Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-95-162 Daily Report 20 Aug 1995 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Castro Addresses Businessmen at ACS Summit

PA2108201495 Havana Radio Havana Cuba in Spanish, 0000 GMT 20 Aug 95 PA2108201495 Havana Radio Havana Cuba Spanish BFN [Speech by Cuban President Fidel Castro at luncheon with businessmen in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on 18 August -- recorded, with passage-by-passage translation into English; from the "Evening Information Review" newscast]

[FBIS Translated Text] Perhaps I should complain to the Human Rights Commission because of those lights flashing in my eyes.

Dear friends of Trinidad and Tobago and dear Cuban friends:

It has been said here that not everything has gone as planned, because the cassettes with the anthems of Trinidad and Tobago and Cuba were lost. Well, that can be explained. It was all part of the haste with which everything was done, but there is something even worse for me, and it is that I lost the speech I was to supposed to deliver here. [laughter]

It would be better to say that I have not had time to think about words worthy of this event. Ever since I arrived here, I have not had time to breathe. One event has followed another, and there has been one meeting after another. Everything is very well-organized, and everything is coming out right. This is all new to me and since everything new -- according to what the Bible says about the world -- started with chaos, we have had lots of public and private meetings. That is why I would like to apologize to you for arriving here with a blank mind.

I am also faced with another adverse circumstance, which is that in all speeches, the best one is the shortest; the worst time to deliver a speech is right before a meal. [laughter] Taking all this into consideration, I will try to be brief.

I have had the privilege of listening to Mr. Robinson, and his words have really moved me quite a bit. He expressed himself in a way that is far above the modest merits I myself may have and above my limited capability to approach the problems of this world, because this world is the most complicated of the worlds that have ever been known. This is a world of growing problems in every field. He said two things. He said that I came to talk to you about business in the first place. He also said I would come to talk to you about the world.

Well, business. What can I say about business? If just the opposite were said, if he had said you would come to me to talk about business, that would be better because you are businessmen. We are rather politicians who have been forced into becoming entrepreneurial men, so as not to say businessmen.

There can be enterprises that are not good businesses. Perhaps the most important difference, and the adversaries of our ideology would be pleased to hear this, is that, as a rule, the state makes good and bad businesses. In general, businessmen, if they are true businessmen, do good businesses. At least their accounting is better. They take into account their costs, markets, and investments. You are more guided by rationality. Our efforts are mostly guided by, I would say, our feelings and our heart. Very often we are guided by our dreams. We want to do many things. Politicians are senators [senadores]. [Castro pauses; translator says: "dreamers" (sonadores)] Yes, politicians are dreamers, and businessmen are rationalizers.

Very often we want impossible things. Businessmen generally want to do possible things; however, there is a big, important difference. When politicians become businessmen, they generally fail. When businessmen become politicians very often they are successful. The worst thing of all is that when businessmen lose, it hurts them a great deal. When politicians lose in business, they do not care, and it does not hurt them. [applause]

Of course, I am doing a caricature, not of businessmen but of politicians. In general, we do not have the same firmness, the same common sense as businessmen when we do things. As a politician I can say that I have done things in which I have been able to act with rationality, and I have done things in my life in which I have allowed myself to be driven by my dreams. The only thing I can say on my behalf is that everything I have done in my life has been in the pursuit of noble objectives, with the purpose of helping my people and with the purpose of helping mankind. We should rather be critical of our work, of the work of the revolution.

We have reached important achievements. Our country, despite its small size, has given some examples, which could also be examples of dreams coming true. Our country has the highest number of physicians per capita in the world, above the United States, Canada, France, Sweden, Norway, and others. [applause]

We have a doctor per less than 200 inhabitants. It should be around one doctor per 180 inhabitants, and we continue to graduate physicians. For the year 2000, we estimate that our physician training programs will include 10,000 doctors working abroad as a way of cooperating with the Third World. All of this is fundamentally done free of charge.

We have also been able to become the first country in the world in the number of teachers and professors per capita. We are also the first country in the world in the number of physical education and sports teachers. We generally obtain a high number of medals in international sports competitions. We have made great progress in the field of culture. We have made important achievements in that field.

Another field that should not be underestimated is the field of scientific research. We have tens of thousands of scientific research workers. We have tens of thousands of scientific workers doing work in different areas, especially the areas of biology, biotechnology, and medicine.

I have mentioned a few of my country's achievements. Our country has not only grown in the social order, but it has also grown considerably in the economic order, especially since the years of the revolution.

Cuba has also shown its solidarity with the world. More than 10,000 doctors have worked abroad in Third World countries. We can say that we have taken health to the people and helped save the lives of many people with our work.

We have also done intellectual work in many other countries. We have done important international missions. We have contributed our grain of sand to the struggle for the liberation of colonies in Africa and also against one of the most loathsome forms of injustice and oppression, which was apartheid. [applause]

To give you an idea of how much our contribution was, I must say that in Angola we spent almost 15 years fighting South African aggression. We stayed there until the end, until a victorious peace or until the victory of peace was attained. The efforts, the sacrifices led to the consolidation of Angola's independence, the liberation of Namibia, and the disappearance of apartheid. That was the contribution of our small people. At one point we had 52,000 troops thousands and thousands of kilometers from our country facing a true military power, which even had nuclear warheads, when we were fighting them at the border with Namibia. We knew that, but we chose to deliberately face that challenge.

Now that I have told you this brief story, I would like to tell you that in the heart of our concerns were the interests of our people, above all, and economic and social development as well as international solidarity, which was always a sacred principle with which we have complied.

Throughout the years we have been gaining a certain experience in the field of economic development. I must say that when we started we knew absolutely nothing. We have had to learn more than one trade.

Mr. Robinson was referring to the military experience some of us may have, but we did not study in military academies. We rather learned from history, the history of the world, the history of our own country, and its struggles for independence. From there we began working on the ideas that turned us into fighters of tyranny in our country, a tyranny which committed many crimes that led to the shedding of so much blood. In a rather short period of time, we were able to defeat that regime, which had 80,000 troops.

We started with a few men. We disembarked the Granma with 82 men. After that we were only 12, less than 12, but we were not discouraged, and 25 months later we were able to defeat that force.

We only had 3,000 unarmed men, but that became our trade, and we were able to do our trade right, given the conditions of our country.

We later had to face other international problems stemming from the fight against U.S. aggression. We had to withstand a mercenary invasion, which cost us sacrifice and bloodshed. We were in the first trenches on the verge of a nuclear war in the year 1962. Those were the experiences we have had to live through up until today's world, which we call a unipolar world.

There used to be a bipolar world before. Of course, everyone has his own ideas about this.

I remember an anecdote by former Tanzanian President Nyerere. He was an extraordinary man. He used to say that when elephants made love, the grass suffered, and when the big ones fought each other [words indistinct], but we were still able to know the world when there was a balance.

Today, we see a world in which there is no balance and in which there is a lack of order in many parts. We see it in the newspapers every day. There is talk about a new order, a new order has been established, and from our point of view, this order is seldom discussed and often imposed. Our countries are living through an uncertain situation these days.

The famous Uruguay Rounds were approved, but no one knows the consequences of these rounds. No one knows what tariff and nontariff barriers will be imposed. Huge economic blocs are being created in the world, which are in competition with each other.

I would like to talk to you, Caribbean people, about these problems, because in a certain way the Caribbean people have had the fortune of being located between two worlds, between America, the United States, and Europe. The Caribbean people are skillful diplomats. There is no doubt about that.

Perhaps if nature did not give us great wealth -- I am talking about mineral wealth, oil resources -- with some exceptions, of course [laughter; Castro pauses]. Nature gave the Caribbean people small countries which are often the victims of natural disasters such as drought and hurricanes.

I am frightened every time the meteorologists speak about a hurricane on its way to the Caribbean. I think about the consequences, the serious damage.

When hurricanes hit the United States, Florida, Louisiana, and other states, if it causes $25 billion in damage, that is nothing. It is fixed with a few hours of work. They have a GDP of nearly $6 quintillion [seis trillones] or as we say in Spanish, millions of millions [millon de millones].

When a hurricane hits one of our islands, even if the island is a big one like Cuba, the damage is terrible. There is no insurance company in the world -- perhaps you may want to create the first one -- that can protect our countries against natural disasters. The premium would be so large that we would not have much money to pay the company. [words indistinct]

I see problems, such as the distance problem that make integration, trade, and other activities more difficult; however, I see that nature has given the Caribbean people so much talent or that God, as you may want to call it, has given the Caribbean people so much talent. We have gone from being the last countries in this hemisphere to gain our independence to being the wisest of all those who have gained their independence.

In the rest of Latin America, in 200 years of independence they have been unable to reach the understanding you have reached. They have not reached the unity and cooperation you have reached.

In that regard, they have become an example for the other countries of the hemisphere. You have become an example for all Latin Americans.

Right here in this conference, we have been working together, English-speaking countries and Spanish-speaking countries, also French-speaking countries, we cannot forget about them.

You have been able to achieve that with hard work, intelligence, and enterprising skills despite unfavorable political factors. Up until now you have turned those unfavorable factors into your favor internationally, but now the time of uncertainty has come. This is the era of uncertainty in which no one knows what will happen next in any part of the world.

We had the experience and saw what happened with the defunct USSR. The disappearance of the USSR and the socialist bloc hurt us a great deal. We had good trade relations with them. We had good prices because we fought for those prices as you have fought for yours. The prices were beneficial for our economy. We lost all of that. We lost more than 70 percent of our imports. Imagine what it would be like to run a country and its education and health services, to keep the country working and in stable conditions amid a terrible blow such as the one we suffered in the economic field.

We have had to start over again like the phoenix bird. We have had to rise from the ashes at a time we call special period. We have already started to obtain some results. What happened in Europe and eastern Europe did not only hurt us. I think the entire world was hurt. When the Soviets reduced their production or when their production fell, all the aluminum that was left over was sent to the market.

All the wharfs in Europe were full of aluminum. All the steel they produced was sold and the wharfs of Europe were full of steel and other metals. Prices dropped. All the nickel they had left over was sent to the market. All the raw material they had was sold off at the market. This adversely affected the prices of basic commodities in many Third World countries. That is a reality. Not only that but their food production also dropped. As a result, food prices rose for all of us.

Before their collapse, the USSR used to produce more than 100 million tons of cereals. I do not have the exact figure off hand, but it was between 100 or 150 million tons. Yesterday I read a press agency report saying that Russia's cereal production for this year was between 48 and 50 million tons of cereal.

What will the result of all of this be? Will the prices of our basic commodities drop? Food prices will have to go up. You know that in general, wheat, oats, and barley are not produced in the tropics. Even corn is not the perfect crop for the tropics. It is better grown in the temperate zones. Our countries suffer the consequences of all of these things.

It is a time of uncertainty, wars all over, separatist movements in many regions of the world, and disintegration tendencies while the countries of the Caribbean and Europe, for example, are fighting to unite. This created uncertainty for the world and sacrifice for many countries. It brought upon us an uncertain future because even the most outstanding economists and Nobel Prize winners cannot explain certain phenomena taking place in today's world economies.

What happened with the financial crisis in Mexico? What is happening to the unemployment problems in the world? What is happening with these economic conflicts and crises, which are emerging?

Quite often things are not discussed at the World Trade Organization [WTO]. Things are rather discussed among countries. Their viewpoints are imposed on others. We have seen, for example, the disputes between the United States and Japan and the risks of an economic war. One day they fight over vehicles, the next day they fight over rice, another day they fight over electronic devices.

There is a constant threat of economic war in which the WTO is not playing a role. We are witnessing these events. We see unfair situations, for example, the ones that take place in Colombia and Mexico and other countries, in which they are being blamed for all the drug trafficking problems, however, in the United States no one is put in jail for the drug trafficking problem.

All the efforts, all the sacrifices are being demanded from the producing countries. Consumers, however, do not make a special effort to curb the problem. We are witnessing situations of injustice and of crisis, something economists cannot explain.

What happened in a country like Venezuela, for example, which has so many natural resources? What was the cause behind their crisis? What is happening in Central America? What could happen in Argentina if the famous tequila effect hits them? It has been necessary to spend $50 billion to face the financial crisis in Mexico and to attempt to find an explanation. An outstanding economist gives one explanation and another outstanding economist gives another. These are realities, and I do not say this in a pessimistic sense.

We, the Caribbean people, are proving that we are not pessimistic. We are optimistic people who are working for unity, to increase trade, transportation, and industry. I think you are a good example of someone doing a serious effort to increase industry. When I arrived in the country yesterday I saw many factories on the way to the city.

We, the Caribbean people, are working, reflecting, adopting ideas, and reaching agreements and resolutions. As I said, we are not powerful, we are small nations, and we have the problems we have described, but we have a spirit, a heart, and we have the talent. We must add that in the Caribbean there are higher levels of education than in the rest of Latin America.

When you check the health indices of the Caribbean, the education levels of the Caribbean, their management experience, and the management knowledge, you find indices that are far above those in the rest of Latin America even though they have been independent for 200 years. You have been independent for only a few dozen years. It is really encouraging to see the progress you have had in these years.

That is why -- and I am going to stop here because I have gone on for too long -- I want to tell you from the deepest corner of my heart that I feel a great appreciation for the Caribbean nations, I have a great sense of sympathy, affection, and trust for you. I feel honored that you consider the Cubans as your brothers, friends, and an integral part of this Caribbean world. We are willing to work with you, willing to cooperate with you, willing to receive from you all the ideas you may wish to convey to us, and willing to listen to all the proposals you may wish to make to us.

I am not going to talk about what we have done in this field but there has been a broad opening in Cuba. We are working in an orderly manner. We are working with a great sense of solidarity. I told Mr. Robinson that he would be received in our country whether or not he was a prime minister.

I also tell you that regardless of the brevity of this meeting and in spite of the programs and conferences, we will be waiting for you in Cuba -- where we can talk and have lunch or dinner for a longer time -- in order to have lots of time available so that we can then enjoy whatever we can offer to you there so that you can have a good digestion.

I thank the organizers of this program for allowing the speeches to take place before and not after lunch. That way you can eat more peacefully and digest your food better and guarantee your health.

This meeting has been really pleasant for me. I am sure that the meeting will be useful and I am sure I will never forget it. Thank you very much. [applause]