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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 10)

Castro: It is a struggle between Goliath and David. Let's see if they wish one day to leave David alone. You say that Clinton smokes cigars?

Shanken: Yes. He has smoked for many years. But his wife, Hillary, has created a no-smoking policy in the White House. So now he just chews cigars, it seems.

Castro: Then I guess President Clinton and I will not be able to smoke our peace pipe or cigars in the White House.

Shanken: The American press repeatedly refers to the very poor conditions here in Cuba. The enormous shortages. The human suffering. Some are convinced you will fall soon or your government will be overthrown or perhaps you will step down. Like a great Broadway show, you have had a long run. Is it time to give someone else a turn? Do you have any such plans?

Castro: I wish I could. I wish I were free to do what I want to do. In easy times, you know, it is easy to talk about that, but in the hard times that we are living now, I would be shrugging off my responsibilities to my country if I did this. It would be like deserting the front line in the heat of the battle. I could not do that. I am not the owner of my life anymore. The most I can do is accept the responsibilities that I have been invested with by my fellow citizens and try to carry out those responsibilities for as long as I have them. But believe me I would enjoy now to be free to do what I would like to do; however, it is not possible for me to have the freedom in the hard times that I am living in now.Perhaps I could even smoke cigars again without all these very important obligations.

There are many things I would like to do. I wish I were the problem. The problem is the Revolution, and the problem is our ideas. The United States, or some people in the United States, they do not just want Castro's retirement. They want the total destruction of the Revolution. And that is what the majority of our people would not accept.

There is a new generation of Americans, and in the history of America, many similar things happened. First, you had the struggle for independence against the British with a long struggle that had great repercussions on the world. There was the Civil War in the days of Lincoln, which brought about great changes in American society.

Now in the United States there is not a revolution but an evolution. But there are still many injustices to be changed. There are many people who are struggling in the United States for equality and social justice. One of the countries in the world where there are more social differences is the United States. The difference between the average salary of the workers and the executive. The executive makes 90 times' more than the average worker.

There are many injustices in the United States, but that is your task to change and not mine. I would not set up preconditions for relations based on these injustices. On a realistic basis, we should respect each other, and, in the world, peace should prevail. There was a great Mexican leader who said that respect for other peoples' rights is peace. So peace should be based on mutual respect.


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