Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-96-161 Daily Report 14 Aug 1996 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Cuba: Castro Speaks at Pioneers' Palace Reopening

PA1808145296 Havana Cubavision Network in Spanish, 0000 GMT 14 Aug 96 PA1808145296 Havana Cubavision Network Spanish BFN [Interview with Cuban President Fidel Castro by unidentified local reporters following the reopening of the Ernesto "Che" Guevara Pioneers' Palace in Havana on 13 August -- live or recorded]

[FBIS Translated Text] [Reporter] What do you think about the future of Cuba, of the Cuban revolution, after having seen that the pioneers are capable of properly using the resources that the revolution has given them?

[Castro] You are talking about [words indistinct] to get me to write a whole history book. [laughter]

[Reporter] On behalf of all of us, a pool. [laughter]

[Castro] You can imagine how impressed I am to see this palace renovated and reopened. I remember the day it was built, the difficulties we faced because the construction had a few problems. There were delays. I do not even dare think about the theater.

[Reporter] Unfortunately, the theater is still unfinished, but we have a new idea, which you are going to like very much.

[Castro] [Words indistinct] difficulties. In those days, there were many construction sites, many schools, and we did not have the most efficient organization at the construction sites, but things got done. Look at Lenin Square, which was completed in one year. [Words indistinct] Very beautiful trees were planted. We later built the children's park.

[Reporter] The recreation park.

[Castro] The recreation park?

[Reporter] Yes.

[Castro] The Pioneers' Palace was built in those days. What was the source of a lot of headaches was the theater. The area is landscaped now. There is different scenery now because all those trees grew. Even though the installations may have deteriorated a bit, the trees grew and they contributed to the current beauty of the palace. I think they have renovated it with new ideas, with new experiences, and with practical things that are more in tune to our realities. [passage indistinct]... the television technology. The young people are getting more familiar with that. It is totally new. When the palace was first built, none of that existed. We had no programs. [Words indistinct]...the vegetation.

[Reporter] Commander, had you been a pioneer and had you had the opportunity, what field of interest would you have joined in this palace? Commander...

[Castro] Electronics, biology, biotechnology. I would have possibly chosen the science field. I like the sciences. If you gave me a choice, however, I would have chosen the pool, which is really pretty. [laughs]

[Reporter] [Words indistinct]

[Castro] [Passage indistinct] with lots of years. I told the pioneers about the series of activities, but they wanted to mark the date. I told the television about my philosophy about [words indistinct]. The television reporters asked me about my health [words indistinct]. I told them, I do not know why you are worrying about that. I told them we have a full-fledged revolution, that there is no one who can destroy it. [Words indistinct]...we had hundreds of thousands of university graduates [words indistinct].

I see it as a working day. I looked at what they did. I see it as an elementary reciprocity with the pioneers and with the organization of pioneers, who exerted themselves in organizing this celebration for this date and who so affectionately invited me. They have turned this reopening day into a type of personal recognition. It was a pretext to be kind to me. I thank them very much. I am very honored. I am very happy. When one watches the children now [words indistinct].

[Reporter] [Words indistinct]...with brilliant pages the book of his life. Fidel has the canvas and we are not lacking an artist. Now that he is 70, does Fidel believe this prophecy has come true?

[Castro] It was very generous of them to write that. They did it because I practiced sports. I was an explorer. I had good grades in school, in general, although, as I have often said, I was no model student. I was in sports and other activities the entire year. People in school appreciated that very much. I am talking about the students as well as the teachers. I climbed mountains, crossed rivers, all the adventures that kids have.

[Reporter] Do you have nostalgia of that time in your life?

[Castro] Yes, I have a certain nostalgia. I remember we failed to reach the peak of the Turquino mountain because of a [words indistinct]. That caused problems for the expedition. We organized a few of them. Among those in the expedition was a Jesuit priest, who encouraged the kids a great deal. There was a team of explorers. I was not a boy scout. It was different, we had to wear long pants [laughs] and helmets, like the ones used by the colonists. Life has been generous to me because it has given me the opportunity of living beyond any dream, beyond any prediction. That is life. That was already written down, as many other things were written down, but now that so many things have happened, the people are attributing importance to that phrase. That priest liked me very much.

[Reporter] Why?

[Castro] It was his Spanish nature. He taught me discipline, studies, sports, and outdoor activities.

[Reporter] You were a very serious boy when you were young in Biran? People in Biran told us you were very serious.

[Castro] Everyone talks now about some part of his life. Each one of them gives his version.

[Reporter] What is your version? That is the one we are lacking.

[Castro] If I was serious? For my age I was. I was as serious as a young man could be at that age. I was always involved in adventures. I was very adventurous, as much as one could be at that age. In Biran life was very rustic and simple. People said certain things that were true, things I told Fray Beto when the book on my special period was written. It was about my experiences at age five or six. I was sent there and I believe the teacher played a diplomatic role with my parents. That was back in the [word indistinct] era. I was a very young boy and since my father had very good business sense, it was good business to have the boys [words indistinct]. It is true. In my house there was no electricity. We used candles, lamps. Many places had electricity, but we lived in the middle of the countryside. Little by little we began learning about some of the progress of civilization. One day, my father bought a radio. In those days, radios were big monstrosities. The only one who could turn it on was him. I used to read -- I am talking about a different age now -- when I was a bit older. I slept in the downstairs room and my father slept in the upstairs room. I took my books along. I read the 10-volume history of the French Revolution there. I read it in that little room, however, when the radio started broadcasting baseball games, I put my books aside and I turned on the radio. Those were the days of Armendares and [words indistinct].

[Reporter] And you loved ball games because people say you were a good pitcher.

[Castro] And we always... [pauses] No, I was not a good pitcher.

[Reporter] You weren't? Then are you being glorified over there now?

[Castro] I am being glorified right here.

[Reporter] [laughs]

[Castro] Now they even want to make me a professional ball player.

[Unidentified speaker] And why [word indistinct] don't you go to Biran? Women were waiting for you over there.

[Unidentified speaker] Everybody would like for you to go over there.

[Unidentified speaker] What for...?

[Castro, interrupting] May I finish telling this story or do you want me to start a new one?

[Reporter] Please finish.

[Castro] We used to take our gloves, ball, and everything else along with us when we came back from school. There were two school sessions. This appears on a JUVENTUD REBELDE report that is very well done and, I must say, very attractive. It mentions the time when I was going on vacation on my way back from the teacher's small home. It was no vacation in those days, but rather a lot of work to be done. It was during this time when our parents discovered that we were being mistreated. We were very skinny and our hair was very long because we were not even taken to the barber's shop. I had to sew my own shoes, also taking the risk of a scolding for breaking the needle or something else. My shoes were very worn out. I had only one pair of shoes of the kind that are worn here. I used to sew these shoes. No, this is my work. I do not intend to exaggerate. However, I had this unfortunate experience when one shoe got all torn up. Then we were taken back there. We were waging a war against the teacher. On one occasion, we pelted the school with rocks.

[Reporter] [laughs]

[Castro] She did not like noises very much. And we threw 200 stones while we were hiding in a grove of trees behind the bakery. We were very good at throwing stones. It was our revenge...

[Reporter, interrupting] ... Against the teacher?

[Castro] ... at age six. However, we were again taken over there. She gave classes over there, but she lived in Santiago with her sister, who gave piano lessons, and was a very a good person, by the way. Nevertheless, she had the authority and the resources -- when she got paid -- even though there were times when she was not paid at the [word indistinct]. I wanted to explain that I had no vacation time when I was there in Santiago. I had a vacation when I finally achieved the victory of being admitted to a boarding school. This is a long story that I will not repeat, especially with the many questions that you are asking me.

[Reporter] Well, right now what do the following words mean for you: Quixote, revolution, planet Earth, life, and man?

[Castro] They mean a lot of things, 100,000 times what they could mean [word indistinct]. However, planet Earth is very significant in everybody's life. Earth seemed to be an infinite universe. The word Earth today means the universe. Over the years, science and technology have made great advancements and many amazing discoveries. There is a new discovery every day.

Oddly enough, a man means a lot more than economic forces. There are a mountain of problems in today's world. This is very worrisome. This demands more education and a new awareness that was unheard of in those days. Who talked about the environment in the thirties and forties? Discussions about the environment hardly began 20 or 25 years ago. We have now become aware because of the heat, natural disasters, and the global warming. There is a universal outlook. In times past, your fatherland was a small plot of land, a small settlement near the sugar mill, then the school, and then the country. After all, the planet becomes everybody's fatherland. [Passage indistinct] social, geopolitical, and professional concerns in order to determine what a man is, as well as his value and capabilities. A few days ago, I read a small book that was published by (Combe). I do not know if you have read it, but I recommend it. He is a valuable individual with an outstanding capability for sacrifice, both when he was [words indistinct] and later when [words indistinct]. He firmly believes in man's capability, ideas, profound convictions, and experiences. This is the truth.

By the same token, when we speak of man, we also think of Marti, Maceo, Frank Pais, [words indistinct]. He does wonderful things. I believe that he is going to do even better things during this time of world hegemony. Men will now become more and more politically aware as they observe the abuses and injustices that are committed against this planet worldwide. I know it. Man is the most wonderful thing that has been conceived. I am not speaking in religious terms of a creation. [Passage indistinct] known by us as people.

[Reporter] Are you moved by dawns commander?

[Castro] What did you say?

[Reporter] Are you moved by dawns? They say you are always awake at dawn.

[Castro] I am usually reading. [word indistinct] the more papers I have, the more I want to read a good book.

[Reporter] What about this morning? It was your birthday...

[Castro, interrupting] No, [words indistinct]

[Reporter, interrupting] But, what about this morning...

[Castro, interrupting] No, the mornings are spent on papers. I don't have so much work now. I don't have so much work because there are a lot of people.

[Reporter, interrupting] But, what specifically did you do at dawn today?

[Castro] Today, I was hurried with all the things I had to do. I was thinking about all the things that had to be done today and tomorrow. I spent the day yesterday with several messengers from abroad. They brought me congratulatory notes, presents. One even came from Korea. [laughs]

[Reporter] Yes, that appeared in the papers.

[Castro] [words indistinct]

[Reporter] Have you received many presents today?

[Castro] Yes, it seems everyone sent me a gift. My problem is what to do with them. I had accumulated presents for many years. I donated them. I looked for a executor and he distributed them without making a lot of noise about it.

[Reporter] [question indistinct]

[Castro] I will answer you later. I will leave you for last because I think you want to use the others' time.

[Reporter] They have descended on you en masse.

[Castro] Of course. And the questions come en masse as well. [laughter] All right, all right, all right. I very much enjoy [fading, words indistinct]... a book perks me up. When I have periods of sleepiness, it later goes away. It happens to me at times, so I have this book by (Combe), which includes the whole story on the struggles of Che Guevara in Bolivia. That book eliminated my sleepiness. One is more or less familiar with these topics, and they spark one's curiosity to learn more about every detail. [Words indistinct] is a huge job. Every so often I do something.

[Reporter] [Question indistinct]

[Castro] [Words indistinct] are very popular [indistinct] summits are important because they discuss issues like human settlements, social rights, and the good accomplishments of the United Nations. Then, I will have more time to squeeze in a trip here or there, I have sensed this by listening to the planes [words indistinct]. [laughter] [More fading, words indistinct] The tourism sector and food industry have to train personnel. [Words indistinct]. How much does all that cost? I would say you cannot put a price tag a price on it. It is not accomplished with lots of money -- no, no, it has no money -- but rather with lots of good will and making use of available resources.

Thus, in all the programs, Enid [not furthered identified] tells me all the organizations have helped very much. [Words indistinct] helped very much in the palace reconstruction. Rather than reconstruction, I should say, renovation for the reinauguration, that is, repairs, maintenance, and all that. In general, all the organizations were interested in this palace and each one sought resources. In construction, I do not know, it may have involved accomplishing tasks. Salaries must always be paid and these men may have not had another job. We have been in a period with an excess of builders. You give a man a job and you engage in social work for a man who has no job.

Obviously we now exert a much stricter control of expenses in national currency because we are engaged in a struggle to reduce the amount of money in circulation. That struggle must not be abandoned. The same man could earn more, meaning an important part of his salary. He is not working, but if he works for his salary, that is even better.

So, with the people's good will -- we can call it a new awareness, that is, becoming aware of reality, adapting to changes, having a much clearer sense of duty and what must be done -- such projects have been possible. Others are being carried out in spite of everything. We are carrying out economic projects in addition to social projects. A hospital is repaired or maintenance is performed, and schools are enlarged.

[Female reporter] Neighborhoods are repaired.

[Castro] Neighborhoods are being repaired with everyone's cooperation; the residents look for materials. We are using our oil to produce more cement [words indistinct], opening a cement plant in Cienfuegos to produce more cement, improving the efficiency of work at Antillana de Acero, the steel foundry. Resources are sought and I might say that doing this today is three times [words indistinct] a peso or a dollar.

Today we have a third of that but, with what we have....[pauses] I say a third but it could be less. It is less in some things. We previously received tens of thousands of tons of cotton and now that cotton must be sought after and purchased to keep the industries operating. Tourism has increased. That is an important revenue source. The sugarcane sector is recovering. Confidence in the country has increased and allowed us to mobilize resources. To the degree we resisted, the people realized that [words indistinct] but it was much more difficult to get financing for the sugarcane or rice sector in the early years. Confidence has increased and that is what they want to destroy with the new laws, policies, and their aggressiveness. So the country cannot get more resources. They went as far as creating a monstrous law like that one. It threatens all the citizens in this country. It is an irresponsible action and it has created serious conflicts for them because it is a precedent everyone fears and they, the U.S. Government and the extremists in the United States, would now like to apply it to other countries [words indistinct]. The United States will have [passage indistinct] an economic target of U.S. imperialism.

Well, everything done here has been done under those conditions and it has lots of merit. We are happy that a project like this can be done under those conditions.