Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-95-235 Daily Report 6 Dec 1995 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Further Reportage on Castro's Visit to China

Interviewed During Visit

PA0612200895 Havana Tele Rebelde Network in Spanish, 0227 GMT 6 Dec 95 PA0612200895 Havana Tele Rebelde Network Spanish BFN ["Text" of interview with President Fidel Castro by unidentified CCTV reporter in Beijing on 1 December; from the "This Very Day" program -- recorded; reporter's questions are in Mandarin with passage-by-passage translation into Spanish]

[FBIS Translated Text] [Reporter] Your Excellency, Mr. President: We are very happy that you have granted, agreed to grant, an interview with the Chinese Central Television. Now allow me to ask you a few questions. First question. For many years, you have always been seen wearing the uniform of the commander of the Cuban Army. Recently, we have observed that at many international events, you have worn civilian clothes. Does this change have any special significance?

[Castro] It has no special significance. At a summit meeting of Latin American heads of state in Cartagena, we were all asked to wear guayabera shirts, and I did not have any, because what I am wearing now are my everyday clothes, so I had some guayaberas made for me. I asked some companeros to help me get a couple of guayaberas in 24 hours. I complied with what they were asking for in Cartagena. I later found out that I did not have any suits. Some friends offered to send me a designer to make my civilian suits. I agreed because I thought at some point in time I would have to use them. I thought it was okay to use them in other summits. For example, during my visit to Uruguay, to the Bariloche summit of Latin American heads of state, and finally in New York, I did not want to show up there with my old clothes so that they would not think I was a military man or something similar to that.

In many of those meetings, I have worn my civilian attire, but when I travel by plane I wear this suit. In China, I attended an official event and, thinking about the Chinese traditions, the heroic Chinese people, and their struggle for independence and liberation, I decided to wear a military uniform, a dress uniform, without medals. I do not usually wear decorations.

That is why yesterday I wore my military uniform to the official reception. In the meeting with the chairman of the Consultative Assembly, or the Consultative Conference, and the National People's Congress I wore that uniform. During the evening I wore a civilian suit for the official banquet.

Today, to visit the Great Wall, I wore this uniform because it is the proper attire to visit a place that reminds us of the history of the struggles of the Chinese people against the invasions. I arrived here with the same clothes. This is the one I am wearing for this interview.

[Reporter] Second question. The Cold War has ended, and we are now living in an international situation whose main current is peace and development. As a statesman with a great influence in the world, how do you view this new international situation?

[Castro] I believe it is very important that the Cold War has ended, in part. There still are dozens of nuclear weapons in the hands of the most powerful countries, and this is always a risk for peace. Nevertheless, we have made progress toward detente, which we hope will last. Huge sums of money are still being spent on weapons. The U.S. military budget has hardly been reduced, for example. More weapons continue to be manufactured. The arms trade continues in the world.

Numerous local conflicts take place in the world today. The United Nations is now approving interventions to restore peace. I believe a long road lies ahead to achieve the peace we want with a just international order that can respect the independence and sovereignty of countries, that can fight against the arms race, and that can fight for nuclear disarmament of all countries. There are powers with numerous nuclear weapons.

I am not referring to China, which made a great self- defense effort with its nuclear weapons, but which cannot be described as a great nuclear power. I believe the aspiration of humanity is to eliminate all nuclear weapons and achieve a just order without hegemonic practices, with respect, I repeat, for the independence and sovereignty of countries as well as economic and social order in the world. I would say we need a peace based on the five principles of peaceful coexistence proclaimed by China.

[Reporter] Third question. Within the context of recent changes in the international order, economic development has become a highly important factor for a country. We would like you to explain a statement you made early this year, when you said that you are not in favor of capitalism, but that you are realistic. Those were more of less your words.

[Castro] That is correct. There is a new situation in the world and the main aspiration of peoples is not only peace, but also economic development. What happens is that many countries do not have peace or economic development. We must carry out efforts in international cooperation in favor of development. This is vital for all countries, for some more than others.

Some countries have a small population and enormous natural resources, such as oil resources. Those countries do not have the problems of other countries with a large population and not many natural resources. However, we can say that today development is the center of the struggles and aspirations of the peoples. That is why I said that I am not in favor of capitalism. I do not favor it now. When I say realistic, I mean... [pauses] I am referring to the need for reforms and opportunities that will contribute to development, but within the principles of socialism, just as you are doing here in the PRC.

[Reporter] Question number four. For more than 35 years the United States has maintained a total economic blockade against Cuba, to which we must add the approval in the United States in 1992 of the Torricelli law, aimed at intensifying that blockade. Could you tell us what measures Cuba is taking to face this act of aggression?

[Castro] Yes, of course. This was preceded by something more serious for our economy, which was the disappearance of the Socialist Bloc, and the disintegration of the USSR, which created a very difficult situation for us. Some believed that the Cuban revolution was quickly collapsing, because they did not realize the strength of the Cuban revolution, the patriotism and revolutionary awareness of our people. When they realized that Cuba was not collapsing, they reinforced the blockade, and established this Torricelli law to create more difficulties for our country in our path toward economic development while preserving socialism. This law, however, did not produce results either.

Now, recently, they have approved other laws, even harsher, which even violate the sovereignty of other countries. Those laws are in the process of approval and are being debated, because there is a rightist majority in the U.S. Congress, and they do not want to forgive Cuba for its independence. They cannot accept Cuba's independence and revolution, and for that reason, they have drafted a harsher bill which they are discussing now. We are prepared, even if they approve those bills, to continue resisting, to continue defending the cause of socialism, even to develop our country. The state has taken all the necessary measures, and it would take too long to list them in the short time we have here. The many measures we have adopted are very similar to the measures that China took during the early periods of your reform and opening.

[Reporter] The history of Sino-Cuban relations can be traced back to 140 years ago, when Chinese nationals and Cubans worked shoulder to shoulder in Cuban territory. A Cuban song called Beautiful Havana was also very popular in China during the 60's or 70's. We can say that the people of our two countries have increased their traditional friendship in various ways. Now, can you tell us what significance you attribute to your first visit to China after 36 years in power, as the representative of the Cuban people?

[Castro] Cuban-Chinese friendship can indeed be traced back a long time. The first groups of Chinese nationals arrived in Cuba during the colonial era in the last century. It was the colonialist era; China was then a feudal and semicolonial state. The Opium Wars had already taken place in 1840. The English, who claimed to be the champions in suppressing the slave trade, sent Chinese to the Caribbean and other countries under equal conditions of enslavement albeit under the disguise of contracts that later turned into deceptions. The Chinese nationals were subjected to great hardships. They brought them to different countries, but most of all to our country, which at that time was a Spanish colony. They brought in thousands of them.

During our war of independence against Spain thousands of Chinese nationals fought with us, and they were excellent, daring, and intelligent fighters. That is why in China, rather, Cuba, in Havana, there is now a monument to honor the Chinese who in the last century fought for Cuba's independence against Spanish colonialism. That monument has an inscription that reads: No Chinese was a deserter. No Chinese was a traitor. These beautiful words convey the character and spirit of the Chinese people. These ties have continued to develop all these years. They developed further during the years of the revolution, and in the past years, our relations have been improving more and more. Our relations have been growing, based on principles, based on the principles of peaceful coexistence, based on historical ties, based on China's policy of peace and cooperation. Then the moment came when we were highly honored to receive in Cuba the visit of Comrade Jiang Zemin in late 1993.

I had a long-standing wish to know China and visit China. I would have liked to have made this visit earlier, since the invitation was extended to me in 1993, but all the work having to do with the United States, the blockade, and the existence of the special period prevented me from making a long trip half way around the world, such as this trip to China. I came to the realization, however, after my meeting with Comrade Jiang Zemin in New York, that it was imperative that I make every effort to make this trip, under any circumstance. For me, this has been a truly historic event, a great joy, a long-standing dream. I think all the children of the world want to see China. They hear about China, its millenary culture, people, arts, heroic deeds, the Great Wall, and so many other things.

I have fulfilled that desire now, and I have also fulfilled the commitment and duty to visit you, and I am very happy.

[Reporter] According to 1994 figures, commercial exchange between China and Cuba totals $250 million. Before your visit to China, did you consider that now, more than ever, the two countries have greater conditions to reach a higher level of mutual benefit? Could you tell us what that new high level means?

[Castro] We are struggling to recover our economy following the terrible blow it endured with the collapse of the socialist camp and the disappearance of the USSR, which led to the loss of 80 percent of our market and 75 percent of our imports. We had to begin to rebuild everything. We had to begin anew and work hard. The gross domestic product declined until 1993, but it began to go up a little in 1994. It was 0.7 percent. It climbed up more in 1995 to 2.5 percent. We expect it to grow next year to about 5 percent. We are recovering under difficult conditions and in the midst of an economic blockade by the United States.

China has had an excellent understanding with us. It has made every effort to maintain trade. We greatly appreciate the effort China has made to develop these commercial relations when we were experiencing a very difficult situation. This situation is beginning to improve, and, in the future, relations between China and Cuba will develop without interruptions, and they will always be on the rise.

[Reporter] The question to the president is this: The name of Fidel Castro is well-known among the Chinese people. Some young people, however, do no know about some phases of your life or your work in recent years. Could you talk to us briefly about this? We know you have personally tested the Chinese-made bicycle.

[Castro] Yes.

[Reporter] [Words indistinct]

[Castro] I feel a profound affection for the Chinese people, an undying admiration because of their millenary history, personal qualities, love of independence and freedom, their heroic struggles in the face of interventions and colonialism, and for the efforts they have made for over 100 years to attain liberation, for the work they are currently conducting, for the great economic successes they are reaching, for the activity, rather, the stability they have achieved. For that reason, I realize that China is the country of the 21st century, it is the country of the future because of its human potential, natural resources, scientific potential, the talent of its children, and the hard-working spirit of the people. I believe that in the 21st century, China will be the giant that arises.

That is why I greatly admire your country, and indeed I think that Chinese--made bicycles are very important and have solved a major problem. All of a sudden, we found ourselves without fuel and bus routes were cut to 20 percent. We have over one million Chinese-made high-quality bicycles in our country, which we purchased in China with payment arrangements and at very good prices, and today, millions of Cubans ride bicycles. This has greatly contributed to the resistance of our people. In addition, we have built five bicycle factories, that is, we have turned five industries into bicycle factories, and we are completing a Chinese bicycle factory that will give us an output of 500,000 bicycles a year, with which we plan to resolve the transportation difficulties of the special period. We plan to continue using bicycles, because they are very healthy and useful. After learning to ride them, in the future, we will use fewer cars and buses. We will use them as we recover, but bicycles will continue to be used after the special period ends. It is one of the greatest inventions ever.

[Reporter] How many hours, long hours, how many hours do you work.

[Castro] When I go on a trip, I work much harder, most of all when I come to a country like this one, as friendly and hospitable as this one, where we have so many friends. I begin to work here at 0700 [chuckles]. I think I am on the go as soon as I get up, and I end at 2300. Those are not many hours, they are approximately 16 hours. In Cuba I work less. There are many young people in Cuba, and the work is very well distributed. This makes it possible for me, as time goes by, to work less in my country. When required, I work as many hours as necessary; but when it is not necessary, we have many excellent comrades who are doing a significant part of the work I used to do before, when I was younger.

[Reporter] To end this interview, as we are Chinese, we have millions and millions of viewers...

[Castro, interrupting] Yes.

[Reporter] Would you like to say something to our viewers?

[Castro] Yes. I know you have hundreds of millions of viewers. I am very grateful to this television station for the opportunity to address them. I want to thank you all for your invitation, hospitality, and warm welcome. I want to express to you my admiration and affection. I hope you will continue advancing successfully, as you have been doing so far, and that the PRC can make a great contribution to world peace, to world development, and to solving world problems. At the same time, I hope you will achieve the general prosperity for which you are struggling now.

[Reporter] We have a proposal. I mentioned a while ago a Cuban song. It is called Beautiful Havana.

[Castro] Havana, yes, how nice.

[Reporter] It is a beautiful song.

[Castro] Yes, very beautiful.

[Reporter] Some of us who are present here today can sing the song.

[Castro] Please do. It would be a great pleasure for me.

[Reporter] Do you sing?

[Castro] Well, a little, just a little. I do not have a very good ear for music. [crowd sings]

[Castro, laughing] Ah! You sang the song in Chinese. [laughter] That is wonderful! Thank you. Thank you. I tried not to speak too long. Are you satisfied?

[Reporter] [Words indistinct]

[Castro] It was a great honor for me to be interviewed.

[Reporter] Thank you very much. Can you sign our album?

[Castro] What is this album for?

[Reporter] You can write something in it.

[Castro] Who do I dedicate my message to? To Chinese television?

[Reporter] As you wish.

[Castro] Central Television, is that the name?

[Reporter] Chinese Central Television.

[Castro] To the Chinese Central Television, with my deepest gratitude for the opportunity to address this great, admirable, and dear people.

[Reporter] Thank you very much.

[Castro] Here is your pen.