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A Conversation With Fidel

Marvin R. Shanken travels to Havana for an extensive interview with Fidel Castro.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Fidel Castro, Summer 94

(continued from page 9)

Shanken: From what I read, the American government is looking for Cuba to undergo political reform and improvement in its human rights.

Castro: That is the pretext that they use, and for many years they have used many different pretexts. At one time when we were in Africa, they used to say if the Cubans withdrew from Africa, then the relations would improve. That pretext was left behind. Later they said that when the links with the Soviet Union were cut off, then our relations would begin with the United States. Now the Soviet Union is not supporting us anymore, and nothing has changed. They keep on moving the goalposts back. Before it was Latin American subversion, the situation in Central America...and when they talk about reforms in Cuba, it is a precondition that we cannot accept because it has to do with independence and the sovereignty of our nation. It would be like if we were to give a precondition to the United States that it must change something in the Constitution in order for us to open up relations again. That's absurd.

As far as human rights, and I will try to keep my answer brief, no one in the world has done more than Cuba has done for human beings, for its citizens--no one else, in every sense. The best evidence of that is that our health programs have saved the lives of over 300,000 children, and we have been helping out in other places around the world with our doctors, medicines and knowledge, more than any other country in the world. So, I think that no other country has as unblemished behavior about human rights considering how much we have done for man. That is a legend. It is a fabrication. It is an unjustifiable pretext.

Shanken: There are two issues that seem to come up. The first is about the Soviet missiles [in Cuba] in the '60s aimed at the United States.

Castro: There are not any missiles anymore.

Shanken: The second issue regards compensation for the properties taken from private Cuban citizens at the time of the Revolution. I would like to know your thinking as to whether or not there is any way to satisfy the Cuban-Americans whose properties were taken so that we can move on to the bigger agenda of living together in a neighborly way?

Castro: Those thousands of Cubans whose economic situation were affected by the Revolution were people who had experience in business, and thanks to the Revolution, they were given facilities in the United States that they would have never received if the Revolution had not been victorious. Those people are wealthier now than they were in Cuba. That they owe to the Revolution.

It would be to create a hope that our country were in an economic situation which would allow it to compensate those people whose property was taken. We cannot create that expectation because we do not have the resources and, also, because of the blockade, our country has been suffering great losses, several billion dollars' worth. We are a small country, and the blockade has been very harmful to us. Now we are suffering more with the demise of the Soviet Union and the socialist states, with which we supported ourselves. But we are still striving. We are putting up a fight, and we are trying our best.

You can be assured that, if, instead of Cubans there were Americans here setting the example that we are setting as far as our capacity for struggle and resistance, the American nation would be proud.

Shanken: Perhaps people in Washington will read this interview and begin to think more about how this impasse can be overcome.


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