guantanamo, a hard hit province, that has been awarded the seat of the celebrations?

[Castro] The situation in Guantanamo was quite difficult two or three years ago, even politically. They had problems with their crops, agricultural supplies, and such. Now things have improved significantly, despite the battering they have taken. They have recovered from three natural disasters and worked their way back. They really deserve to be chosen as the seat of the 26 July ceremonies.

Things are going to get worse. People are saying they are going to work harder for the 26 July celebrations. We shall see. We think things will be harder. Our efforts are measured by indicators and such. Guantanamo's indicators are good. I believe its greatest achievement was its ability to respond, its strength, and its working spirit in the face of the calamities it endured. They deserve it. It is well earned. It is a very hot place, just like Santiago de Cuba, so get ready for the heat.

[Reporter] Right here, sir. We are dripping with the heat.

[Castro] It is as if we were in a shower. Well, I thank you, really.

[Reporter] Have we made any more progress on the cure for AIDS?

[Castro] Many are close to a vaccine for AIDS. We have made progress.

[Reporter] We have made significant progress, have we not?

[Castro] Yes, we have made some progress. But there are many research centers all over the world. I hope someone finds something quickly, even if it is not us [words indistinct].

[Reporter] Thank you, Commander.