Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC


[Following is a translation of an interview
conducted by Sucesos director Mario Menendez
Rodriguez in the Spanish-language magazine Sucesos
(Events), No. 1738, Mexico City, 10 September 1966,
pp 11-58.]

Sierra del Escambray, Cuba, August 1966. This is the history --
there is no other way to describe it -- of a momentous and exclusive
interview granted to the magazine Sucesos. A very intimate one because it
is also the history of an interview in which the soul of an extraordinary
and singular man is laid bare. It is the story of a rebel perpetually
unresponsive to imperfection, gifted with an exception spirit for work,
understanding and dedication. He lives by thee character traits and
profoundly feels what he preaches. In this interview there are garments of
the history of a man who has written and continues to write new pages in
Cuban and international statesmanship by his daily conduct. It is an
historical interview by an independent journalist -- free from prejudices
and trusting in the honorable judgment of his readers -- on his first trip
to Cuba. It is historical because it reflects what began yesterday,
continues today and will unfailingly transpire in the future despite wind
and tide, despite the actions of those blind to reason and truth. My
evaluations are the consummation of a desire to take an unbiased look for
myself and to relay what I saw in Cuba without distortions and what Fidel
Castro Ruz, Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary
Armed Forces, told me in an exclusive for our Sucesos readers.

Finally, this interview reflects the indescribable love an entire
nation has for its leader. Actually, the interview is the result of a trip
that lasted several days and of chats that began during an exhausting climb
up the muddy Sierra del Escambray -- at that moment lashed by driving rains
which caused slides and cut off transportation routes. The Escambray, the
favorite haunt of counterrevolutionary outlaws in the past, has been turned
into a new Sierra Maestra owing to the combative and industrious spirit of
its regional inhabitants who have come to know the meaning of the
aspirations enunciated 13 years ago by the 26 July Movement.

Moreover, in a history tinted by the human sensitivity of a leader
so intimately linked to an entire nation, would it not be an injustice to
restrict oneself to so-called objectivity which in the final analysis is
nothing but a recourse to cliches reflecting the jaded values of
contemporary commercial journalism, a profession largely guilty for the
current international distress? Are there no sensitive chords, an inner
life capable of conveying to the reader the complete image of an eminent

If the sincere journalist was initially unable to understand the
political, economic and social changes begun in 1959 owing to the incessant
propaganda promoted by all the news media to distort the truth about the
Cuban Revolution, would it be honest now to deny the reader -- who may also
have been the victims of news and books written with the deliberate intent
to obscure the facts -- objective truth which does not require makeup and
cosmetics? This is my object and nothing more.

Voltaire rightly said: "I can disapprove what you say but I will
defend to the death your right to say it? This is a truism when dealing
with honorable men. However, no one has a right to resort to the lie, to
defamation, to spiritual and moral persecution of a people as has happened
with propaganda directed abroad against Cuba. No one has this right and no
one must defend this right, especially when it is exercised over a heroic
nation of people who live and believe is hard work and who are surmounting
all obstacles. One thing is clear. One can be or not be in agreement with
events in Cuba -- in the final analysis, isn't this strictly a matter for
the Cubans themselves? -- but one must not resort to falsehood for any

I have written these lines before relating my interview with Fidel
Castro because I thought it imperative and especially because it is a duty
of conscience and moral reconciliation.

On a small farm near the town of La Sierrita, almost in the
foothills of the Sierra del Escambray, farmers are breeding thousands of
pheasants to enhance the sport of hunting in Cuba within the very near
future. One hot Sunday, a man was there surrounded by members of several
campesino families who were in charge of managing and operating this
center. He was a tall man with an athlete's build. He wore the olive drab
uniform of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and was fondling a child barely
three years old. The child's physical condition would incite envy in many a
parent. My attention was caught by the affinity, the fusion of spirit, the
ease of understanding and communication between the man, weighing no less
than 100 kilograms and standing 1.85 meters and wearing a beard like the
Nazarene's, and that small child. The man spoke to him softly and slowly:
"You're going to be a future olympic champion. I hope it will be in
swimming because we need some athletes in that sport. But from your size, I
think you'll make a weight lifter."

"Comandante," said his proud mother, "we feed him mostly milk and
corn meal."

"Well, I'm going to recommend that diet for other kids," replied
Fidel Castro Ruz amid the laughter of those present.

We were observers but immediately afterwards, the Cuban Prime
Minister with his characteristic amiability invited us to take part in a
popular contest to judge the qualities of two pineapples grown in two
different parts of the country. The one from Cienfuegos was the sweeter
variety and since there was no room for doubt, Fidel stated:

"It is healthy to stimulate competition among farmers and we must
continue to emphasize the basic need to use fertilizers. On the other

He began his lecture on farming, a lecture that left us
astonished. It not only demonstrated that Fidel had directed contact with
farming problems but also the importance attached to agriculture in Cuba.
Eloquent testimony of this is the fact that the commander-in-chief of the
FAR is also the chief of the National Agrarian Reform Institute.

A logical question immediately came to mind:

"Isn't it a contradiction within socialism to put
industrialization to one side?"

Fidel replied:

"Industrialization has not been dismissed but the principal stress
has been placed on the nation's economic development, awarding agriculture
maximum stress during these years. A revolution must be waged in conformity
with the objectives realities of each country. In Cuba, we must take
advantage of natural conditions -- soil, climate -- to create wealth as
quickly as possible to fill the immediate and basic needs of the people, a
people like ours which even lacked the necessities of life in the past.
Faced with the population explosion, misery, hunger, and disease which are
the consequences of underdevelopment rooted in colonial and imperialist
exploitation, the world is now at a crossroad. Consequently, our nation,
which grows numerous crops not harvested in the locations of consumption or
crops that are scarce in certain seasons like the winter time, has
unlimited markets and investments are relatively small. There is not only a
question here of favorable soil but also the will of an entire nation which
will not conceive and support a revolution unless that revolution has a
program to solve their problems. If we had placed principal stress on
industrialization, we would not be where we are today because we would have
had to invest enormous amounts in costly installations that not only take
years to construct and put into operation but require numerous technicians
and specialists who were not in Cuba immediately after the Revolution. The
significant surpluses in the world of many industrial products should also
give us pause to reflect while food stocks begin to show signs of serious
reduction. We could say that our economic policy in regards to agriculture
will continue unchanged until 1970, when our food requirements will be
amply covered. Then we will have exportable surpluses of agricultural goods
and we shall have attained a much higher technical level through our
educational plans. During the next decade, this will allow us with greater
economic resources and more qualified labor to develop those branches of
industry that can be supplied with our natural resources and that have
domestic and foreign markets.

After drinking a cup of coffee -- the kind of coffee every Cuban,
especially the campesinos, takes justifiable pride in -- the women present
asked Fidel to have his photo taken with their families. It appeared that
there were not enough photographs of the Prime Minister around their
masonry houses, houses that had sanitary facilities and all kinds of
conveniences, a lot different that the unsanitary huts they lived in before
the Revolution.

Fidel complied with pleasure but the small child we mentioned
before got a little fussy. To put a stop to his wailing and to get him into
the group photo, the Commander-in-Chief of the FAR gave him a fountain pen
and said smilingly:

"I hope I'm wrong but I think this youngster seems to have a
vocation for business and not for athletics..."

Immediately afterwards, Fidel invited me to get into his jeep and
amid vivas, applause, tears and shouts of "Fidel, Fidel" we left for the
school located in Topes de Collantes at the summit of the Escambray.

"I like to travel through the interior. The countryside is very
healthful and helps you to forget even if for only brief moments, the very
arduous problems of the revolutionary struggle -- the 41-year-old
incarnation of Jose Marti was thinking out loud while he lit up a havana

No, a Mexican cigar after all. I surmised that Fidel was
reminiscing about my homeland while he gazed at the smoke escaping from his
mouth and I took the liberty to ask him:

"What are your most pleasant recollections of Mexico. And what are
the least pleasant?

"I think the answer to your first question is indisputable: the
day we left Tuxpan aboard the Granma. It was an indescribable moment. We
were sailing off to liberate our country. Of course, if this is my answer
to your first question, then you will understand when I tell you what my
most unpleasant moment came several months later when we were arrested and
our plans suffered a serious reverse. On that occasion, I almost died
accidentally. I remember that Ramirito (Valdes Menendez) and I were out
walking that evening along a street whose name escapes me when we noticed
several cars carrying suspicious men who we thought might have been
Batista's hired assassins. I told Ramirito to follow me at a safe distance
and I didn't notice when they stopped him. So when I reached the corner
where there was a building under construction, I was counting on my back
being covered. When I saw a group of armed men get quickly out of an
automobile to intercept me, I ducked behind a column. When I tried to draw
an automatic pistol I carried, a federal policemen behind me, who had taken
up Ramirito's position on the street, walloped me over the head with a 45.
The Federal Security Police made a minute search and managed to find and
confiscate part of the weapons we were going to use. Consequently, we went
to lodge in the Miguel Schultz prison. Of course, during my 17-month stay
in Mexico, I had occasion to go to Yucatan and visit the beautiful ruins of
Chichen Itza and Uxmal. On that trip I was studying all potential jump off
points to Cuba. I remember tasting venison for the first time, a regular
dish in Yucatan restaurants. I also visited Progreso but I reached the
conclusion that owing to its proximity to Mexico City -- it was convenient
for the transfer of men, arms and other equipment -- and besides, it was
the place where we bought the Granma, the port of Tuxpan was the most
suitable location for our departure. Oh, those days!... We even encountered
serious difficulties at the last moment for the police had decided to
strike a blow against us. Batista's spies tipped them off, employing the
services of an informer. The police seized our weapons in various houses
where they were stored and arrested our comrades in charges of these
weapons. But by moving quickly with the remaining men and arms, we
succeeded in weighing anchor at 0200 hours on 25 November 1956. At the
time, a stiff wind was blowing out of the north and for that reason,
sailing was prohibited. This occurred several hours before the police had a
chance to strike against the Granma and the remaining men and weapons..."

Fidel really seemed to turn spiritually to Mexico. A prolonged
sigh from the Prime Minister gave me a small idea what each second, each
minute and each hour of those days meant for Cuba...

We began to penetrate in to the Sierra del Escambray, the place
chosen by the counterrevolutionaries to develop their ill-named guerrilla
war. A total of nearly 15 of us were travelling in three jeeps.

"Commandante, isn't there some danger travelling in this

Fidel smiled: "Certainly not. There is no cow-eating bandit left
here. The campesino and workers militia from the Escambray took charge of
eliminating them one by one. At one time, there were about 1,000 men
organized into bands by the CIA but even though they were well supplied
with arms by the US government, they lacked combat spirit and therefore,
military initiative. They were busy spreading terror by assassinating
school teachers, students helping in the literacy campaign, campesinos and
revolutionary workers. They stayed on the defensive military, trying to
avoid capture. Their goals were characteristic of genuine opportunists, men
without convictions who longed for an invasion like the one at Playa Giron
or a direct attack by the United States, so that in the rare chance they
would have defeated us, they would have been the ones to reap the benefits
from the distribution of public offices since they would have been the
first to take up arms against the Revolution. Ironical, isn't it? They
feigned everything, everything, without firing a single shot. Is that how a
revolution is made? Well now, I think I should explain what happened in the
Escambray so that people don't get the wrong idea. How do you explain, how
do you analyse the fact that in a place like this the counterrevolutionary
got started? Well, in the first place, the same revolutionary spirit did
not take hold in all regions of Cuba initially. We in the Sierra Maestra
fostered our relations with the campesinos and workers with utmost
delicacy. We paid for everything we got from them. It was logical that the
Sierra Maestra shook at its foundation with the Revolution. After all, it
was the place where the revolutionary spirit of our leaders was forged and
where the will and firm decision to change the political, economic and
social structure of Cuba were tamped and not a mere exchange of officials.
On the other hand, things developed quite differently in the Escambray,
where an organization called the Second Front of the Escambray was at
"work" (write the word work in quotation marks). Its members played an
insignificant role during the course of the war for national liberation.
The leaders of this group had broken away from the organism called the
Revolutionary Directorate, an organization in which many did fight, i.e.,
those who wanted to make and did make the revolution. Well, this Second
Front of the Escambray was a front only in name; it was a facade because
its members exploited the campesinos, lived off them. They were real
parasites. Instead of attacking the enemy, instead of assaulting the
garrisons in their region, they took to eating cattle, yes, eating cows and
waiting for the fall of the tyrant. So you may understand perfectly what
kind of men these leaders of the so- called Second Front of the Escambray
were, consider the fact that after the revolution triumphed, they were all
officers. They gave officer ranks to all their men so that they finally had
more officers than the Rebel Army that had victoriously carried the war
against Batista. Why weren't we strict with these men? For the simple
reason that we wanted to increase unity among all who in one way or
another, no matter how minimal their cooperation, participated in the fight
against Batista. However, since they had no feelings, they did not
experience the revolutionary spirit. They were incapable of joining the
Revolution. Instead of working, they spent their time dabbling in politics
and seeking sinecure and privileges. During the war when they were in the
Escambray, they committed very serious mistakes, they resorted to terrorism
among the campesinos and after the war, they tried to win some support
there by parcelling out bureaucratic positions with resources from the
municipios bordering on the region. Then, the CIA, viewing this panorama of
the Escambray with all its vicissitudes, made a move to underwrite the
counterrevolution. But imperialism does not understand nor will it ever
comprehend what it means in its total essence, in its total reality, in its
total potency for a people to hold power. Nor can they understand why the
farmers and campesinos of the Escambray, the majority of them motivated by
class instinct, joined the Revolution. Organized into militia battalions,
they liquidated the CIA bandits. No, the reactionaries will never
understand that. An eloquent proof of this is that they are still racking
their brains to seek to justify their failure at Playa Giron, their failure
here in the Escambray, their failure vis-a-vis the Cuban people. The CIA
turned to criminals, torturers traitors and cowards. No one can defeat a
nation with this kind of amalgam, with this kind of fauna. Imperialism does
not understand that revolutions, quite distinct from barracks revolts and
conspiracies, are made by men of convictions..."

I confined myself to observing that mountain range carefully.
Later I asked: "What would be the attitude of the Havana government if
under the OAS banner, a collective attack were organized and carried out
against Cuba, with the North Americans as the nucleus, financiers and
provisioners? What do you think the position of Latin American peoples
ought to be in a case like that?"

"We are not worried about invasions because we have a
revolutionary army that possesses the most modern weapon, an army which is
an armed people, disciplined and ready always to fight to victory. We don't
know what imperialism is up to with its bases and the transit of
mercenaries through Central America but there is a lot of talk about it
lately. They did this once before to organize the Giron invasion in 1961.
Later in 1963, they organized bases in that area to carry out pirate
attacks. Who know what they're doing now. Perhaps they plan to stage
another Giron but this time accompanied with massive air attacks by the US
Air Force. Whatever their plans, we are ready for anything. Moreover, we
are aware that the CIA has not stopped its activities against our country
and it is far from desisting. It would come of no surprise that Schick --
he was still living at the time of this interview -- or any other lackey in
the colonial office would offer territory for new actions against Cuba.
From the viewpoint of international law, any State that offers its
territory to organize and launch an invasion against another country is
responsible for the consequences that might derive from this action. Our
country has been forced to remain on a war footing since the triumph of the
Revolution. We have absolute confidence in the material and moral forces of
our people confronted by the threats of imperialism which by nature is
aggressive but craven. It must not be forgotten that neither crime nor
terror nor assassination will topple our people. On the contrary, these
very acts have increased their consciousness and tempered their spirit. We
will never bow down, we will never be defeated, not by mercenaries nor by
the regular troops of imperialism and their puppets. I have said before and
I repeat again: this island will sink back into the sea before we consent
to be anyone's slaves. Moreover, the Cuban people are aware that in the
event of official aggression by armies of the OAS member States, it can
count on the active solidarity of Latin American revolutionaries.

"Do you think that the Johnson government persists in granting
facilities to the Cuban counterrevolutionaries for an invasion of Cuba? If
the invasion takes place and some of the gusanos captured at Playa Giron
and later released are recaptured, what would be their fate? Don't you fear
that under the guise of a Cuban Air Force in Exile, the US would carry out
intense bombings to support the infantry as they are doing in Vietnam? What
would Cuba do in this type of aggression?"

Fidel, who have been telling us the advantages terrain offers to a
guerrilla column, leaped out of the jeep. The caravan came to a halt.

"Do you see that hill? Well from that point this whole road can be
controlled. From that other one over there this extensive zone could be
covered. And at the most, all you would need is a squad of riflemen. No
enemy force regardless of its size could advance on those positions from
the direction we're taking while those positions were defended. And if
infantry could not pass, neither could tanks because they cannot move over
mined terrain without the support of engineers. We won the war against
Batista with rifles and mines alone even though his army was well armed --
air force, artillery and tanks -- an army trained by US officers..."

Before, we heard a lecture on agriculture; now we got one on
military tactics. With extraordinary skill and knowledge, the
Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forced explained in detail
how the Cuban people could defend themselves successfully against any
enemy. We and the members of his escort listened attentively...

"In case of an invasion with US troops, we would certainly not
order an immediate withdrawal to the mountains; of course we wouldn't. We
would resist them on the landing each itself or at the naval or air landing
zone because we have the resources to resist them there. Moreover, the
nation is trained for irregular warfare; we have great experience at it in
the event a portion of the country is occupied. What damage could enemy
bombs do in a terrain like this? Strategically, the Sierra del Escambray is
impregnable. And the Sierra Maestra, it goes without saying ... I am not
unaware that a massive attack by hundreds of aircraft would have a
psychological impact on the defenders of a position but the combatant would
get used to it and would nullify its effects if he were well dug in. If our
forces are correctly deployed, properly distributed and hidden, the enemy
will not know with any precision the condition or number of our effectives.
Look over there, for example. At that point over there 2,000 meters from
this spot, two men armed with automatic rifles would be enough to hold it.
There would be no reason to post a platoon there and expose it to heavy
fire. Has there been any success in Vietnam? US strategy is based on the
strange idea of softening up that heroic Asiatic nation, is based on the
idea of forcing it to surrender by the weight of bombardments in the North
and by the amassment of convention forces in the South. And what has the US
attained? This entire concept has dashed against an objective reality, the
same reality felt in the Cuban people: the unbending resistance of the
Vietnamese, its decision to resist until victory. Granted that the US
attack on Vietnam is superior in its methods of warfare, in its potential
for destruction, in its lack of scruples, in its offensive tactics like the
ones the Nazi armies used against Poland; despite all this, despite the
poison gases, despite bacteriological warfare, despite the fact that
hundreds of aircraft participate daily in the implacable attack
unprecedented in modern times, the Vietnamese people have resisted and
intend to keep on doing so. The only thing the US has not used there is the
atomic bomb ... Returning to the issue of Cuba, we don't have the least
doubt that imperialism persists in its hostile plans against our country.
However, our people have been armed and trained, especially after the
lesson of Playa Giron and the October crisis when we lived under the threat
of nuclear arms. We are convinced that we will never submit. The North
Americans thought they were going to chasten the rebellion there by
bombarding Vietnam, that the Vietnamese people would surrender and that the
other nations would be terrified of them. Quite the opposite has happened:
there is not more but less fear among those nations; there is no wavering
but decisiveness; there is no respect any longer for the US Army but more
hatred of it. If an invasion were to occur here and if the gusanos like the
ones captured at Giron were employed in that invasion force, the people
would show no quarter towards them or towards any one else. How much money
has it cost us to train and keep a considerable portion of our people under
arms, money that could be used to yield greater economic benefits for our
nation. Unfortunately, we have been forced to spend it on a national
defense owing to the high-handedness of imperialism; this demonstrates
concisely the absurdity and criminality of imperialism.

Once again we got into the jeeps. The road was in very bad
condition due to the intense downpours. Fidel, who is an expert driver over
rough terrain -- he proved it at Playa Giron where he sank the last board
transporting mercenary troops and he did it with a tank and a well-aimed
cannot shot -- sometimes, actually most of the time, gave instructions to
the driver of our vehicles... Once we cleared the obstacles, we continued
our interesting discussion. But we got stuck in mud once for some time. The
FAR chief used this pause to chat with two young and attractive school
teachers, ages 18 and 16, who were in charge of a small elementary school.

"Fidel, Fidel!" the children shouted running towards us. "Stay and
have some coffee with us!" the little girls pleaded. As part of their
program of studies to become teachers, they were performing two years of
social service in the area where they would later exercise their
profession, a profession that has been dignified and exalted by the
authorities in Cuba.

Right now there are 20,000 students studying for their primary
school teaching certificates and in 1970, this figure will reach 35,000. In
a country of little more than 7 million people, this is unparalleled and
cannot be matched anywhere in the world. This figure does not include the
thousands of students preparing to become secondary, preuniversity,
physical education and technological school teachers. We would have to add
the 16,500 young men and women studying soils and fertilizers, veterinary
assistance, artificial insemination and other branches related to livestock
breeding. In the area of general technological education, there are 37,760
studying; there will be 58,000 in 1970. If we add this figure to the
students in primary, secondary, preuniversity and university education, we
get a total of 150,000 who have free access to living quarters, food,
books, clothing and education. There are 1,300,000 students enrolled on the
primary level, 144,000 on the secondary and pre- university level and
30,000 enrolled in universities. And there are about 600,000 people
enrolled in the campaign to get a sixth grade education after they have
passed the initial literacy stage.

One of the girls, who was barely 16 years old, had suffered burns
on her body weeks before while lighting a gas stove and the burn marks
seemed to embarrass her. Fidel asked her if she would like to go to Havana
for treatment. She answered that her duty there came first. To this the
Commander-in-Chief of the FAR replied:

"This kind of thing bothers me and I know it bothers you too. A
pretty young lady cannot wear a bikini at the beach if she likes, looking
like that. That shouldn't be. So, we're going to send a substitute for you
here so that you can take care of it properly.

(Days later, I learned the outcome from Comandante Rene Vallejo,
Fidel's personal physician and assistance, the man who performed 208 cases
of surgery in the Sierra Maestra and saved the lives of many guerrillas
even though he had to use primitive instruments like a saw to amputate legs
and arms. A native of Manzanillo, this revolutionary apostle of medicine
was 37 years old when he went into the mountains. The self-sacrificing and
beautiful girl was treated in Havana by a specialist who prevented the
formation of a keloid in her scar by applying timely therapy.)

I took this occasion to ask:

"What is your idea of the teacher? What do you expect of him in
the Revolution?"

Fidel lit up another havana and replied:

"We want to train teachers who come from working class and
campesino origins because they have something to say about social order. It
is true that the majority of teachers come from the middle class. And I
must add that socially many teachers in our country were undergoing a
certain transformation; they were entering into relationships in many forms
with other social sectors that were on a higher level than the ones they
came from and they were acquiring a bourgeois mentality. That explains why
when those other sectors or parts of them left the country, a certain
number of teachers (men and women) left with them. Needless to say, the
desertion rate was higher among those in the higher echelons such as
secondary, preuniversity and university professors; gentlemen on high birth
were more prone to the virus of reaction. How to answer your questions:
what is a teacher? What should be the ideal of a teacher? Is it to be that
of a country like ours where more than one million people did not know how
to read or write? What was the ideal teacher in the country where 25 or 30
percent of its population was illiterate? Did the social system before have
the ideal teacher when it left more than 600,000 children schoolless? Could
that social system produce the ideal teacher where practically 90 percent
of its primary and secondary student body quit school before graduating
from the sixth grade? Is there anyone, anyone with a teacher's vocation,
with the ideals and spirit of a teacher who could feel happy in this kind
of a social system? Could they reconcile the vocation, the ideals and the
spirit of the teacher with a social system where the opportunity to attend
a university or a technological institute or teachers school feel only to
10 to 15 percent of the nation's young people? Could that social system
produce the ideal teacher where a young person had to be orphaned to get a
scholarship? Could a teacher be reconciled with that social system? Was
that progressive? Was that human? Was that just? Was that civilized? No!
Capitalists and the bourgeoisie say yes, that its system was human,
progressive, civilized. But that system of ignorance, illiteracy,
schoolless children, young people without opportunities, had nothing at all
human about it. Could you call someone a teacher who stopped being a
teacher when all that changed and when all that disappeared? We had to plan
to train a true teacher, to train genuine teachers in the highest meaning
of the word, teachers capable of teaching not only in the cities but also
in any part of the world. We had to train a type of teacher qualified to
teach not only in Pico Turquino [highest point in the Sierra Maestra] but
one also ready to teach in any part of the world where a brother people
needed him. This is the kind of teacher we want to make, which we aspire to
train and we believe we are doing just that. For that very reason, we
organized the school in the Sierra Maestra to test aspirants to the
teaching profession, to test their vocation under difficult conditions. It
was the same way we tested the men who wanted to join our revolutionary
forces. It was the same place we had our school for recruits. After their
induction into the Rebel Army, they spent their first year in a hostile,
cold and forbidding place to learn that if they could pass the test, they
could endure other tests and would be able to go on without fear, without
traumas. What happened to the teacher who got his diploma in the city and
had never seen the rural areas when they sent him to the Sierra Maestra? He
feel to pieces. We had to have people who would not fall apart if we sent
them into the countryside or if we sent them into the mountains. We have
achieved this. We have seen our optimism rewarded, our faith in the
potentiality of creating and training this kind of young person for any
test. This system of training teachers is unique in the world; it is a
creation of our Revolution and we might say that we are out front in
teacher training. To march in the vanguard in teacher training is to march
in the vanguard in the Revolution, to be in the vanguard as regards the
other social problems a nation must face. Because one cannot conceive of a
new society without new men, one cannot conceive of a new society if it
does not have a new concept about all the fundamental problems of life. And
one cannot imagine new generations capable of living in a new way without
proletarian education of these generations of citizens. These two girls are
eloquent proof of this..."

"What type of school do you plan to establish in Cuba? Will it be
a combination of study and work? What is the revolutionary government's
highest goal in education?"

"Our objective is as follows: in the cities, children will go to
school in the morning and return home in the evening; they will have
breakfast, lunch and supper at school. In the rural areas, the children
will board from Monday to Friday but not in remote schools but in schools
built in the same rural district, in the same rural zones. And we plan to
build nursery schools because we are interested in making it possible for
absolutely every woman in the nation who is physically fit to work to go to
work and to take part in production. This is human, this is just, because
under the old capitalist concept -- even more than capitalistic, the
colonial system -- women played no role. It was woman's place to scrub,
wash, iron, cook and clean the house and bear children. To prevent children
from becoming a burden for woman, we must get her away from the washing,
ironing, cooking and scrubbing. Because if to have children woman must deny
herself every other kind of work, then the child becomes an obstacle and
turns into a burden. To allow women to have equality, to let women who are
discriminated against in society have conditions that would permit them to
join the work force, we must of necessity build sufficient nurseries and
schools, schools where the teachers live and where they identify themselves
with the school. Our aspiration -- and we have to adjust our efforts to our
aspiration -- is to have a system of schools and nursery schools for more
than a million children by 1975.

It is our desire to have enough of these schools for all the
children in rural areas and school cafeterias and facilities for all
children in the cities. The children in the city will go to school in the
morning and return home in the evening, and the children in rural areas
will go back to school on Mondau and return home on Friday to make a little
nuisance of themselves at home. In addition, these schools will be modern
institutions with good facilities equipped with all necessities, including
a sports field. And the schools with students from the fourth grade up will
also have their assigned areas of productive work and we will combine, we
will make our aspiration of combining work and study a reality. This
combination will be the only form of giving the citizen an integral
education. Children will attend the six primary grades plus three years of
basic secondary education and then go on to acquire a specialty on a higher
level. We have to do this because what are we going to do if we start
giving specialty training to a boy after the sixth grade? Undoubtedly, we
would make him a poor worker who will have finished his studies at age 13
or 14, with limited training with poor training. We do not aspire to make
this kind of worker. In the future, we want a worker who has at least
finished his education up to the basic secondary level and who then
acquires a profession at the preuniversity or university level. He will be
without doubt a man with a broader vision, with more aptitude for life.
Likewise, the technological schools -- not the technological institutes --
will be replaced by secondary schools so that specialization will begin
only after completion of the basic secondary course. Children in rural
schools will complete their education up to and including the secondary
level and from there they will attend an agricultural technological
institute or a preuniversity school. That is, they will finish the studies
that we will begin to prepare them for production. But first of all, we
will give them the work habit, the sense of duty for work as a dignified
human activity, activity that contributes most to man's growth and after
specialization prepares him for the future tasks he must perform in
society. Our aspiration is to achieve this system in ten years so that by
1975, all children in the nation may receive free breakfast, lunch and
dinner at school plus clothing and footwear, medical care, sports and
recreation. If our nation can show now during athletic competitions what it
can do to benefit man, a new concept of society, what will it be like in
1970, in 1974, in 1978? What will the future be like when all our children
grow in a healthy manner, under optimum conditions of feeding and care?
What will the future of our country be like when we achieve this?"

"Don't you think that due precisely to all these gratifications,
all this progress, there is the danger of deviation among future

"We are certain that the Cuban youth who were in the womb of the
Revolution will not go astray. While they will have every gratification in
the material and spiritual order, they will also have a solid education, a
well-formed conscience, a steely hardness, a rectitude attained through
training, through study and work, through integral education which will
make succeeding generations of our youth superior to their predecessors.
Those who feel and those who died did not fall and did not die to allow a
less heroic generation to come after them, to allow a less self-
sacrificing, less combative and weaker generation to succeed them. No! The
fallen and the dead, those who opened the path of a revolution and fought
to make a better fatherland, to make better men, to make ever superior
generations, these men fought to be the trail blazers for a road that had
no end. And the youth have a full awareness of this and precisely because
they do have it, their revolutionary spirit is sometimes excessive..."

Fidel spoke with absolute assuredness. The two young girls
confirmed his statements by their admiration. His escort succeeded in
getting the jeep out of the mud but the two teachers insisted that the
Prime Minister go with them to drink a cup of coffee. He let them know that
there were 15 people in his caravan and that to invite them all would cause
a substantial deficit in the domestic budget. But he promised them that on
his next trip he would accept the invitation and before leaving, he gave
them some sweet pineapples from Cienfuegos, the same pineapples they judged
in their contest. ..

For a few moments I brooded, trying to understand these girls,
their spirit...

"What are the distinguishing marks of these young

I think Fidel has only one answer for this. I think he always has
in mind his heroic companions who contributed their lives in the assault on
the Moncada barracks... His ideas essentially contain what he expressed
before the court 13 years ago when he said with great faith in his people
and in its future:

"When people have a single ideal in mind, nothing can isolate
them, not even prison walls nor cemetery plots because a single memory, a
single soul, a single idea, a single conscience and dignity lives in them
all. Is there a weapon capable of defeating a people that decides to fight
for their rights? What do we mean by people? By people we mean -- when we
talk of struggle -- the great unredeemed mass whom every sacrifices, whom
all deceive and betray, the mass which desires a better homeland, a more
worthy and just homeland; the mass moved by ancestral longings for justice
because it has suffered injustice and scorn generation after generation;
the mass desirous of great and wise transformations on all levels and
willing to give of themselves to attain it when it believes in something or
someone; above all when it believes in itself, it is ready to give the last
drop of its blood. The first condition to attract sincerity and good faith
is to do precisely what nobody does, i.e., to speak with the utmost
sincerity, clarity and without fear. The demagogues and politicians perform
the miracle of being all things to all men while necessarily deceiving
everyone. Revolutionaries must proclaim their ideas courageously, define
their principles and express their intentions so that none is deceived,
neither friends nor enemies. And when peoples attain the conquests they
have longed for over a period of several generations, there is no force in
the world that can snatch them away. To renounce liberty is to renounce the
human species, the rights of mankind including its obligations.
Renunciation of this kind is incompatible with man's nature; to strip the
will of freedom is to rob morality of action..."

It was obvious that those young teachers were convinced that
nobility and joyousness of the fatherland were the most beautiful and
worthy ideals to which their generation and future ones could aspire...

"Comandante, 13 years ago, they accused you revolutionaries of
being dreamers, romantics, idealists when you attacked the Moncada
barracks. I think they also called you provocateurs. How do you think now,
how do you judge this action that started the insurrectional cycle of the
movement that redeemed Cuba?"

"Yes, they in fact did accuse us of being dreamers 13 years ago.
And I gave them the same answer Marti gave: `The true man does not look for
where he can best live but where his duty lies; that man alone is practical
whose dream of today becomes tomorrow's law because he who has fixed his
gaze on the universal entrails and sees the peoples seethe, flaming and
bloody, in the trough of ages, knows that the future without a single
exception is on the side of duty.' Thirteen years ago, none of those
beloved men, those who gave their lives for this revolution, was know. No
one knew any of that legion of men who sacrificed their lives that day for
the fatherland. Possibly none of them had their names appear in newspaper
print. None of them counted in the estimates of the political soothsayers.
None of them sparkled as a prominent figure in the hearts of the people.
But they were from the people and came from the heart of the people and
from the blood of the people. We had absolute faith in the people and the
entire strategy of the Revolution was always founded on the people, on
great confidence in the people, on a great conviction regarding the huge
revolutionary force locked up within the people. We were a handful of men;
we did not plan to overthrow the Batista tyranny with a handful of men, to
overthow his armies. No. But we did think that this handful of men could
seize the first weapons to start to fight alongside the people. We though a
handful of men were enough, not to topple that regime, but to unleash that
force, that immense energy of the people which was indeed capable of
overthrowing that regime. Were those young people provocateurs who gave
their lives under torture rather than betray their revolutionary position?
You've read what they did to them: they crushed their tentacles and plucked
out their eyes but none hesitated nor was there one complaint nor one
entreaty heard because, as I said before that tribunal, even if they had
deprived them of their male organs, they would still have been a thousand
times more manly than all their henchmen put together. They [henchmen] were
not endowed with manly courage nor even with the courage of women. You know
what happened to two of the men who took part in the attack. A sergeant and
several men came into the jail where Melba Hernandez and Haydee Santamaria
were being held. They were holding a bloody eye in their hands and going up
to Haydee and showing her the eye, they said to her: `This is your
brother's. If you don't tell us what he refused to tell us, we'll pluck out
his other eye.' She, who loved her courageous brother Abel, answered them
with dignity: `If you tore out one of his eyes and he wouldn't talk, much
less will I tell you.' They returned later and burned her arms with
cigarette butts until finally, full of malevolence, they again addressed
Haydee Santamaria: `You don't have a boy friend anymore because we killed
him too.' She replied: `He is not dead because to die for the fatherland is
to live.' .."

I recalled the words Fidel Castro spoke 13 years ago in connection
with these events. "It is not with blood that we can repay the lives of the
young men who die for the welfare of the people; the happiness of that
people is the only worthy price that can be paid for those lives. The
Apostle Marti said that "there is a limit to wailing over the tombs of the
dead and it is infinite love for the fatherland and for glory that is
reflected on their bodies which does not fear nor abate nor ever weaken;
because the bodies of the martyrs are the most beautiful altar of honor."

Marti also wrote:

...when ones dies in the grateful arms of the fatherland,
death leaves, the prison breaks open;
life at last begins with dying.

The memory is woven in with the smoke from the havana, in a
picture of emotion and tenderness. Fidel repeated for the journalist word
after word of that uncommon, historic, dramatic trial, of Moncada...
Undoubtedly, the Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces was
relieving those moments of extraordinary transcendence...

The jeep was moving slowly due to the poor condition of the
road... Suddenly, we were on top of a hill. Fidel told the driver to stop
the vehicle. He took me by the arm and lead me to a place that overlooked a
wide zone.

"Do you remember what I told you when starting this trip through
the Sierra about the importance of position and that it was not necessary
to deploy many guerrillas to confront a good many soldiers? Well, I'm going
to demonstrate that... From here, one man alone can dominate that entire
road over which the enemy would have to pass. One of us could inflict a lot
of casualties and stop their ascent. Observe, for example..."

Fidel asked for an automatic FAL rifle, a weapon of great power
and firing potential. The Commander-in-Chief of the FAR, of whom it is said
that he puts the bullet where he aims, and whose markmanship with a rifle
has been embroidered in fabulous legends, took a prone position like a

"Watch the road. Suppose there was nothing approaching but
infantry, no tanks... You let them advance until the greatest number of
troops are within your field of fire and have no possible escape. Then, you
open up with bursts..."

Fidel had clicked the selector on automatic fire and the weapon
began to spew fire. You could clearly see that he was literally sweeping
the road. This confirmed the Prime Minister's mastery over the automatic
weapon. The rounds would have wiped out any advance patrol over a
considerable distance along that track without allowing it time to react.
When I turned my gaze to observe the reaction of his escort, they were
watching me and they merely smiled over my admiration...

"Do you understand now what I have told you?" Fidel asked me.

How could I have the least doubt left? Later he said to me.

"Now I'm going to demonstrate to you how one man can defend this
position without any danger whatsoever and keep any invader at bay. The
only thing I'm afraid of is that the Escambray militia will mistake us like
the other day... Oh well, problems... Let's say the trunk of that tree over

At first, I thought he was exaggerating because he indicated a
precise target about 450 meters away and with burst firing. The magazine
held 20 rounds. How many could strike the target?

Fidel started firing. It seemed incredible. The tracer bullets
spaced every fourth shot showed the absolute precision of the firing.

The magazine was almost spent when we suddenly heard the warnings
of the Escambray militia. The escort shouted what the firing was all
about.... A rider approached at top speed and seeing the Prime Minister, he
asked: "Are you comrade Fidel?"

After an affirmative reply, the militiaman warned the
Commander-in-Chief of the FAR that discharging firearms was forbidden in
these parts.... In a blink of an eye, a large group of militiamen showed
up; there were responsible for security in the Sierra and for the
management and operation of projects the revolutionary government had
started in the region.

It was like a fairy tale. Fidel begged their pardon and requested
us to accompany him to inspect the results of the impacts.. In the
clearing, women, children and a few old men were shouting at the top of
their lungs: "Fidel, Fidel!" Merriment was everywhere. One young mother
with her child in her arms wept for happiness. One old lady reminded me of
the biblical passage about Simon because when she embraced the Prime
Minister with great tenderness, she said to him sobbingly:

"Now I can die because I have seen you, I have embraced you...."

Fidel, moved with emotion, answered her:

"You aren't going to die for a long time because you are young and

A soldier from his escort approached and notified the
Commander-in-Chief of the FAR that out of the 20 bullets fired, 16 had
found their mark...

We all headed towards the tree. There were the 16 hits. Fidel
smiled. Later, observing a coffee plantation carefully, he continued his
chat with the campesinos.

"Do you all know that the 1970 coffee harvest should reach two
million quintals? And if you use the fertilizers sent to you, the coffee
trees would not need so much shade and will produce more. We've had
magnificent results near Topes de Collantes and I'm sure it will be
repeated here too. How is artificial insemination going in these parts? To
date throughout the entire country, more than one million cows have been
involved in our program; that's 14 times more than there were a year and a
half ago..."

"Comandante," interrupted a peasant, "because you take note of how
we are getting along, I would like to tell you a story related to the
insemination program... The hurricane caused a lot of damage. Some towns
were cut off due to the rising rivers which destroyed the roads and this
occurred precisely during a cycle when we were making scheduled deliveries
to the cattlemen of the region. Several of them over that way to the
southwest were cut off and it seemed materially impossible to deliver the
semen from the center to the herds. But this set of circumstances did not
daunt the militiaman charged with this job. After protecting the valuable
vacuum bottle, he strapped it on his back, swam across the river and
finished his assignment."

"That comrade must be congratulated," said Fidel and turning to
me, he added:

"This spirit is what made the Cuban Revolution grand and this
spirit urges us on to accelerate the pace, to work with greater enthusiasm
to solve the needs of the people. To give you an idea how our agriculture
is progressing, I can tell you that 300,000 new hectares of land are being
put to productive use each year, for pastures, cane, orchards, legumes,
tubers, grains, cotton and other crops. And this figure will increase in
the coming years. We also plan to develop all our water resources with the
goal of not permitting one drop of water to reach the sea. We will soon
start a program for the construction of 70,000 kilometers of roads..."

The people began to applaude; everybody was clapping except for a
10-year old child. Fidel looked at him. His right arm was missing almost up
to his shoulder. He was born that way.

"Do you want to have an arm like your pals?"

Yes," replied the boy who gave the impression that he had adjusted
to his reality without expecting anything from anyone.

"Well, I promise you you'll have it. One thing, I'll have to check
with Comandante Vallejo to see if they can give you one now or whether
you'll have to wait a while because of your age. But I do promise you that
you'll have a new arm which will be almost like the one your pals here. In
the Soviet Union they make perfect ones out of plastic. You'll see..."

And the Prime Minister hugged the little boy...

(Days later, the boy left for the Soviet Union with his father to
get and operation and rehabilitation, for according to Cuban doctors, he
was an ideal age for the treatment.)

"And how is everything going at the school? Are all the children
on time for class?" asked Fidel.

"Not only do they study and attend school punctually but in
addition, they work with great enthusiasm in the harvest," replied a father
who used the occasion to introduce four of his children to Fidel.

"If you were to practice a few sports in this mountain range, you
would have no difficulty being long-distance running champs in the next
olympics. Of course, you have to eat well for that. Do the children
attending school get enough milk? I was also thinking that dogs could be of
service to you here in the Escambray to watch over you cattle and other
animals. The German shepherd or a caucasion dog I've bred at my house?..."

A young and attractive peasant girl told him that there was enough
milk for all the children of school age and also for other family members.
A cattle worker told Fidel the number of cows he milked. He told him a
story about how in the era of the counterrevolutionary bands, a dog had
saved his brother whom bandits had kidnapped with intent to assassinate
him. His dog kept howling on the mountain and it alerted friends of his to
what was going on....

Then Fidel told them that several years ago he was given a present
of two pairs of Caucasian pups and that he now had about 20 of them and
that it would please him to know if they could be of any use on cattle

Some campesinos were in favor of the German shepherd because they
knew the breed but Fidel offered to send a Caucasian pup with the request
that they test the dog by teaching him to drive cattle on the mountains.
The cow hand offered to take care of the dog and teach him. He would be
given the name Montana (Mountain).

"Don't you think it would be good to have pheasants in this
region? Down below they are raising thousands of them and they are
releasing many pairs of them in certain areas of the country but I've heard
it said that they cause damage in crop areas although the technicians who
bred the pheasants deny it. What do you think?"

"No, that would be bad," warned the man who was apparently in
charge of production, "that would be bad. The pheasant certainly is
mischievous. It would damage fruit and everything else..."

Fidel smiled and said to me:

"Did you notice the difference of opinion over such a small

Then, turning to the campesinos, he stated:

"Well, if you think that way, it would be best if we didn't
release the pheasants. But I wish you take good care of the banana variety
you have here. It has a magnificent quality and we need its shoots to
expand the plantations in other regions throughout the country. In Banao,
not far from here, an important plan for fruit trees is near completion.
You are most likely aware of it. We will plant 60 caballerias of grapes, 20
of strawberries, 20 of asparagus, 20 of onions besides the experimental
plantings in some types of fruit like apples. Some of these cultivations
are entirely new. You people here in the mountains should pay primary
attention to coffee and cattle besides the crops for local consumption.

Everyone agreed. It began to rain very hard and one of the guards
brought a raincoat for Fidel who courteously gave it to me despite my

The Commander-in-Chief of the FAR asked whether the road to Topes
de Collantes was passable. Everybody answered no but Fidel taking leave of
them said:

"Well, we'll have to check that out. If we have to stop halfway,
we will return..."

"We hope so, we hope so," shouted the expectant campesinos.

We quickly climbed into the jeep. Fidel noticed that I was struck
with the beauty of a young peasant girl. Smiling, I cautioned him:

"I don't think the US is Cuba's problem but your beautiful

"No, No," retorted the Prime Minister. And he added:

"Cuba is known for its very beautiful women but wait ten years to
admire the woman fashioned by the Revolution. We have placed special
importance on sports. For example, before the Revolution there were only
15,000 sportsmen in the country or out of every 1,000 persons, only 1.5
engaged in sports. Now, 800,000 youngsters participate in organized
championships. In physical education activities, that figure grows to
1,300,000 since all primary schools have physical education programs.
Another 665,000 have passed the tests for `Listos para Vencer' (Ready to
Win). They test stamina, speed, strength, swimming ability and broad
jumping. These figures do not include the army nor the military LPV which
are separate. But that's nothing. The National Sports Institute only has a
budget of 12 million Cuban pesos which shows that everything or almost
everything is voluntary. In what other country does this happen? In what
country in the world? And we have done all this despite the economic
blockade which in the final analysis has also had its benefits because
since we lacked the gear, necessity forced us to manufacture our own
baseball gloves, spikes, balls and the rest. I'd like to add something
else: the only thing we don't plan to export are our women. I want that to
be clear..."

The laughter was prolonged. I asked another question:

"If despite the OAS agreement to break relations with Cuba some
Latin American countries wanted to normalized diplomatic, commercial and
cultural revolutions with Cuba, what would be the position of the
revolutionary government? Do you think peaceful coexistence and mutual
respect are possible between Cuba and the Latin American countries with
capitalist governments?

"With the exception of Mexico, a nation with which we have cordial
relations, our government will restore no kind of relations with the other
countries of Latin America because they are territories dominated by the
force of US imperialism, because they are colonies where counterfeit
regimes remain in power, divorced from the people, the masses against whom
they unloose the most violent repression. In principle, we are not disposed
to talk with assassins, kidnappers and thieves. We will only renew
diplomatic, trade and cultural relations when the governments of these
nations proceed from the people, are the people and work for the people and
when they are genuinely free. How can we trust governments which break with
us on a simple order from Washington? How could we maintain sincere and
solid relations with governments loyal to the dictates of imperialism and
which oppress and enslave the campesinos, students, and discriminate
against and prostitute their women and keep children in a state of the
worst abandon? And what are the regimes of Hispano- America? What is their
only objective? Is it not to continue to safeguard the interests of the big
US monopolies and the caste privileges of an oligarchy without any concern
to end infantile mortality, illiteracy, feudal exploitation, looting of the
public treasury, racial discrimination, disease, the moral asphyxia of
intellectual and artists; an oligarchy that has no concern -- because it
does not interest them nor is it of any advantage to them -- about
recovering national sovereignty and economic independence? No. Cuba will
not resume relations of any kind with any country of Latin America as long
as revolutionary governments are not in power, with a mandate from the
people who desire and fight for true independence."

"And in the case of the United States, how do you think diplomatic
relations could be normalized?"

"While the US maintains its policy of aggression and its system of
imperialist exploitation over the peoples of Latin America, Asia and
Africa, the revolutionary government of Cuba has no interest in resuming
diplomatic relations with them. How can we speak of relations with a
country which in a criminal, barbarous and reactionary spirit sows death
and destruction among a people like the Vietnamese? How is this possible
when the US without going through diplomatic channels, acting solely on a
request from an illegitimate and tyrannical government in crisis,
intervened and invaded the Dominican Republic? How is it possible if its
conduct, if its international policy is bent on repressing all movements in
a hungry American that are fighting for bread, for land, for liberty,
fighting for their liberation? Don't you remember Playa Giron? Don't you
take any stock in the unabating economic blockade with which they tried to
isolate Cuba but to no purpose? Haven't you given any thought to the
October crisis? No, there must be no talk of relations with imperialism:
better to cut off our hands. The Vietnamese people have given the world an
example of inestimable value and the world will always be grateful to the
people of Vietnam for teaching it how unimportant the size of a country is,
how insignificant the number of enemies, and how meaningless is an enemy's
power and that what counts is conviction, love of country, firmness,
tenacity, and indomitable spirit. When we Cuban declare `Patria o Muerte`
(Fatherland or Death), we do it confident of our future, trusting in our
convictions and prepared to spill the last drop of our blood in defense of
our independence. We are also aware, because we feel it in the constant
provocations by the CIA, that the US will not cease its absurd efforts, its
sterile efforts to destroy the socialism being forged on the first free
territory of America. Consequently, is it possible to sustain, to renew
friendship with one who feeds on hypocrisy, with one who is the antithesis
of Cuba's survival? Would it be normal to resume relations with the US, a
nation which has declared war on us, which has with the support of its
lackeys set up a blockade which is not only economic but also one which
assumes incredible forms, even to denying us medicine and surgical
materials, books and periodicals of a scientific and cultural nature?
Although our country never practiced the policy of breaking relations with
others simply because others had different social and political systems,
the imperialist government of the United States broke with us and forced
many puppet governments to follow suit. Well, we will not wait any amount
of time it takes until there is no longer an imperialist government in the
United States to resume relations with that country, the day it is governed
by authentic representatives of the North American people and not by
monopolies ..."

"Fidel, Fidel, come drink some coffee! Fidel, Fidel, stay and take
some hot coffee!" shouted a lady from her porch while the rain increased in
intensity. Fidel stopped the jeep and said:

"We must have some coffee because never in my life have I heard a
more spontaneous invitation to drink coffee with someone. We should avail
ourselves of some coffee. Besides, I need some because during the last 48
hours, I've only managed to sleep four..."

The house we stopped in front of was an old one made out of wood.
In it lived a family of small farmers engaged in coffee production. Their
coffee was stored in one of the rooms. They were all happy not only because
of this unexpected visit but also because the revolutionary government had
ordered the construction of a highway to transport coffee and fruit to the
larger consumer centers. In addition, the Prime Minister was very
interested in increasing cattle and coffee production in that isolated but
not forgotten region.

The devotion, the immense affection, and the faith the Cuban
campesions felt for Fidel was really moving, for this man gifted with
extraordinary capacity for work, for understanding problems, for explaining
the processes of the Revolution. In fact, it is difficult to conceive of a
political leader endowed with the qualities of the Commander-in-Chief of
the FAR and especially one quality: sincerity. He not only has an unusual
perception of Cuba's rural life but more important, he has a knowledge of
its people. You might say that Fidel's basic performance is conditioned by
two factors: his technical capacity and his political capacity.

Fidel makes many visits to the country's various regions, getting
to know their real problems and watching the progress of the diverse plans
for economic and social development. In the beginning, Fidel used to spend
several days in the same place. The results can be witnessed today. The
work, dedication and tireless effort of Fidel are reflected in the
affection and veneration the people feel for him, an affection that strikes
the most sensitive chords.

"I like to work as quietly as possible. I like to travel through
the country's interior and above all, I like the mountains. There is
something in mountains which always makes us feel better, happier..."

Fidel is a man of the people who always goes back to the people,
to the very womb of that people in the rural areas. He is a man of heart
and for that reason, a victim of the most implacable self-criticism. He is
his own harshest critic. He smarts, it is a source of real anguish for him
to be confronted with a problem that momentarily cannot be solved. He is
consumed within himself when he sees someone suffering or when a woman
makes a request he cannot satisfy. If those who have vilified and
calumniated him only knew him. If those who believe everything written
about him, about his alleged atrocities, only knew him. What a surprise
would be in store for them if they got to know this upright leader, this
honorable, hardworking man with the heart of a child.

Indeed, the most impressive thing is the affection the Cuban
people feel for Fidel. I have a personal anecdote on this subject. One
morning my phone rang in the Hotel Habana Riviera where I was staying. A
tremulous voice said:

"Excuse me for disturbing you. I have just read the newspaper.
Who's you father? Is it Mario Menendez Romero? Is you mother Pilar, Pilar
Rodriguez Cantillo?"

I gave an affirmative answer. On the other end of the line, a man
was weeping, weeping...

"Mayito, I'm your great uncle, you great uncle, my boy and I'd
like to see you..."

I visited him. And in his home -- a home of fanatical fidelistas
-- my great uncle Juan, now sick and a very old man, said to me with tears
in his eyes and showing me a property deed:

"When you see Fidel tell him that you saw your great uncle, this
old man who for 20 years paid his monthly rent on this house religiously,
this house that the Revolution gave me with this deed. Tell Fidel that I
would have liked to have thanked him personally but as you see, I'm sick.
I'm getting cobalt treatments for my throat..."

How many Cubans are there like this old man in this city where
prior to the Revolution, there were generals like Tabernilla who owned
hundreds of houses, not dozens but hundreds of apartment houses? How many
Cubans have benefited from Urban Reform and how few those hurt by it. On
the other hand, what person can honestly amass fabulous fortunes in a day's
work to buy up great numbers of houses?

"I delivered his message to Fidel.

"And what would you like to study?" the Commander-in-Chief of the
FAR asked a young girl, a niece of the owner of that house who was there
for a vacation.

"I'd like to be a nurse."

"A very noble profession. Besides, now you don't have to worry
because all those doctors who practiced deceit on nurses and the infirm
have left..."

And turning to me, he added:

"What a despicable attitude of those men who left the country when
it most needed them and who now are practicing, collaborating with the
murderers of the Vietnamese! They knew that by leaving Cuba they would
create problems for the Revolutionary government. But today, their posts
have been filled by a new generation and each year a greater number of
doctors are graduated, doctors who fulfill their obligations not only in
the city but principally in the rural area where they were and are most

The coffee was delicious. I confess I exceeded my quota because
instead of one cup, I drank eight.

"And who is this little boy?" Fidel asked seeing a small child
which had been watching him with extraordinary perseverance.

"That's your namesake," his mother answered proudly.

The child held back no longer but ran forward to shake the hand of
his idol and to hug him. What a scene!

"How the road to Topes de Collantes?" asked Fidel.

"Very bad. You can't travel over it... Part of the road has washed
away and the mud is up to your hips. The river has overflowed its banks,"
the small farmers reported.

However, Fidel liked a challenge, especially a challenge from
nature. He always accepts a challenge. And on this occasion, there was no
reason not to accept it despite the heavy downpour.

He hadn't got very far when we learned that the campesinos were
right. The road had collapsed, opening up an abrupt dropoff. The jeeps
could not go on. Fidel decided that he would continue on foot, on foot even
though he had only had four hours of sleep during the last two days, on
foot even though there were two kilometers to cover by campesino reckoning,
that is, eight kilometers to go. Walking in intolerable mud where you took
five steps forward and slid back two... That's how our forward movement

Fidel took hold of my arm and the interview went on during the
next four hours we were on the road. My next question was...

"What is your opinion on Mexico's international policy under
recent administrations? Are you content with the present commercial
exchange with Mexico? How could it be increased? And cultural exchange?"

As regards Mexico's international policy, recent administrations
deserve praise since they have upheld despite all the pressures from
imperialism, the principle of self-determination. Mexico is the only
country in Latin America we have relations with. With respect to the
current trade exchange, I think it is too small, shabby. And I don't know
who's to blame. Perhaps it's our fault owing to our system which is in its
growing stage. We have plotted a program in step with our immediate needs
and this has been done through agreements with the socialist bloc,
agreements that involve the exchange of Cuban raw materials for all kinds
of machinery, especially machinery to develop agriculture. However, it
would be nice if we could increase our exchange with Mexico, not only the
commercial variety but also cultural and athletic. Our baseball teams,
athletic and foothall teams could go there and Mexican teams could visit us
often. We could do the same in cultural matters."

"What does Cuba's assistance to the Vietnamese people consist of
right now? If the government of North Vietnam were to request it, would
Cuban soldiers or volunteers go off to fight against the
US-Australian-Korean aggression?"

"At present, Cuban aid to Vietnam consists of sugar shipments but
we are ready to send troops and military supplies the moment they are
requested. Practically all the countries in the socialist camp have
declared their readiness to send volunteers if the people of Vietnam
request them."

"How does Cuba plan to resolve the Guantanamo problem? Will you
place it before the UN in the near future?"

"Guantanamo is essentially a provocation. The imperialists are
provoking the revolutionary government to give them an opening for a
frontal attack on Cuba. The base has no economic or social importance. We
have never planned to reposses Guantanamo by force. We are waiting
patiently. Some day the North American people will return that stolen
territory to Cuba. We aren't crazy enough to attack the US soldiers on the
base. That's precisely what the Pentagon wants us to do."

"Is there a religious problem in Cuba? Do you think it is
incompatible to be Catholic, for example, and still be loyal to the Cuban
Revolution? What are you experiences on this subject?"

"There is no religious problems or climate of tension between the
revolutionary government and the Catholic Church. Our relations are normal.
Moreover, the Vatican has appointed an intelligent young man, its delegate
here in Cuba, Monsignor Zachi who has understood perfectly the social
change underway in this country. In Cuba, we do not act against anyone as
long as they are not engaged in counterrevolutionary activities. Initially,
the Catholic Church was used by the oligarchy to combat revolutionary
changes. You must bear in mind that the Catholic religion in Cuba was
spread very thin among the campesinos and rather thin among the poor class.
The grande bourgeoisie and the land owners got their education in Catholic
schools. This had some unpleasant effects in the beginning because this
class tried to entangle the Church in the social struggle. But these
problems were overcome. Now the Catholic Church limits itself essentially
to ecclesiastical functions and as long as its representatives do that,
there will be no problem. I don't think there is any incompatibility
between being a Catholic and being loyal to the Revolution. Take the case
of Father Sardinas, a major in the rebel army, pastor in Havana and a
member of the Army Staff. After he died of a heart attack, the Government
buried him with full military honors. Father Sardinas was a combatant of
the 26 July Movement in the Sierra Maestra. Or take Camilo Tores of
Columbia, a priest who chose the path of revolution as the only way open to
liberate his people. He opted for a route different than the one chosen by
the ecclesiastical oligarchy of Columbia. And if a priest did this, a
priest who gave his life for the revolution, why wouldn't a Catholic or
Protestant or Mohammedan? Among the patriots who fought at Giron, there
were surely men of different religious beliefs. No one asked them about
that. During the recent Central American Games, we had athletes who entered
and won competitions and who profess the Catholic religion. Cuba is one big
family whose sons all work for a future of happiness. Only those who try to
destroy this house will meet with opposition. Moreover, the churches remain
open, the priests celebrate Mass every day. The State is not obstructing
any of their labors. Any religious can walk the streets of Havana in his or
her religious habit, something that cannot be done in some countries of
Latin America. There are hospitals under the care of nuns... What more can
you ask of us?"

"Has Cuba or is Cuba prepared to take some action to procure the
renewal of idealogical unity and action in the socialist camp?"

"Why? That would be a waste of time."

"Can those Cubans who resided in other countries prior to the
Revolution and those who left Cuba after the revolutionary government was
established, can they return to the island if they wish? What would be the

"No Cuban who left the country out of dislike for the
revolutionary government will have the right to return in the future, nor
will the others you mentioned because they have already had their chance to
return. After all, more than seven years have gone by since the
Revolution's triumph. Look. There are still many needs to satisfy in Cuba
in the coming years. I don't think it just that those who are facing
difficulties today and struggling for the future should be passed over in
favor of those quitters who return when we have the means to solve our most
urgent problems. Take the present housing problem for example. Every
province is begging for cement to repair houses and schools, to build
hospitals, factories, warehouses, bridges, highways, i.e., economic and
social projects. However, the cement is not obtainable. Right now, we are
producing 900,000 tons of it but in line with our plans, we hope to produce
2.5 million tons of it by 1970 and we will implement a plan to build
100,000 houses per year. Even then, we will still be at least ten years
behind in solving the problem squarely. Now then, those who have first
claim to these benefits are the ones who fought and still fight. If those
who fled or those who did not dare to face the difficult problems from
their inception were to come back to Cuba, it would create an abnormal
situation because we could not give them any preference over those who
remained here. Therefore, except in cases justified by humanitarian
considerations, we cannot encourage the return of those who quit..."

"Do the majority of the people now have a socialist conscience?"

"We can assert that in our country the overwhelming majority of
the population understand and enthusiastically supports the Revolution's
socialist change. This was nurtured by the struggle and above all, by the
record and benefits of the Revolution, this thin you call a genuine
socialist conscience. To by Communist does not imply privilege but rather
duty, abnegation and effort. The party, as the representative of the manual
workers and intellectuals who constitute the overwhelming majority of the
nation, directs the country's fortunes. The party is shaped by the active
and constant participation of the working masses. This is a new method
which will guarantee the closest ties between the masses and their
vanguard. Be assured that we are not only marching steadily towards
socialism but one day we will make the Communist society a reality in our
homeland and our people are very conscious and proud of this."

"Now the sugar situation. What are your plans for the next
harvest? How is the outlook for future harvests? Has Cuba's sugar policy
been prejudicial to the other sugar-producing countries, especially the
Latin American countries?"

"Due to the worst drought on record in Cuba, this year the sugar
harvest dropped to 4.5 million tons. But during 1966, we've registered
magnificent amounts of rainfall. Coupled with expansion and improvements
the cane-growing areas, next year we should harvest an amount perhaps in
excess of seven million tons. This increase will continue until we reach
our planned goal of 10 million tons by 1970. What has happened with sugar
is that some countries, hoping to make hay out of the blockade, started to
plant cane in places where they had never grown it before, without
reflecting on the political consequences, without giving any concern at all
to the implantation of a program that should have been in line with world
realities and not based solely and exclusively on an increase of quotas
fixed by the United States. What happens? Everyone knows that Cuba is a
nation whose principal source of revenue for the time being is sugar, a
product that lets us buy machinery, fuel, raw materials, wheat and many
other goods we require to cover our needs and to develop our economy. Since
we have guaranteed markets for our sugar, at satisfactory prices, it is a
logical conclusion that we direct maximum effort towards increased sugar
production by getting maximum benefit from our existing capacity and even
possible increase, with relatively small investments in each sugar central.
The other countries, which have received relative benefits from the US
market, a market formerly supplied by Cuba, these nations depend on the
consent and pleasure of the US government. After engaging them, the US
resorts to political blackmail in the sugar issue to exert all kinds of
pressures. For a nation which in recent years has engaged in the
cultivation of sugar cane, which has built or expanded its mills, opened
new sources for employment with the social services this entails, it would
be very difficult for that nation to oppose a policy of pressure exercised
by the United States. And imperialism knows what it means to reduce or
withdraw a specific nation's sugar quote. What they did with Cuba should
serve as an example. Where were we at fault? Quite the contrary. They tried
and are still trying to benefit from our situation and they have forgotten
that we will move forward with our new market conditions."

"Is crop diversification moving ahead in Cuba or have you come to
the conclusion that the Cuban economy were best founded fundamentally on

"It is a fact that Cuba will be officially described as a one crop
nation in 1970, a year when, independent of the fact that the sugar harvest
will amount to approximately 10 million tons, the total value of our
agricultural production in general will have doubled compared to 1959, the
year the Revolution triumphed. Our exports will increase to about 1.300
million dollars because on a par with sugar production, there is a notable
increase in livestock production, yielding considerable increases of milk
and meat. This year, egg production on state farms will reach a thousand
million, excluding the production of private farmers. Coffee production
will reach two million quintals by 1970 in line with plans underway.
Tobacco production will grow at a similar rate. Meat production from
rabbits, poultry and sheep will increase enormously. We are planting tens
of thousands of hectares in fruit trees, legumes and other food products.
The same is being done with cotton and from our very own harvests, we will
cover the major part of our rice requirements. By 1975, our agricultural
production will have a value equivalent to 4,000 million dollars. Not one
drop of water will be lost from our rivers and our fertilizer industry will
supply the essential needs of an agriculture that is mechanized, modern and
serviced by 50,000 technicians on the middle and university level. This is
the long range outlook for our country in the next decade. Meanwhile,
international organizations predict that the decade 1970- 1980 will be a
decade of hunger owing to underdevelopment and the population explosion. In
my opinion, it will be, and perhaps before, the decade of hunger owing to
underdevelopment and the population explosion. In my opinion, it will be,
and perhaps before, the decade of social revolutions. Imperialism has no
idea what this country will be like in four years. It does not have the
faintest idea that we are capable of doing this despite all their
aggressions and all their provocations. This free territory of America will
prove, is already proving, what can be done in a socialist society where
State revenues do not become luxuries for a minority, without satisfying
the needs of the people. What will our detractors say? What will
imperialist say? When the Revolution triumphed, there was very little left
to distribute and the little that was left we did distribute among all. But
now we have been laying the industrial foundation of a truly modern
agriculture, equipped to meet the growing needs of our population. And we
know that at the rate our agriculture is developing, within a few years --
just a few and no more -- there will not be one square inch of our
territory that is not productive. Keep in mind that this will not exclude
the development of the basic branches of industry indispensable for
economic growth. But I repeat, the major emphasis will be placed on
agriculture and also on social development. I've already told you that with
the factories now under construction, we will triple cement production.
During that same period, the production of electric energy will be doubled.
Sugar centrals will have raised their capacity more than 50 percent. Large
fertilizer plants will be built. In like manner, the farm machinery,
textile and food industries will grow. Our merchant fleet has grown 500
percent since the Revolution's triumph and will keep on growing. As far as
social development is concerned, evidently there is no precedent for it --
education, medical assistance and other achievements won in such a short
time -- in any other country. Our people lacked even the necessities in
1958 and we have opened the doors to the future, not based on superfluity
but on practicality in everything that might solve immediate needs..."

It was nightfall. My clothing was completely soaked, my shoes
ruined... I was struck with Fidel's stamina. Only four hours of sleep in
two days but it didn't show. Everyone was tired but the Commander-in-Chief
of the FAR cheered everybody up with jokes about how Cuban peasants measure
distances. We crossed the small swollen river and Fidel said to me:

"You are practical. It has been noted that you've already lost
hope in your shoes and therefore you're crossing the river with everything
except them..."

Since everything was destroyed, we had to make a series of
maneuvers in order to climb and descend, descend and climb without running
many risks.

"What bothers me is not the first climb nor the first descent but
the ones after that," said Fidel getting a smile out of his companions.

Finally, we reached the entrance to Topes de Collantes where the
Manuel Ascunce Domenech Teachers Center was located, a school named in
honor of a young literacy campaign worker brutally slain by a band of
counterrevolutionary outlaws operating in the Sierra del Escambray. That
evening, the school was holding the closing of the cycle of activities
arranged to develop the assembly charged with balancing the work load and
to satisfy or renew the terms of office for the leadership of the Union of
Young Communists (UJC). It was about midnight. Fidel suggested a good bath
before dining, an idea gladly welcomed by us all. And later, before
retiring, when he heard a familiar voice over the loudspeaker, the
Commander-in-Chief said humorously:

"That's Llanusa. We have enough time to get a little sleep because
he will surely give one of his long, very long speeches, the kind that last
several hours... He's notorious for that... Now you see that I'm not the
only one."

He laughed with pleasure. Llanusa, the dynamic Minister of
Education who was distinguished for his extraordinary qualities as an
organizer, has not particularly shone as an orator of Fidel's stature. He
is above all a formidable initiator of programs, of organizations, an
excellent trainer of revolutionary cadres, and like Fidel, he is gifted
with a great power of understanding. He has been major of Havana, director
of the National Sports, Physical Education and Recreation Institute --
where he left an indelible mark, to the degree that there are now 6,000
baseball teams, a sport that has had spectacular growth throughout the
island -- and director of the National Institute of the Tourist Industry.
At present, he is discharging the office of Minister of Education with
singular efficiency.

I changed my city clothes for the boots and uniform of a volunteer
teacher. I sat down in the hall of the reception building to wait for the
Commander-in-Chief of the FAR. I used the time to rest and to tell a few
jokes, a little off color at that.

Someone was asking about the guerrilla situation in Guatemala when
Fidel made his appearance and since this was a subject of great interest to
him, an emotional subject, we forgot about supper. For an hour and a half,
the Prime Minister gave a lecture on political-military type operations,
especially those related to a correct interpretation of guerrilla warfare.

"Comandante, do you know that, as a consequence of some reverses
suffered by the guerrillas in other countries, some leaders who are
considered revolutionaries think that the way of armed struggle to obtain
total victory is bankrupt?"

"When I hear these assertions, I feel like I'm among people who
have never seen a sick person, who do not know one word of surgery and
since they don't know the language of surgery, they proceed to operate and
the patient dies. And later they say: `Don't you see? Surgery is no good.'
Political cadres who do not know the language of the techniques and tactics
of armed struggle, political cadres who do not know a thing about directing
an armed struggle and who set out to direct an armed struggle with the
criteria and methods of district committees -- to debate everything first
--, with a deliberative method when in the war what's needed most is
executive leadership. And that experience sometimes occurs when the wrong
methods are used even when people desire to make a revolution and this
isn't the only continent where it has occurred. I recently read a very
interesting book which reflected the same evil in another part of the
world. It was a history of the revolutionary movement in the Philippines,
written by a North American who fought alongside the Phillipinos. A book
called The Woods by william Pomeroy. Many of us who know very well what
goes on in war were amazed to learn that the movement's urban secretariate
gave orders two or three months in advance for an attack by all the
guerrillas on 7 November. We realized this was barbarous. Political leaders
who give guerrillas orders to attack three months in advance, no matter how
well intentioned or revolutionary they are, commit great and absurd
stupidity. Because we know what a guerrilla attack is like and that one
must know how to choose the right moment, the right circumstances, the
advantages of terrain and surprise. If we see someone sent out from the
city to order an attack that very day, we take him and put him in an insane
asylum. It is unbelievable that there are men outside of a madhouse who
would send militants of a revolutionary organization to their deaths by
giving them an order to attack months in advance. We must say that the
people who committed those errors did indeed want to make a revolution,
they gambled with their lives and many of them died. But what great
blunders they committed in that war! When they had to make war, they spent
entire months moving over huge territories and then they met later to
discuss it for a whole month, in schools of every kind guarded by
revolutionary soldiers, but units charged with the security for these
schools. The North American William Pomeroy writes: `The situation got very
bad because they had 50,000 policemen and troops plus the armed guards of
the landowners, making a total of 100,000 men. The proportion was ten to
one against the guerrillas. The thing was difficult...' We were reminded of
our own war. Ten to one! What significance does ten to one have? When we
came back to reorganize and we got together with seven rifles, the odds
were 7,000 to one. When we fought for a year and had 100 men, the odds were
500 to one. When they launched the final great offensive against us in the
Sierra Maestra, the odds were 200 to one between the enemy's total forces
and us. When we invaded the country, it was 50 to 1 and when we won the
war, the proportion was 20 to 1. We never had that favorable position of
having 10 enemies to each one of us. And these are the errors that are
committed when one tires to apply to warfare methods that are suitable to
organizational forms during peacetime, when one tries to apply debating
methods in warfare. William Pomeroy, who without doubt showed heroic
conduct and who had been a great defender and mouthpiece of the Huks's just
cause and who judging from his book must be a fine fellow, was not aware of
these errors in the conception and methods of directing and waging war. How
difficult it is to understand these things and it is equally difficult to
learn the tactics of guerrilla warfare. Unfortunately, many men who want to
wage the armed struggle have three or four books on guerrilla warfare -- or
ten books -- and you hear things that are amazing: guerrillas who spend six
months in the city, seven months, eight months, ten months... Unheard of!
Organizations in the midst of the struggle, instead of sending their best
young men to the guerrillas, take combatants away from them to send them
abroad for two or three years to train them as political cadres. Later,
these same young men will have no authority to act as political cadres.
Many will ask them what they did while the fighting was going on in their
country. No one will understand their absence and even though they are not
to blame, they will suffer psychologically and will feel terribly bad in
front of their comrades and their people. They did not do a thing from the
moment of the revolution's inception until the conquest of power. How can
there be a good political cadre who has not know hazards, sacrifices, risks
and vicissitudes of the struggle? That is simply a criminal mistake. Or you
have heard them talk about guerrilla patrols active in making armed
propaganda. What is this armed propaganda? They read a book which described
armed agitation. We tried to recall our experience. What armed agitation
did we conduct? Yes, we did conduct armed agitation when we passed from one
place to another with our columns, with our troops, when we were returning
from some combat. But our armed agitation was not the objective of our war
but something secondary, something which was part of the war itself. How do
you conceive of guerrillas, who instead of attacking enemy vehicles and
laying ambushes for patrols and enemy troops, engage in going from place to
place making speeches? If we tried to recall how many speeches we made
during the entire war, it's possible that we would not recall a single time
that we had made a speech. In the first place there were so few of us that
it would have been the height of absurdity to give speeches to ten, to
fifteen or twenty men. And when we had a column of a hundred men, we did
talk to the chiefs and to the men of the various platoons. There was no
need to get up on a stage or a soap box and to hold oneself rigid to make a
speech. And when we numbered more than a hundred, we immediately organized
another column. Where there was a speech made, it was made over our
clandestine radio at a time when we controlled an extensive territory. The
adaption of methods to ends looks so easy and yet is so difficult... We can
claim that during our war there was not a single man, a single rifle
wasting time. We did not permit a single rifle to be wasted nor to be used
to guard anyone. And I remember that during all the offensives, especially
during the last one during which our men were practically surrounded by
Batista's battalions, I remember well that when I had to move from one
position to another through the woods, I carried a rifle, my rifle, because
it seemed criminal to me to take along a six-man escort and take six rifles
from a trench. You cannot wage war with rifles guarding someone. You cannot
wage war if you have one rifle that is not used to the fullest. And those
are factors, circumstances which unfortunately are difficult for guerrillas
to learn. Many errors are committed, especially in the beginning.
Guerrillas must always on the move, avoid the stupid mistake of fixed
camps, watch closely for enemy infiltration and keep in mind that any
courier who transits a zone controlled by the enemy always runs the risk of
falling into enemy hands and being forced to give precise and detailed
information permitting them to locate the detachment he came from. This is
a great danger when the guerrilla is still green and weak and it is almost
fatal when the guerrilla is not in the habit of moving almost incessantly.
Compliance with these basic security rules is imperative, especially in the
beginning when the revolutionary forces do not yet have firm control over
any territory and when enemy columns can rapidly reach any point in the
guerrilla zone. We were almost wiped out by some omissions of this kind but
fortunately we managed to overcome them. In the beginning we were
extraordinarily weak. Our first victory was against a mixed patrol of
soldiers and sailors. We won it with only 19 men, 16 rifles, three pistols
and less than 50 rounds per man. We managed to scrape up this first group
and its weapons in several weeks after starting out with seven armed men --
as I told you before -- these were the only men we could scrape together
with their weapons after our detachment of 82 men suffered an almost
irreparable reverse three days after our arrival in Cuba. Eight other
unarmed men joined these seven and some campesinos picked up about 12
abandoned weapons in the zone of operations. We started the fight under
these almost unbelievable conditions, in a region where none of us had been
before and where we knew absolutely no one. It was a harsh and difficult

"Comandante, isn't it a shame that you haven't recorded all those
experiences in a book?"

"I really haven't had much time for it the past few years. Perhaps
I'll do it some day if our experience can be of any use to other

"Comandante, have you had a chance to read the reports we
published on the Guatemalan guerrillas? If you have read them, what is you
opinion about them?"

"Yes, I certainly have read all the reports that appeared in
Sucesos and they seemed very good and very interesting. Turcios, in my
opinion, possesses great potential as a military leader and to judge from
the statements he has made, he has insight and political savvy. Naturally,
he is very young and these powers of his are still in flower."

"What significance do you attribute to the opposition movement to
the Johnson policy in the United States itself with respect to Vietnam, the
Dominican Republic, and other cases? And the movement for Negro

"A number of North Americans are already concerned about the fact
that the United States insists on playing its role as world gendarme, in
trying to impose and determine what kind of government other people should
and can have. Because this policy, besides causing the destruction of other
lands and arousing worldwide hatred, is also producing deaths among US
soldiers and affecting the economy of the country and, in the long run,
will lead the United States to ruin. Now, revolutionary struggle does not
consist only of a critique of certain factors which affect the equilibrium
and maintenance of the capitalist system -- which in essence is a defense
of it -- but also in an effort to change it completely. And this struggle
is not yet being waged by the people of the United States. Rather, it is
being waged outside of the United States -- in Asia, in Africa, and in
Latin America. Certain North Americans have become aware that their country
is facing serious problems in the world, and they have also become aware
that their interventionist methods will without any doubt fail. Therefore,
they are anxiously asking themselves, what will happen when there are
several Vietnams. This leads them to serious reflection, because they
understand that economic chaos will come calling at their door sooner or
later. Consequently, they are worried that they present relatively high
standard of living they enjoy might suffer a serious reversal, and about
the risks which the danger of a world conflagration that might arise due to
these suicidal and insane adventures would mean for the people of the
United States. The imperialist policy of the United States government in
defense of the big monopolies is leading to the exhaustion of the country's
financial resources and reserves, and it goes against the best interests of
the North American people. While other industrialized countries of the
world, such as France, are constantly expanding their markets, the United
States is isolating itself from the world with its stupid policy -- one
that is ruinous in the long run -- of military interventions and economic
aggression and blockade. This policy is becoming untenable in a world
which, according to the laws of history, is marching inexorably toward the
elimination of the imperialist system in all its manifestations. This
progress cannot be affected in the slightest neither by nuclear weapons nor
by the great advances in the techniques of destruction and death that the
imperialists are desperately developing. The North American people will
also, in due time, play a decisive role against the criminals who are
attempting to defy the rest of mankind. With respect to the movement for
Negro integration, one often forgets that this is basically a class
struggle, because it is undeniable that racial discrimination goes together
with and cannot be separated from economic exploitation and social
exploitation. The measures that the United States government has taken have
not been motivated by reasons of social justice or humanitarian feeling,
but for very different reasons -- for reasons of a political nature,
because of the repercussions that discrimination is having in Africa and in
the entire world. Discrimination could disappear only with a change in the
system. Because how can it be done without putting an end to the old and
traditional concept that Negroes are synonymous with slavery? How can it be
done without eliminating the exploitation of man by man?

"Are there still manifestations of discrimination against Negroes
in Cuba? What is the attitude of the government in this respect? Is there
full equality of rights and opportunity between women and men in Cuba?"

"We have already said that discrimination stems from the economic
and social exploitation which exists in capitalist societies. It existed in
Cuba, but here there was not a change of men, but of system. And when
socialism was established, economic and social exploitation, and
consequently racial discrimination, disappeared. On the other hand, there
is also disappearing another type of discrimination that is equally odious
and which prevails in capitalist society: discrimination against women..."

It was already two o'clock in the morning. Fidel had neither slept
nor eaten. I knew that it had already been an abuse of his good nature. In
addition, a North American newspaperwoman, Ann Geyer of the Chicago Daily
News, was waiting impatiently in her room. This woman witnessed the
provocations to which the Cuban athletes were subjected in Puerto Rico, and
asked Llanusa to bring her to Cuba on board the ship Cerro Pelado, because
she wanted to write the objective truth about Cuba in the United States. In
view of this promise, the Minister of Education acceded. However, things
were complicated by the fact that the attractive lady of letters had no
passport, and was forced to go to Havana vis Mexico City. At the time I met
her, she had already published her first article, in which she denied the
reports transmitted by news agencies to the effect that Fidel was very ill
and that a double was replacing him. In addition, Ann had noted that ice
cream was produced in Cuba greatly superior to that of Howard Johnson, and
that there was a greater number of flavors. This produced an angry
clarification from the North American company, which claimed that Fidel was
mistaken. As one can easily understand, this made the entire world laugh,
especially the Prime Minister of Cuba. With his characteristic political
humor, and because the famous Coppelia ice cream is the apple of his eye,
he stated that 42 flavors would be in production in Cuba by the beginning
of next year. The Cubans themselves will be benefitted by this contest,
because there is now a real madness for this ice cream, which is truly

"A great deal has been published about rationing. Could you tell
me something about this? How long will it be continued?"

"Rationing is very easy to understand. When the Revolution
triumphed, it was necessary to make a just distribution of the national
income. This, naturally, increased the income and purchasing power of the
people considerably. Hundreds of thousands of persons without jobs began to
work. If we had not established rationing, there would have occurred a
considerable increase in the prices of certain essential goods, which would
have continued to be within the reach of only a minority with greater
resources. Notwithstanding this fact, the per capita consumption of our
people is at the present time much higher than that of the majority of
Latin American peoples. And when we say per capita, we really mean it,
because in other countries per capita rates are obtained by dividing total
consumption by the total population, without taking into account the fact
that it is really a minority that consumes the bulk of this total, while
the remainder of the population lives suffering rationing without a ration
book and without any per capita. Our consumption of eggs has increased 17
times in the past 18 months, and the consumption of milk, fish, vegetables,
and other foods is also increasing constantly. What we are trying to do is
to give the people in general a more balanced diet, a diet which, while we
have not achieved it yet completely, we certainly have achieved for
children, students, and scholarship students, who receive everything free,
from food and education to clothing and medical care. In addition,
cafeterias have been established for workers where the diet is fixed and
service is inexpensive. The revolutionary government has opened hundreds of
new restaurants, many of them of a popular nature, to which the people can
go without any restriction whatsoever. One must also remember that
rationing is a result of greater consumption on the part of the peasant
masses. The latter, having credit and not having to pay either rent or for
medical care, use a larger part of their harvest and products for the
consumption of their families. Now then, unless some irregularity takes
place on the international scene, I believe that rationing, in spite of the
great increase in family income, will not last long in Cuba. I have already
spoken to you at some length about the plans which we carrying out ..."

After 3:00 AM everyone went to bed. One had to be up at 8:00 to
tour the vicinity of the school and to attend a talk by Fidel with the

In my room, I began to think. The only public official in Cuba who
has neither an office nor a home is Fidel Castro. Where else in the world
can one find a similar situation? When has it ever happened? A Prime
Minister, the Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces,
chairman of the INRA [Instuto Nacional de la Reforma Agraria; National
Institute of Agrarian Reform] and first secretary of the Communist Party of
Cuba, whose interpretation of life is the antithesis of bureaucracy.
Perhaps I am mistaken: Fidel does have a home and he has an office -- Cuba.
He is a man dedicated with body and soul to his people, and that dedication
is a constant stimulus and is reflected in his colleagues, who are not
given any rest in revolutionary development either. This explains why the
Cubans are becoming even more resolute in their convictions, in the
obligation to build a new society. What cannot be expected from a leader
without time to sleep, without time to eat, without time to be with his

I recall speaking with the wife of a major, and she told me: "We
must be the first revolutionaries, so that they can find the best possible
support and the greatest inducement in the home. If it were otherwise, if
we did not have these convictions, our lives would be impossible."

I believe that Fidel slept for a while that morning, about three
hours. At 9:00 AM the Prime Minister began his inspection tour, accompanied
by Llanusa, the director of the Marcos Perez school; Arnaldo Milian, an old
Marxist militant with a youthful spirit, now the head of the Communist
Party for the central zone of Cuba; and this writer.

Fidel was concerned by the slow progress in the work on
the road he had promised to the peasants in La Sierrita, but
Marcos Perez explained to him that their chief enemy at the time
were the daily rains...

Milian told me with an air of indignation what had happened with
him and the North American newspaperwoman.

"You see, she thought that I was just an ignorant peasant whom she
could easily deceive, and she also thought she could compromise me by
asking about the extent of domination the Soviet Union exercised over the
Communist Party of Cuba prior to the Revolution."

"And what did you tell her?"

"Well, I told her that it did not dominate us, but that it did
exercise great influence..."

Fidel interrupted:

"She appears to be an honest and sincere journalist.. Clearly,
Marcos, more dining halls must be built and all the pupils must be supplied
with complete uniforms..."

An hour later we headed for the auditorium of the Manual Ascunce
Domenech school. Readers, it would be very difficult to describe the
precise moment when Fidel entered the place and came down the steps. How
can one explain what a journalist feels when he hears 7,000 young people,
of an average age of 15 years, shouting at top voice, in unison, and
spontaneously: "Fidel! Fidel! Fidel!"? It was a pandemonium of joy. I felt
tears beginning to fall. The wind carried the name of Fidel toward some
nearby rocks which echoed it back. About 5,000 girls, joining hands, were
chanting: "Fidel, Fidel, we are ready to go anywhere..."

That scene expressed vividly the total solidarity of Cuban youth
with Prime Minister Fidel Castro, with the Revolution. There I understood
the reason for the long speeches, speeches that are not really that in the
strict sense of the words, but could be better termed dialogues. Yes, they
are dialogues between the leader who would like to convince his people more
from reason and the power of thought than from faith. Fidel has taught the
Cuban people to think about the why, the when, the how, the for what
purpose, of every measure adopted by the revolutionary government. His
efforts are directed toward teaching the people to think and not to
believe, to reach certain conclusions by the path of reasoning. And the
higher the political level of the masses, the shorter are speeches as on
this occasion.

At Topes de Collantes, Fidel recounted in depth the origins of the
school that is training the new primary education teacher, the objectives
being pursued, and the conceptions which guide the steps of the Revolution
in the matter of education. When it was over, many of the young girls who
are studying to be secondary teachers and who are doing their practice
teaching in the Escambray came up to the Prime Minister to ask for his
autograph. Fidel made use of this time to learn their problems and

"Llanusa, I believe that you have issued orders that go contrary
to nature. These young girls tell me they cannot get married until they
complete their studies and their public service...."

"That's right," replied the Minister of Education. "Order and
discipline must be maintained."

We got into the Jeeps, and newspaper woman Geyer joined our group.
However, prior to beginning the visits to the coffee plantations growing
new varieties and to the Banao select fruit plan in Sancti Spiritus, we
stopped at the guest house for a cold drink. The young North American woman
took advantage of the occasion to ask Fidel to let her be photographed with
him, in order to prove her readers and to the owners of the Chicago Daily
News that she had indeed had an interview with the Prime Minister of Cuba.

In the field, showing me a small coffee plant, Fidel said:

"See what I told you. It did not need shade. Everything was
accomplished with fertilizers... I would estimate that this plant has no
less than a pound and a half of coffee on it, and it has not stopped

We continued toward Banao. On the road, we talked about baseball.
Fidel is reputed to be a good pitcher and to have been an excellent
baskethall player, a sport at which Llanusa without any doubt was one of
the outstanding players in Cuba, and on whose Olympic team he played
twice... We recalled Martin Dihigo, Conrado Marrero, Cocaina Garcia, the
Blanco brothers, Agapito Mayor, and the entire gamut of baseball players
who starred during the traditional championship matches, in which the
Almendares Azules and the Havana Rojos almost always figured in the finals.
These veterans are now revolutionary instructors for the new generations,
and they have promoted baseball and all sports in Cuba to a fantastic
degree. And this growing spirit in a country where professionalism no
longer exists can be explained to a large extent by the system of
participation dreamed up by Llanusa. In it, even a player on a team located
in the most remote spot on the island can achieve selection on a national
level by his merits. The interest is understandably great. Let us suppose
that the team from Manzanillo or from Neuvitas is eliminated from the
championship being held in a certain area, but one of its players shines
during the match. He is selected to be part of the selection which,
together with the winning team, will represent the zone or the municipality
at the next higher level. The result is that the interest in that small
town or village in baseball does not fall off, but rather increases to the
extent that its representative advances. If the latter is very good, he may
easily be chosen in the national selection. This same process is developed
throughout the island, and it encourages not only the spirit of individual
achievement, but also reaffirms the sense of collective sports by the
participation of everyone.

The passion for baseball is such in Cuba that many ministers and
majors have taken the sport as a very personal matter. Fidel laughed with
pleasure when he was commending the behavior of Ramiro Valdes, his Minister
of the Interior, and Major Ordaz, the director of what was an insane
"asylum" -- Mazorra, which has now been turned in a model hospital. Fidel

"Ramiro and Ordaz are very sectarian in sports. So when they find
someone who is good, they immediately find a job for him in their

"This matter should be given serious consideration by the
Political Bureau," said Llanusa, laughing.

"Well, then, are you so sectarian that you would not let a Mexican
play some baseball?"

"Of course not," replied Llanusa. "When we return to Havana, we
shall give you a complete team, so that you can take part in the games you
wish. We would also like to see baseball, volleyball, baskethall and water
polo teams come from Mexico..."

(A parenthetical note: When I returned to the capital, I accepted
the invitation with pleasure. And I was greatly surprised to find on the
baseball field none other than a former player of the Yucatan Leones -- a
team which on one occasion won the baseball championship of the Mexican
League -- Orlando Leroux. He is now devoting every day to training the boys
who in a year or two might receive all kinds of offers from the major
league scouts. I was fortunate enough to play on the team managed by my old
friend, whom I had praised on many occasions for this decisive home runs
which brought thousands of Yucatan fans to their feet. Orlando asked me
about the incomparable Strike Valdes, a Cuban by birth and Yucatanian by
adoption. He also asked about Juanito Delis and others, Oscar Rodriguez,
etc. He sent all of them greeting through me. Out of international
solidarity, I believe, they allowed me to connect with two base hits and to
steal second base. This "vexed" Llanusa, because he stated that the players
had gone too far and "misinterpreted" the meaning of international

"Look at these grapes. I would like to eat them right in the
vineyard," said Fidel, pointing out the field where an excellent type of
Cuban grape was grown.

And he added: "I believe that a Communist society has the right
and the duty to produce and consume good wines, and this is being achieved
in Cuba. There has been enough of the image of Communists pained by
imperialists and reactionaries, in a world where the pleasant and
gratifying things man might create are not appreciated. The difference lies
in the fact that the fruits of labor and the creations of man should be
within reach of everyone..."

We came to a kind of large storehouse, adapted on that occasion to
serve as a dining room. While Acosta, the technical director of the Banao
plan, left in search of a few bottles of Cuban wine Fidel had another
shooting lesson. He first began to fire at a rock over a kilometer away and
then to down buzzards (vultures) in flight with an FAL rifle. Everyone was
astonished, especially the North American newspaperwoman, who had never
seen him shoot. I was also astonished, but I anticipated the results, after
the show I witnessed in the Escambray mountains.

We sat down at the table, and Fidel asked [Unreadable text] been
treated well during her stay in Cuba, and [Unreadable text] any complaint
about the hospitality of the Cuban people. [Unreadable text] replied that
she was well satisfied with the Cubans and the leaders. She then asked him
several questions:

"Here in Cuba there is no freedom of the press as in the United
States. One sees no criticism of the government, and the only things one
can read about my country are bad. Why?"

"It is true that there is no press freedom," replied Fidel. "But
we admit it, and we have our reasons. Reactionaries and
counterrevolutionaries cannot write in our newspapers. On the other hand,
there is no freedom of the press in the United States either, but that
country nevertheless presents itself to the world as the champion of free
expression. I would like to ask you if a Communist journalist could write
in the Chicago Daily News or speak on the various television channels.
Impossible. Where, then, is freedom of the press? In the United States, the
few journalists who from time to time express some criticism do not do so
in opposition or for the purpose of changing the capitalist system which
rules North American society, but rather as a measure to defend that
system. What is criticized in US newspapers is that which harms the
interests of the system. Criticism is focused on specific administrative
measures, never against the capitalist system. What would happen, for
example, if you decided to write the truth about Cuba? What would happen at
the Chicago Daily News if you praised the revolutionary government?
Wouldn't you cease to work there? Wouldn't they fire you because you would
be harming the interests of the newspaper's owners?"

"Yes, I believe so," timidly admitted the attractive Ann.

"Then where is the freedom of the press? What there is in the
United States -- and they do not say it, even though every knows it -- is
intellectual terrorism, in which a journalist watches his step and thinks
over well anything which might terminate his family income. Now, we accept
the fact that there is no freedom of the press here. Why? Because we are in
a period of revolutionary formation, a period with political goals to which
the journalist must submit. And there is no criticism due to the fact that
we have been living in an emergency situation during these years. On the
other hand, journalism requires great culture and solid training, because
the journalist has a great responsibility to the people. We do not have
this kind of journalist, although we are trying to train them. Almost all
the former newspaper owners had been corrupted by the authorities, and they
sold out to the highest bidder. These no longer live in Cuba. I also
believe that constructive criticism is very healthy, provided it is
constructive and not destructive. With respect to the fact that one reads
only the negative side about the United States in our newspapers, this is
true. However, what does the US write about Cuba? Isn't is just slander,
filthy lies? We, on the other hand, although we publish negative things,
publish true facts. You do not. You take pains in distorting facts and in
deceiving public opinion. Is this correct? Where are the moral and
spiritual aspects of freedom?"

"Here there is only one opinion," insisted the journalist from
Chicago. "Everyone in Cuba thinks as you do. Isn't it dangerous for power
to be in the hands of a single man? What happened in Russia with Stalin?
What were the consequences?"

"Why should it be a matter for concern that the immense majority
of the Cuban people have acquired socialist awareness in less than seven
years? Doesn't this prove the very greatness of the Revolution and
underline the fact that it is indestructible? Of course, I am not trying in
any way to deny the fact that I have influence as the leader of the Cuban
people. Nevertheless, I would like to clarify to you that this fact does
not mean that I have been accepted as a philosophical and political
postulate of the Revolution. No. It is explained better and the product of
circumstances and of the revolutionary process begun with the attack on the
Moncada barracks and continued later in the Sierra Maestra, and then during
almost eight years of frontal struggle against hostility, aggressions, and
the imperialist blockade. I would also like to make it clear that to the
degree that the process has developed and the Revolution is
institutionalized, the leadership becomes ever more collective and ever
less centered in a single person. It is not my philosophy to believe in the
infallibility of men, and for that reason I have tried to have work and
responsibilities shared from the very beginning. But why is there so much
concern in the United States? Who was Franklin D. Roosevelt? Did he not
exercise absolute power during the Second World War? And he exercised them
because necessity imposed it on him. And Churchill in England? With respect
to Stalin, I believe that his errors were a result of mistrust prevalent in
the international arena. The USSR was blockaded by the West, and there was
pressure everywhere, as well as provocations. Who armed Hitler's Germany?
It is both proper and necessary to analyze the circumstances which caused
certain facts prior to issuing an opinion..."

"Fidel, where are the camps that you are using to train guerrillas
who go to Latin American countries to subvert order? I am asking because I
would also like to be guerrilla..."

"I don't know to which camps you refer, but I am going to ask
Llanusa to take you to the firing range where our athletes for the coming
Olympics are trained..."

Everyone began to laugh.

I had not spoken. I had planned to ask Fidel the questions that
the North American journalist asked him. I remained outside it until this
time, not just out of courtesy, but also out of professional interest. Then
I intervened:

"Ann, you know that the magazine I edit is objective, and the
question you asked surprised me. I would like you to explain the reasons
why you would like to be guerrilla. It would be very interesting for our
readers. What do you think?"

"Please, do not write anything about this," she replied,
concerned. And she added:

"I would like to see what you write about this luncheon..."

It was obvious that the North American journalist was concerned
about how her question might affect her in the United States. But
journalism is journalism, and learning that a young woman, 30 years old,
who has lived the most recent years of her life in South America would like
to become a guerrilla is news. Could it be because she has felt the
injustice of dictatorships in her own flesh, specifically in the case of

Unfortunately, I never received a reply, even though I met Ann
again several days later in Havana. The only thing she told me was that she
was very impressed by Fidel and Llanusa. About the Prime Minister, she told
me specifically the following:

"He is a great man."

In Banao, Fidel invited me to accompany him to Santa Clara in the
automobile of Major Rogelio Acevdo, the Commander of the Cuban Army of the

One must travel with Fidel in order to see the things which take
place and which leave a profound impression on one. The vehicle enters any
small town or village and it all begins as a whisper: "There he goes! It is
he! It is he!" Then come the applause, the shouts, signs at times of
collective hysteria: "Fidel! Fidel! Fidel!" Such is the love and affection
of this people for their maximum leader.

During the trip, Acevdo told us how Che Guevera, a resolute man of
action, took the city of Las Villas, and he also told us that the
extraordinary Argentine guerrilla was a person of great feeling, feelings
that became eloquent when the Batista troops killed one of his bravest
fighters: El Vaquerito...

Santa Clara

We arrived at a kind of experimental field where Milian, in
addition to attending to his duties, raised deer and other animals. At
dinner time a discussion broke out between Fidel and Captain Arteaga, alius
Pitute -- I called him, affectionately, Pituco -- with respect to the
quality of some enormous bananas grown in that region. I believe that they
were the Johnson variety. And then Milian presented the Prime Minister with
a plan for planting strawberries, asparagus, onions, and grapes, which was
approved. The talk continued past 2:30 AM, when Fidel withdrew not to
sleep, but to read books on agriculture. This man's capacity for work is

About three in the afternoon, we got into the vehicles again and
headed for the summer resort of Varadero. Alongside the road could be seen
a plant which has been the source of wealth for a caste of privileged
persons in Yucatan: hemp. We were in Matanzas, where the peasants who
devote themselves to the cultivation and exploitation of the fiber have
masonry houses, sewers, running water, electricity, television, etc.

When we reached Varadero, I left the group and went to the
Cataline farm, where political prisoners are under a rehabilitation plan.
It was the first time a foreign journalist had visited one of these
centers. Without any doubt they are one of the most notable advances of the
Revolution. Many of these men, who have plotted against the state and
received sentences of 20 and 30 years, can easily leave as free men within
a short time for good conduct, and with a technical education -- acquired
basically at the farm -- and a desire to take up employment in a normal
life. More than that, on the Isle of Pines, where the most dangerous of
them are located, they plan to establish two technological institutes: one
for stock breeding and one for citrus fruits. And it is not hard for
someone who has come in with a low level of education to go out with
technical credentials equivalent to a university degree. These men, who in
any other part of the world would be treated as despicable beings -- if
they were not shot -- are the object of special attention on the part of
the administrators of these centers. They even receive passes to go and
visit their families, and when their stay in these rehabilitation centers
is over, it is the revolutionary government itself which makes itself
responsible for offering them work immediately. Which of these men would be
grateful and would not become a revolutionary with the proper political
instruction? I spoke, without any guards standing by, with several of the
prisoners, and each of them expressed sincere repentance and a desire to
join the revolutionary work going on in Cuba. Some of them laughed in good
spirits. Others became indignant when I told them that foreign news
agencies had reported that all of them had been shot to send their blood to
Vietnam. I spoke with Pastor Valdes Molina, with Jose Fraga, with Pedro
Pineda, with Alberto Garcia Bustio, with Orestes Benitez, and with many
others who have relatives in Miami, New York, or Brooklyn. My visit
coincided with the departure of Demetrio Rene, who served only a third of
his sentence. These prisoners, who in reality can be considered school
students, have a theater, athletic fields, and study rooms. It is something
truly deserving praise. Fidel had said:

"Instead of handing out a punishment without any benefits, the
socialist state should attempt, by the means at its disposal, to win over
the enemy, to turn him into a man who is useful to society, the new society
being constructed. His errors should be explained to him, so that he will
not repeat them."

At the Santa Maria Beach

That Sunday, Fidel invited me to swim at Santa Maria, a beautiful
beach which before the Revolution could be enjoyed only by the members of a
club, a very select minority. Today, like all the other beaches on the
island, it is jammed with Cubans without any kind of distinction: white,
black, Marxist, Catholic, Protestant...

I am telling this story because some strange things happened.
There, in rapid strokes, a truly moving picture was sketched out, and what
people say about the physical constitution of Fidel was reaffirmed.

The car was travelling at moderate speed, generally slowly due to
the multitude of people walking all around. I was always hearing the murmur
of "There he goes! There he goes!" And then, "Fidel! Fidel!," the applause,
and the shouts. That is, the same thing as always... But a man who was
riding a bicycle, visibly moved, did not join the crowd, but shouted:
"There he goes! There goes El Caballo (the horse)! There he goes!" and he
almost collided with an automobile. Lack of respect? No, not at all. His
was a demonstration of affection. Although it seems incredible for someone
who does not live in Cuba, it is so, and it has no other side. It is an
expression of affection, of acknowledgement of the Cuban people of the
extraordinary capacity for and devotion to work of Prime Minister Fidel

We got out a place on the beach studded with portable canvas
stalls. Fidel asked how many there were: hundreds. He began to chat with
the people when they would let him or even allow him to talk, because the
majority of the time they were busy touching him. Mothers held up their
children so that they could see him, and girls fought to be as close as
possible to touch him. And all in the midst of shouts and applause.

Someone suggested to Fidel the need to improve bus service to the
beaches. That is, to increase the number of units, so that the people would
not have to wait so long on corners or at stations. Fidel replied:

"Well, the problem is that everyone now wants to go to the beach.
All the units are in service, and what we are going to have to do is to see
how we can acquire more..."

In another place, the mother of two young girls, who was living
with them in very poor conditions, asked Fidel for a house. The Prime
Minister explained to her that he could not personally go about
distributing houses to all the people who asked for them, because it would
not be just, and that housing was distributed according to established
regulations by the designated agencies. He pointed out that the housing
problem was a very delicate one which could not be solved overnight.

When we got into the automobile again, Fidel was serious. He
appeared to be displeased with himself, concerned.

"That woman is in shock. It is hard for her to understand the
reasons they gave her. When faced with urgent necessities, there are people
who despair and their anguish at being unable to solve a problem is greater
than their capacity for thinking..."

"You did what you have have. You cannot be distributing houses to
everyone who asks for one, or solving personal problems," noted Llanusa.

"Yes, but this is a very special case. That woman was very hopeful
and I saw that she was left with tears in her eyes. Something must be done.
Send a man to locate her and take down her address and the other data. Let
us study the specific case and, in accordance with the condition in which
she actually is, try to find some solution in the Urban Reform office..."

And this was done. The woman was located, and she was very happy
to learn that her problem was at least going to be considered.

I began to recall some words spoken during the extraordinary
Moncada trial, converted into reality here in Santa Maria with a woman.

"I bear in my heart the doctrines of the Master, and in my thought
the noble ideas of all men who have defended freedom of the people."

"I believe it is now time for us go into the water, because I have
to attend a reception tonight. I wonder who invented receptions?", said

Just as soon as the people found out who he was, they surrounded
Fidel in the water. He swam out, and many followed him.

The physical condition of the Cuban Prime Minister is remarkable.
Watch in hand, and without prior training, he remained under water for two
minutes and forty seconds, while a young man who attempted to compete with
him suffered a resounding defeat.

Near the shore, Fidel chatted with the people about the cane
harvest, stock raising, and citrus fruits. He showed interest in the
education of the children present there, in the problems. In short, in many
things which demonstrate his great affection for the Cuban people.

I believe that this historic interview has painted a picture of
Fidel Castro seen honestly and objectively by a Mexican journalist.