Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-95-162 Daily Report 19 Aug 1995 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Castro Speech at ACS Summit Closing

PA2108153195 Havana PRENSA LATINA in Spanish, 0234 GMT 19 Aug 95 PA2108153195 Havana PRENSA LATINA Spanish BFN [Speech by President Fidel Castro at the closing ceremony of the Association of Caribbean States Summit in Port-of-Spain on 18 Aug 95]

[FBIS Translated Text] Port-of-Spain, 18 Aug (PL) -- Well, almost everybody here has brought a speech. The only thing is that everything one could have written at home with imagination at a long distance has been discussed and has been analyzed. Therefore, all of us will have more than enough paper although my speech was brief.

However, there was a point that goes along with other issues and is somewhat significant because it has been suggested here, it has been referred to here, and it has to do with Cuba's role in tourism and the terrible threat Cuba would seem to represent for tourism in the Caribbean.

And what had I written in this regard?

"Cuba has turned the development of tourism into a priority as an important part in its efforts to achieve economic recovery after our country experienced great losses as a result of the disappearance of the Communist bloc and the Soviet Union, and the damage brought about by the economic blockade imposed by the U.S. Government against our country. With this rightful and noble determination, we learn from you, Caribbean brothers, about the excellent way and beautiful hospitality you show toward visitors.

"However, Cuba's development of tourism does not have to displace other countries at all. On the contrary, we want to develop in close coordination with countries in the area, because we believe that in this field there are enormous possibilities for improving and expanding tourism in the Caribbean and obtaining the greatest benefits for all."

Nevertheless, I would like to add a few ideas. First of all, we know very little about tourism, we are learning now what you learned long ago, and therefore we are at a so-called experimental stage, working with many difficulties.

There is absolutely no reason for any sort of competition with Cuba. We do not have loans from any international financial organization. As you very well know, we are kept away from God's hand. For this reason, when a hallelujah was sung yesterday, we hoped to be included in this prayer for peace (laughter and applause).

Yesterday President Zedillo said something that we liked very much. He said: "Let no one be excluded from all this."

There have been other historic experiences in the field of production, let's say sugar.

When the blockade began, Cuba was deprived of its sugar quota, which was 3.5 million tons of sugar every year. We were the only losers because the quota was distributed throughout the world. There were candies for everybody except us, who were left without a sugar quota.

However, we continued developing the sugar industry and we produced eight million tons every year in the last few years, but not in the past three or four years but in the 1980's, and we sought markets. The Soviet market, the socialist camp market, the Chinese market, appeared for our sugar, and no country suffered because of the development of Cuba's sugar industry.

On the contrary, the demand for sugar in the world continued and the markets continued existing, and U.S. preferential prices existed, and the preferential prices of the Lome Convention existed. We also sold at preferential prices in the socialist camp, so no one got hurt with the development of the Cuban sugar industry. On the contrary, I would said that in general, the commerce of sugar was further developed.

Now I think: The 60 million tourists who go to France every year have not taken one single tourist away from Spain. The 50 million tourists who every year go to Spain have not taken one single tourist from Italy, and we can see that in Europe, tourism is expanding.

It has been said that tourism will be the most developed industry in the future. This is only logical because there are countries that have big resources, that have two-thirds... I think somebody -- I do not remember if it was the president of Mexico -- wrote recently that seven industrialized countries have two-thirds of the world's gross national product.

They have unemployment problems and sometimes reduce the work-week from five to four days. They are going to be a huge source of tourists, but not only the developed countries, many other countries will also be a source of tourism, countries like Mexico, and those of Latin America. Many Third World countries are learning to travel. Yesterday the president of Venezuela was telling me that approximately 484,000 Venezuelan tourists travel to the United States.

In other words, tourism, from our point of view, has an enormous future and it will become an industry greater than the oil industry and all the other industries in the world. There is a worldwide demand for recreation and rest. In fact, it is a great problem that has to be solved.

I ask myself what harm could Cuba cause if it develops its tourism. I believe it is the contrary: First, I think it will take us many years to acquire the experience in tourism that other Caribbean countries have today. We practically have only our own resources, and this is how we are doing it. As we said before, we have no credits in international organizations.

There are people who want to invest in our country, but many pressures are exerted on them not to invest, this is a reality, therefore we will have to develop tourism at a certain pace.

If the Caribbean Basin is successful, there will be no room for the tourists of the world willing to come to this area. I believe we have exceptional conditions, I believe that if we protect the beauty of our resources, I believe that if we protect it from erosion, if we protect it from contamination, if we convert tourism in the Caribbean into the world's best environmental tourism, we will truly accomplish a significant part of the common dream we have decided on here.

Other regions are getting involved. Southeast Asia -- to a great extent -- is developing tourism, so are Australia, New Zealand, other countries, Africa, China, Vietnam -- which was involved in a great war up to a short time ago -- is also developing tourism. Europe and the United States of course do it, too. All of us are faced with a question of competition, a question of quality. But I believe that the Chinese will eventually travel abroad as that country develops, and the day the Chinese travel no doubt that they will not fit in the Caribbean (laughter).

Russia and other countries are also developing tourism. I was told recently -- because now they seem to have money, or at least some of the people have money -- that they were purchasing homes on the coast of Sardinia, that they were purchasing homes on the coast of Southern France. Hopefully they will not purchase homes around here in the Caribbean because we will be left with no land to build or to cultivate. But, well, even that -- acquiring real estate --is now possible, and tourism is increasing.

Tourism, I said, is becoming a universal need and within that special situation in Cuba... you have seen that we have not complained here. We are aware of how you have behaved in the United Nations, how you have endorsed resolutions there against the blockade on Cuba. For that reason I see no reason to bring this up or make any requests about it.

I merely mentioned it in this case to explain what are Cuba's special circumstances and the reason we have to dismiss any idea, any suggestion that Cuba may compete for tourism in the Caribbean region. I am certain that the day 2 million or 3 million tourists arrive in Cuba, 20 million, 25 million tourists, who knows how many, will be coming to the Caribbean because of the real possibilities that exist.

What I want to declare here is our willingness to contribute with whatever possible to develop the potential of the Caribbean's tourist and natural health. We are willing to cooperate with everything within our reach.

Ours is a small country, it is not a rich country, it is not an industrialized country, it is rather a poor country that under the current circumstances is going through a difficult period. We, however, at one point awarded up to 25,000 scholarships to foreign students in our country. I say this as a sign of the spirit of solidarity of our people. Tens of thousands of professionals from all over the world studied in Cuba following the triumph of the revolution. And so we have many friends who came and studied in Cuba.

Over 10,000 Cuban doctors have served "for free" in other countries.

We have developed scientific investigations and put that science at the service of our brother nations, especially, our brother peoples of the Caribbean. We can work in many fields as a form of cooperation.

As I said, we do not have much experience in tourism, but if we could in some way help in training technicians, experts, engineers, we could also do that.

I want to tell you in a most sincere manner that we have no willingness to compete but to cooperate, help in the development of this region. Nature did not give us more things, yet it did give us great beauty and other resources. Save for a few of our friends, we have no great quantities of gas, oil, and all those things. We have to import them, and often we have to import them at an increasingly high price, because when prices rise we pay our share for the fuel we need each year. At any rate, we have other resources and we must exploit them.

I also regret the situations faced by the small Caribbean countries, and even the midsize countries, particularly when a hurricane hits the area such as the one that hit Jamaica and devastated most of the country.

When a hurricane strikes Florida, people there claim to suffer damages for $25 billion, but if a small country in the Caribbean endures losses for $25 million, its losses are greater than those of the United States when a hurricane hits Florida. When a hurricane hits Florida, it does not strike New York, or Boston, or California, it hits part of the United States.

However, when a hurricane hits many countries in the Caribbean, it hits the entire country and destroys everything. Perhaps, one of these days, we must also explore ways to ensure some security, some guarantee, some compensation for the countries that are victims of these natural disasters.

Cuba has a larger surface than many of the Caribbean islands; however, there are times when a hurricane hits the island from one extreme to the other, and hurricanes occur simultaneously with droughts, and problems of this nature.

I truly admire -- I say it with absolute frankness -- the Caribbean countries. If we have this natural resource, it is our most sacred duty to exploit it. I believe they have set an example for other countries, for the Latin Americans, regarding the spirit of integration, unity, and teamwork. They have taught us much to this effect, and they have even attracted us.

We are not fluent in English -- unfortunately for me, because I cannot master these devices quite well and I have to listen to everything through these small contraptions -- but we are Caribbean countries, we will be part of the history referred to by the Dominican vice president, because we are located on the route of discovery and we are also on the route of conquests.

We are virtually at the same level of all the other Caribbean countries, but we have united, and we have united very sincerely, very humbly, and we are filled with the best resolve to cooperate with our Caribbean brothers. This is our country's position, and I am confident that history will demonstrate what I am saying.

This is what I wanted to tell you, Prime Minister, and I hope you will not complain if I talked for too long, because thus far, the complaint I have heard is that no one talks (laughter). This is not the case since many spoke about the topics yesterday.

And I will tell you something else to conclude: I am pleased with the style, because here, at least, we have discussed concrete topics, and we have spared ourselves many speeches. We have spared ourselves speeches because we have gone over the issues, the problems have been discussed. All of us have offered our views -- all of those who have wanted to voice them -- and I am convinced that there are many who have not voiced their opinions because they believe what they were going to say was already included in the topics and in these documents. Many thanks.