Interview with Fidel Castro

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Wed Oct 11 14:11:47 MDT 2000

 Conducted by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation following Castro's
visit to Montreal for the funeral of Pierre Trudeau. The discussion
initially dealt with Castro's memories of Trudeau but branched off into
a discussion of US-Cuban relations and Cuba's internal situation:

Reporter:Paule Robitaille

Producer:Carmen Merrifield

  Castro: We can't forget and will never forget that in the most
difficult years of the economic blockade, and when almost all countries
and all states, not the people, but all the  governments joined the
blockade and the isolation of our country, only two countries
maintained relations with us. Those two countries were Canada and

Narration:    On September 26, Cuban leader Fidel Castro paid his last
respects to an old friend, Pierre Trudeau. The funeral was filled with
memorable moments — but the sight of Castro was among the most electric.

In 1976, Pierre Trudeau made one of the first state visits to Cuba by a
Western leader. Before our interview got underway, Castro insisted on
showing us a tape tribute celebrating that visit. That Trudeau would
make this visit, and what's more bring his youngest son, Michel, was an
amazing event for Castro. He took it as a validation.

 The CBC's Mexico City correspondent Paule Robitaille interviewed Fidel
Castro after he returned to Cuba.

 Paule Robitaille: Commander, why were you so devoted to Pierre Trudeau?

 Fidel Castro: I have many memories of him. In my opinion, he was one of
the most sincere men I have ever known, friendly and modest in his
treatment of people. Trudeau was the representative, when he was here,
of an important, large and rapidly developing country, but he never
believed himself superior, and it was this humility. His ideas and his
personality always cheerful, always optimistic — that won us over.

>From a personal point of view, it impressed us that he came to Cuba with
his family. He brought his son, who was only three months and 26 days

  I met that little baby when he came here when he wasn't even four
months old, and he won everyone's heart, he went to the sea with us,
because I invited the president to a key in the south of Cuba, south of
the Zapata Swamp, at the edge of the really deep water — he really liked
sports, he liked fishing — and it never crossed my mind that he would
bring the baby, but he brought his family.

 (Castro showing photos) Look , I told you about this. Look at him here
when he was already as tall as I am. How many years after? 15 years
after, hat was in 1991. Look he [Michel] is taller than I am... Next I
am going to show you this one... He's here, look, he's here as well. He
came to Cuba three times, Trudeau came four.

I remember him as one of the most decent men and one of the most
outstanding statesmen that I have met and I have met a lot of people.
That is my concept of him. And the regard I felt towards him was like
that towards a member of the family, I didn't just like him, I was very
fond of him and his family.

 He was an athlete, a nature lover, a good man, a man of universal
ideas, a man of peace, a defender of his country's independence and
unity. In fact I met him in a world very different from this world, a
world where there were no great dangers. But those were his thoughts and
I am sure that those would still be his thoughts. He was faithful to
those ideas, and from a very young age... There is a story that I have
not been able to verify and I tried to verify it, that has been repeated
often and they told it to me in Canada, that he tried to  travel to Cuba
in 1959 or 1960 — he would have been very young — in a rowing boat. Just
imagine, battling the Gulf Stream, you can already see what spirit he
had. The  Americans arrested him and deported him to Canada.

(US-Cuba relations)
 Narration:   It was indeed a rare moment. After 41 years of strained
relations — a former American President, Jimmy Carter, and the Cuban
leader share a public moment at the funeral. But its significance may
have stopped there. The divide between Castro and the American
government is huge.

Paule Robitaille: But the meeting in Montreal isn't that a sign of
normalization? Could it indicate normalisation in relations with the
United States?

 Fidel Castro: No, it was completely coincidental.

  At one stage, inside the cathedral, they put a group of the visitors
and Trudeau´s intimate friends in the cathedral entrance. We were there
for about 20 to 25 minutes. I spoke with various people, senators that
came to greet me, and Carter was amongst the few foreign personalities.
I greeted him but I didn't mention U.S. or domestic politics. I would
have liked to ask him about the current situation in this pre-electoral
period, but I didn't want to talk of that.

 Of all the Presidents that have held executive power in the US since
1959 until the present day, the person that most deserves my respect,
for his ethics and his decency, is Carter. I say it frankly.

 Paule Robitaille: But we have a little question. We want to know: the
elections in the U.S. are in a month's time, who is the best president
for the Cuban people, Bush or Gore?

Fidel Castro: Although they told me you were going to talk of Trudeau, I
suspected you were going to ask me something like that. And I'm going to
try and answer you as elegantly as possible.

 I don't like either of them, and I'm thinking of doing the same as the
majority of Americans on election day: going to the beach, and not
voting, I'm not going to vote on election day. I am absolutely neutral;
no, not neutral, I'm against both of them, I´d like another candidate.
But there are only these two and my position is this: I don't like
either of them.

 Paule Robitaille: And not Gore?

 Fidel Castro: I don't want to judge, because I would have to offer some
severe criticisms of both candidates, and I don't want to get involved
in that feud.

 We are relaxed, there has been a great number of presidents in the
United States and all have been mistaken in their relations with Cuba,
so there can be others to make the same mistakes. We don't have any
expectations; we are cool.

Paule Robitaille: Trudeau always wanted to see normalization of your
relations with the U.S. I think that you also desire this normalization.

Fidel Castro: We don´t deny that, and yes, we do want to normalize our
relations with the U.S., especially with the American people, for our
opinion, for our appreciation of that people; because although they have
been fooled many times and have defended unjust causes they tend to be
idealistic, very idealistic, and for them to defend a bad cause one must
lie to them first. Therefore, when they believe they are doing what is
right, they support that cause although it's unjust; but when they
discover the truth, they are then capable of changing their minds.

The kidnapping of Elián González, whom they had initially never heard
of, provoked indifference and some support among the American
population. As they learned the truth, their opinion changed, and in the
end 80 per cent of Americans supported the return of the child. Within
the Afro-American community this figure was 82 per cent, and that won
the American people much acclaim. But in our country, hatred against
the U.S. people was never instilled; we accused the government, the
government's politics, but we were not fanatics.

 Paule Robitaille: Commander, I know it is difficult, but, on the  other
hand, many people do want to go to the U.S. because ife is difficult
here. Is there any concession that you can make to improve the
relationship, or can you normalize the situation with the U.S.?

Fidel Castro: In the area of migration, no country has done more than

As to the fight against drug trafficking, no country has spontaneously
fought more against drug trafficking than Cuba. So, well, we have had
some relations.

We haven't blockaded the U.S., we haven't prohibited citizens travelling
to the U.S., we haven't stopped anybody trading with the U.S. We don't
have any blockade, any hostility, any aggressive measures against the
U.S.; it was the U. S. administrations that adopted these measures
against us. That's why, simply, it is up to them to  eradicate these
measures and then the appropriate conditions for a normal and civilized
relationship between the two countries will be established. What more do
you want to know? I am prepared to answer you.

 Paule Robitaille: No, no. There is no possible concession.

Fidel Castro: We will not make any concessions, because we will not
discuss issues that affect the sovereignty of our country; we will not
make any kind of concession. They believe they have the best system, and
we believe we have the best system in every  sense. We are not going to
get tangled up in a long debate about this; but we can demonstrate,
mathematically, what our system is, what it does for society, what it
has always done, what its life and behaviour have been, despite the
deluge of lies and slander.

 Our people, more than anyone, know the truth about the treatment that
humans are given in this country. We have that authority and that moral

 (Cuban Politics)

Narration: Fidel Castro is one of the longest ruling leaders; 41 years
in power — the age of the Cuban revolution. And his country is one of
the last bastions of communism — along with China and North Korea. His
record on human rights has been highly criticized. But on these issues,
Castro remains defensive. His position remains, to quote his most famous
catch phase, "history will absolve me."

 Paule Robitaille: Could there be political change here?

Fidel Castro: A political change in which direction? To capitalism? No,
no! No way.

Paule Robitaille: And why?

Fidel Castro: What type of political change do you want? Tell me.

Paule Robitaille: Like Gorbachev, for example.

Fidel Castro: Do you desire the ruin of Cuba? What was the result of
Gorbachev´s politics after a certain time? Surrounded by a group of
people, whom only the CIA knew completely, they destroyed the history of
the country, demoralized and disarmed the country, and didn't do what
they should have, and what he without a doubt wanted to do: improve
socialism. That socialism should have been perfected and not destroyed.

Paule Robitaille:You have 300 political prisoners.

Fidel Castro: Three hundred? Listen, if we jailed all of those who
receive a salary from the United States to fight against the revolution,
there would be a lot more than those three hundred. I do not know the
exact number; I am not up to date  on it. Let us admit that there are
between 200 or 300, 320, or 400.

At the beginning of the Revolution, when the United States organized 300
counterrevolutionary and terrorist organizations, and invaded the Bay of
Pigs, blockaded this country, and encouraged counterrevolution in every
possible way, we  ended up with up to 20, 000 prisoners, referred to as
political, counterrevolutionary prisoners. You call them political
prisoners, I am not going to argue about that.

 Call them whatever you like, we do not call them ordinary prisoners,
because they are not ordinary prisoners. We do not call them political
prisoners because they are counterrevolutionary prisoners. And the word
political has a different, more honourable connotation for us. These are
prisoners who have fought against their own country.

 Do you know where most of them are? Almost all over there in the United
States. But it wasn't the United States which gave them their freedom,
it was us. Through humane rehabilitation plans, we gave them jobs, paid
them a salary and, when they were released, we ourselves made the
arrangements for them to leave, because many of them wanted to go over

Look for a Latin American country that can say what Cuba can say. Not
one extrajudicial execution, let them search for one. Never a political
assassination, let them search for one. No person ever tortured, let
them search for one. It does not matter how many times this slander has
been repeated, let them look for one and see if they can find just one.
Go with your colleague or come back and travel around the whole island
and ask the people if they have known anyone who has been tortured, yet
that slander has been thrown at Cuba billions of times.

Paule Robitaille:Is the economic situation difficult now?

Fidel Castro: Of course it is difficult. But it is less difficult than
10 years ago, because we are bearing up under a double blockade. Is
there any other country in the world that has achieved this feat,
withstanding a double blockade? The U.S. one , which was made worse when
the Soviet Union collapsed, and the one that flowed from the  events
following the collapse of the Socialist camp and the Soviet Union. These
events deprived us of practically all our markets, all our trade and
placed our country in such a terrible situation that only a high level
of patriotic and political consciousness  and a great spirit of
sacrifice have made it possible to overcome such trials which no other
country in Latin America would have been able to overcome.

When 30,000 people were missing in Argentina, nobody broke off relations
with Argentina. The alliance of the "civilized" and "Christian" West
with the government of those genocides who disappeared 30,000 people was
wonderful. The Argentine military collaborated in Central America in the
dirty wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua.

 Nobody broke off relations with the Central American countries which
disappeared more than 100,000 people. You know what happened in Central
America, you must know about it. You must know what happened in Chile
and you must also know who was behind the coup d'etat in Chile.

 Where are the guilty parties? Why do they not talk about the guilty
parties? I think I have the right to ask myself this question. And that
is the kind of democracy we don't want, Paule.

Are you going to broadcast what I am saying?

Let's see, I have criticized you. We shall see if your freedom of the
press is only for you and I do not have the right for a single one of my
arguments to be heard.

 Paule Robitaille: But how are you going to overcome this crisis, which
is incredible?

Fidel Castro: Do not worry, I am absolutely and totally certain that we
are overcoming this crisis.

We are growing in spite of that blockade. That is why neither of he
candidates frightens us, nor worries us, we are calm. And what is more,
this blockade has to disappear. There are more and more people opposed
to it, that blockade is untenable.

Meanwhile, we are capable of keeping up the struggle for as many years
as they want. Now, there will not be one iota of prestige left for those
who defend that policy which is so inhumane and so unjust, because we
have what it takes to defend ourselves, we have what it takes to
broadcast our message to the world. And we know that we are living in a
world that is very different from the world that existed when Trudeau

 Paule Robitaille: No, thank you very much for your time, for your visit
to Montreal. It has been a very great pleasure for me talking to you.

Fidel Castro: Thank you very much, perhaps I got a little carried away,
because you cannot talk about these things without a certain amount of

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