[Marxism] Ricardo Alarcon: "We'll see Fidel again at close quarters"

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Tue Feb 20 19:20:43 MST 2007

This came to me without the URL. 
Spanish original posted along 
with English translation here:

La Vanguardia - Barcelona
Monday, February 19, 2007

Interview with the Ricardo Alarcón, President of the Cuban
Parliament "I think we’ll see Fidel again at close
quarters" An important man in the highest echelons of Fidel
Castro’s Cuba, he has held that position since 1993.
Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, 69, has been presiding over the
Cuban Parliament since 1993. A Doctor of Philosophy and
Arts, he was Cuba’s ambassador to the United Nations from
1966 to 1978, when he was appointed Deputy President of the
General Assembly. He has also been in charge of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and is deemed an important man
in the highest echelons of Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

Q: For the last six months Fidel Castro has stayed out of
the presidency because of his illness. What has changed?

A: Well, he has not exactly stayed out...

Q: Or away from it.

A: That’s more like it. The thing is, we don’t see him as
much as we used to. One of Fidel’s habits is to keep a
firm, direct grip on many issues. It’s his style. That
physical absence has been the main change. When something
happens, say, a hurricane, he’s been there, and not only at
meetings where damages are assessed on paper. Of course, he
can’t do that now that he’s recovering from surgery, but I
assure you he’s still on top of every important matter.
Like Raúl Castro has said, he spends a lot of time glued to
the phone he’s got by his side.

Q: Does he ever call you?

A: We have talked over the phone a few times, but he
concentrates mostly on Vice-President Carlos Lage and
Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez. Lage [Economics] is quite
methodical and capable of conveying the main points
briefly. So is Felipe when it comes to international
events, a sensitive issue always in the center of Fidel’s

Q: So what has changed in Cuba?

A: Neither society nor politics nor our basic directions
have changed. Most noticeable perhaps is the Cuban people’s
reaction to Fidel’s proclamation on July 31 (temporary
delegation of powers to Raúl), which puts paid to so much
speculation overseas; a mature, even-tempered, supportive
reaction amid their sorrow, of course, which confirms the
great unity of Cuban society and the strength of its

Q: And what can and can’t change, either now or after

A: Each person is unique and irreplaceable. We change all
the time, that’s what life is about. Some people retire,
some die, others grow up... and everyone makes a mark. In
the early 1990s, with the collapse of the Soviet model and
its terrible blow on the Cuban economy as the U.S.
strengthened its blockade, the end of Cuban socialism was
announced with an excessive, unjustified fanfare: Cuba had
to correct its course and bet on an assumed winning ticket.
Yet, what are we talking about today? Look around you. The
allegedly winning choice is bankrupt all over Latin
America. Now the trend is to get closer to what Cuba has
meant. Everywhere there’s fierce criticism of the
capitalist model, and people are looking for alternative
formulas: the 21st century socialism, or better said,
socialisms. Defending the neo-liberal model here is all but
a joke; no one is asking Cuba to do what Latin America does
less and less. You have to be out of your mind to be
willing to preserve the world ridden with the ecological
disaster as described by Al Gore, who almost became
president of the U.S.

Q: Is Fidel’s return to direct, daily command to be

A: His recovery is going well. He’s the one acting with
caution because of his hopeless addiction to the truth and
deep-seated contempt for deception. He’s always reminding
us that his situation is delicate and complex, though he’s
been forced to admit to be doing fine. I’m confident that
he will not only keep managing our key issues as he is now,
but we will be seeing him again at close quarters.

Q: As much as before?

A: That would be only natural, but without spending so many
hours everywhere and paying visits. I’m 11 years his
junior, and seeing his work capacity has made me feel
exhausted and amazed. I won’t dare say he will adopt a more
discreet, moderate position, for I might make a fool of
myself. But he’s very capable of surprising us all.

Q: Raúl Castro has a different style and a reputation for
being more pragmatic than Fidel.

A: It’s another style that Cubans know too. He’s
straightforward and unassuming, and reluctant to be center
stage, which makes a change. He likes to get to the point
and aim for the solution rather than elaborate too much and
get muddled up in discussions. I remember, though, that at
first Raúl was the extremist, radical, communist one. Now
he turns out to be the pragmatic and restrained one. So, he
was also a pragmatist then and a radical now.

Q: What do you think about the hypotheses of reforms in
Cuba according to the Chinese or Vietnamese model?

A: We’re not Chinese. There are things about the Chinese
experience that could prove very useful, but also the other
way around. The idea of a single model is no longer a
choice among intelligent socialists. It’s in the West where
some people still harbor that foolish idea.

Q: Are you afraid that corruption may put a damper on
Cuba’s likely reforms or its evolution?

A: Fidel said the enemy would never defeat the Revolution,
for we’re the only ones who could destroy it. And
corruption is a key issue here. It’s a universal
phenomenon, but not as strong in Cuba as it is in other
countries. Nevertheless, that could be our final outcome.
Unlike the case of a capitalist country, corruption makes a
socialist country less so, and works against the idea of a
socially supportive environment which the United Nations
Economic Commission for Latin America labeled the mechanism
that curbed the adverse consequences of introducing a
market economy. The doses of capitalism we’ve had to
swallow are not the only cause of corruption, but it’s one
of the reasons, together with material scarcity.

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