GRANMA INTERNATIONAL 1998. ELECTRONIC EDITION.
The Cuban Revolution changed the history
of Latin America; the United States discovered
that Latin America was not a private preserve
INTERVIEW GIVEN BY PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO RUZ, FIRST SECRETARY
OF THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE
OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA, TO THE JOURNALISTS PRESENT DURING HIS VISIT TO
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ROMAN ART IN MÉRIDA, EXTREMADURA, SPAIN, ON OCTOBER 20, 1998,
YEAR OF THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE DECISIVE BATTLES OF THE WAR OF LIBERATION.
(Translation of the transcript of the Council of State)
After having looked at these monuments, what is the image of Extremadura you'll be
taking away with you? What memories will you take with you, Comandante?
Fidel Castro: The sad memory of having been here for
such a short time, and the unforgettable memory of having met such wonderful people as the
Extremeños [the people of Extremadura].
What's more, we have something in common: they call you Extremeños, and they call us
Journalist: It's better to be here than in London,
isn't it? Could you say something for us about Pinochet? Would the situation change?
Fidel Castro: Well, that's quite a subject. I believe
it was the day I was conversing with the King when someone told me the news about
Pinochet, and the first thing that occurred to me was, "How strange, since Pinochet
was the one who gave the English the most help during the Malvinas war!" Then I
commented on a few of the concerns I had regarding the situation. But now that you've
asked me, and since this Roman theater has such good acoustics, I will simply say the
The situation has three aspects. First, there is the moral aspect. From
the moral point of view, it is just that he be arrested and punished.
There is a second aspect, the legal aspect. I think that from the legal
point of view, this action is questionable.
Third, there is the political point of view. I think that this is going
to create a complicated situation in Chile, given the way in which the political process
has developed there.
In the first place, there is the army, the armed forces, which
constitute a powerful institution in that country. And without a doubt they will
unanimously oppose this, and oppose it fiercely, and they will demand that the civilian
authorities, the civilian government, adopt all the measures needed to have Pinochet
In the second place, Chilean officials are traditionally very zealous
when it comes to the law, to questions of sovereignty, more than in any other Latin
American country, I think.
And so, what is going to happen there? The armed forces will be
protesting. The entire right wing will unite, and it is powerful. The government will find
itself obliged to protest with all its might, because he had been issued a diplomatic
passport, and because they believe that the authority for a trial of this nature
corresponds to Chile; it would have to take place in Chile.
There is the legislature, where the right will surely adopt a position
in favor of Pinochet, and the left wing of the ruling coalition will find itself in a very
difficult situation: whether to support the government or not. The most probable thing is
that it will support the government; if not, it runs the risk of rupturing the coalition.
What will the socialists and the other center and left parties do? If
they distance themselves from the government's line, they will be divided. I think that
there is a danger of the coalition being divided; this is one of the latent dangers. I
think that this could considerably strengthen the right. These are the political
consequences. What might happen? The right is going to unite, the left could be divided,
and this could create a difficult situation in Chile, which has still not concluded the
process of consolidation and opening, although it has advanced a great deal. These
political consequences are somewhat worrying, from the way we see things from here, from
There is an additional factor: Pinochet did not act alone. They have
declassified official documents from the United States which demonstrate that from the day
Allende's election was announced, the government of the United States, the president of
the United States, and the high leadership of the United States made the decision to
overthrow him. They allocated funds, 10 million dollars, immediately; they gave
instructions to use any means to prevent him, first of all, from taking office, to try to
prevent him from taking power, and second, to try to overthrow him throughout the duration
of the subsequent period of time. They spurred on the conspiratorial process, supporting
it with all kinds of destabilizing, subversive activities; they squeezed the country
economically, taking away all of its income, its credits, until they achieved the
conditions for a coup d'état. They had detailed information about the plan for the coup
d'état, and therefore had just as much responsibility for what happened as Pinochet
Going back to the moral question, I think it would be morally right if
the same fate facing Pinochet were to be met by all those who participated in the idea,
the gestation, the support and the carrying out of the coup d'état.
Well, then, let him be arrested in London; but let all of the guilty
parties be arrested as well. I'm not going to include Nixon, because Nixon is already
dead, and we must ask that he rest in peace. But there are a lot of people who
participated in all of that, and I think that from the moral point of view, they would all
have to be taken to trial in Madrid, in London, or anywhere else.
This is how we see the situation.
WE'LL HAVE TO SEE WHAT PINOCHET'S GODFATHERS SAY
Pinochet is someone who is already finished, who is in full political
decline; but I'm afraid that an action undertaken in a hospital in London, and so on and
so forth, could convert Pinochet into a martyr of the armed forces and a martyr of the
right, into a cause for profound division within the country's progressive and centrist
forces. A serious problem will have suddenly been created.
To summarize, I repeat, there are three major issues involved in the
matter: moral, legal and political. It is from this point of view that I am analyzing the
Chile, really, is doing well; it has passed through a Calvary of
difficulties and problems to arrive at establishing, let us say, the preeminence of
civilian institutions within the country. As a result, this is a matter that will have to
be followed carefully, and there doesn't appear to be an easy way out.
We'll have to see what Pinochet's godfathers have to say - there were
2000, 2500, 3000 victims, among the disappeared and the murdered. We'll have to see what
they say, the godfathers and instructors of the tens of thousands of agents of repression
who received courses in repression there, in the United States.
You must know perfectly well that not long ago, the instruction manuals
used to train officers from Argentina, Chile, Central America and other places were
released publicly. When all of this was revealed, they said that they were destroying or
eliminating the "pedagogical" manuals they had established; but the documentary
and historical evidence of all of this remains.
Pinochet's godfathers are responsible for the 30,000 disappeared in
Argentina; the 3000 disappeared or murdered in Chile; the 150,000 victims in Guatemala,
since the time of the "liberating" invasion organized by the CIA in 1954; and it
just so happens that Che was there, exercising his trade as a doctor, when Arbenz was
overthrown in a coup for having undertaken agrarian reform.
Well then, that has cost 150,000 lives. Later came the dirty war in
Nicaragua, which also cost tens of thousands of lives; the bloody war in El Salvador
against that country's revolutionary movement - with a river of arms, resources, military
training, and money from the United States - which cost tens of thousands of lives.
I'm not going to mention Cuba. We were able to defeat the dirty war they
organized against us, from the first moments of the Revolution, throughout the country. By
organizing the campesinos, the workers, the students, the people, everyone, to fight for
years on end, we were able to counteract and defeat the enemy action, until we captured
the very last of the bandits in the Escambray mountains, before the invasion of the Bay of
Pigs. But I won't mention that, I won't include it in this calculation. As part of this
calculation, I could also include the many who were tortured, murdered and disappeared in
other places by those who received training and repressive indoctrination in the same
And so I would applaud, I would be happy, like many others in the world,
if the revolutionary decision were made - and I say revolutionary, because it couldn't be
legal - to take all of those responsible to trial, and some of them are surely younger
Pinochet received a lot of help, a lot of official support and a lot of
credits from Western countries throughout that entire period.
The International Penal Court [IPC] has not been established yet. The
IPC is an excellent idea, as long as it is not under the authority of the United Nations
Security Council, where there is veto power, because the United States would use it
to protect all of its friends and allies.
An IPC under the jurisdiction of the United Nations Security Council
would not be equitable, it could not be trusted. That is why those of us who support the
idea have stated that it cannot be under the authority of the Security Council, until the
United Nations is made democratic. Moreover, we have stated that economic blockades should
be included among the crimes of genocide and war crimes to be tried and punished by the
IPC. These are our two essential points of discrepancy with regard to this idea.
We would truly see these institutions as progress. This is not the way
see would see, for example, the Multilateral Investment Agreement (MIA) and other measures
of domination that they are trying to have approved in addition the international
organizations, in order to consolidate the world order imposed by the United States.
An IPC without a new and just international order, in the hands of the
Security Council, could serve one day to fight all those who are opposed to this unjust
order, and become an instrument of this unjust order, in the hands of a country that
interprets and decides just as it pleases on practically every situation it faces, as you
We have seen this recently in the case of Kosovo. Different world
leaders' opinions were divided regarding the way to resolve the conflict. Many proposed
that it should be resolved through negotiation, and by pursuing truly fair negotiations.
NATO proposed the use of force, but not all NATO members. As you know,
some countries proposed that it should be approved by the Security Council, and then there
emerged the interpretation of Resolution 1199, which said that measures should be adopted
for a solution to the problem, and that there should be recognition of the rights of the
people of Kosovo - who make up the immense majority of the population - to their
Everyone was in agreement with this, but a few advocated the immediate
use of force by NATO, and others did not, and the matter was decided by the United States,
which considered that it had the authority granted by Resolution 1199 and was on the verge
of launching Cruise and Tomahawk missiles, B-52 bombers and its entire arsenal of
sophisticated weapons against Serbia.
The United States turns to the Security Council when it is convenient;
it did so at the time of the war in Iraq, for example. The violations of international
norms that were committed when Iraq occupied Kuwait were used by the United States for its
own strategic goals; it had the opportunity to create a great Muslim, Arab, and Western
coalition against Iraq.
Other times, as in the case of the embassies that sustained terrorist
attacks in Kenya and Tanzania, they made the unilateral decision to bomb two countries,
Sudan and Afghanistan. And they did it so hastily that they didn't bother to verify if
that pharmaceutical factory was actually used to manufacture chemical products or for
chemical weapons. All those who have been there, foreigners, British specialists, all
those who have seen the factory have confirmed that there were not even the most minimal
conditions required or the slightest sign that chemical weapons had been manufactured
there. Even if chemical weapons are being manufactured, the international organizations
must be consulted, but they decided unilaterally to launch the bombs, they decided it at
the highest level, and it has been published that they didn't even consult the military
experts. Not everyone involved in the executive branch was in agreement with the attack,
but a few very influential people made the decision, and the armed forces were given the
orders to launch missiles on Sudan and Afghanistan 24 hours before the attack.
In all of these situations, we witness unilateral measures and a lack of
respect for international norms; they feel have the right to do whatever they please with
their immense power. This cannot offer security to anyone, to any country, to any people
opposed to the interests of the order they are imposing on the world.
You could say that this is the fourth concern, in addition to the three
mentioned earlier. Over the last few days I have been meditating on this, while on the
highway, rushing from one place to another, with a minimum of news on what is happening,
based on the information we have available to us, which is scarce, and the experience of
the way things are in the world today.
I saw the president of Chile at the Summit, and he really did look very,
very worried, and the worst would be if the measures taken in London translated later into
an image of Pinochet as a virgin and martyr, into a strengthened right wing, in contrast
to a divided and weakened center-left, and if, as a consequence of this, the right were to
take power in Chile again, even by the electoral route, given the truly destructive and
dividing effect this episode could have in Chile.
It is our duty to react to these events with composure. Now that you
have given me the opportunity, what better place than this theater to speak about this
matter, with all frankness.
Very little has been said about this, everyone over there's interpreted
it in their own way. Robertico [Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina] tells me that there are
various cables on the issue, and what I did was to make an unemotional analysis of the
news, not allowing myself to be carried away by a natural enthusiasm and joy on simply
hearing the news of Pinochet's arrest in a London hospital bed. There's a lot of hypocrisy
and complexity around the record and the role of this ill-fated personality, of this
paladin of anti-communism, of this faithful defender of the doctrines and interests of the
imperialists in this hemisphere. If international norms are to be transcended and the
British government - a faithful U.S. ally - is to be granted the privilege of
extraterritoriality, the responsibility borne by and the punishment merited by Pinochet's
major and guilty accomplices cannot today be overlooked. Exonerating them from all blame
would be immoral, hypocritical and unjustifiable.
How is this going to be resolved? What do you think? What news do you
have? What do you know about the incident? I haven't had much time to obtain the latest
You have the floor. Would one of you like to give an opinion? It would
help me to know your views on this matter, the latest news, what's happening, what
mechanisms were utilized. (NOBODY SAYS ANYTHING)
I studied law and didn't become a conservative lawyer, but rather the
opposite. I think that there are many laws that should be changed, but one acquires
certain notions about law; nonetheless, I never analyze problems from a strictly juridical
point of view. Many factors have come together here and I know the mentality of he parties
involved in all that.
Aren't you going to say anything? What do you think? Yes, I know,
they've told me it's time to go, but I want to hear something. Are you from Mérida or
from all over Spain?
Journalist: From Mérida and Spain. (LAUGHTER)
Fidel Castro: Let's see, who's raising a hand? (NOBODY
RAISES A HAND) So, did you understand what I was trying to say? Did some of you record
what I said? I want to be precise, because this is the kind of question that has to be
analyzed with much care and precision, so as not to give rise to confusion over our points
WE HAVE ALWAYS SAID 'PATRIA O MUERTE!'
WHEN EXPRESSING OUR IDEAS
Journalist: Are you afraid that what has happened
to Pinochet might one day happen to you?
Fidel Castro: To me? No, because our cases are not the
same. I might be mistaken, but I have traveled the world in the midst of a manhunt
organized over many years to physically eliminate me and I'm not afraid of going anywhere.
The attempts on my life which they have tried to carry out could be counted in the
hundreds, but here I am among you, happy, on this morning. Moreover, I'm one of those
people who can't easily be arrested anywhere, not just on account of the ethics I hold,
the convictions I have, but because of the history of my whole life, which I know well,
very well, and it isn't the version that has been written by our enemies. The differences
could fill an encyclopedia.
We have always said "¡Patr¡a o Muerte!" (Homeland or Death!)
when speaking of our ideas. (THEY SAY SOMETHING TO HIM) No, I'm not thinking of any one of
us. I go where I am granted a visa and, in addition, I have ethics, dignity, and I'd like
to know what would happen if they take it into their heads to do that. I am thinking more
of other leaders, of which there are many in the world. For example, Arafat travels
throughout Europe, to many places, and Arafat could be captured any day, let's say, and
subsequently placed on trial, or some procedure of that kind, as the price for the long
struggle for the freedom of his people. I am thinking of you, I'm thinking of the
progressive peoples of the world and I'm thinking about the powerful people who take it
upon themselves to do such things.
Batista killed approximately 20,000 Cubans and many of his henchmen
traveled to the United States - many of them with hundreds of millions of dollars; Batista
alone stole 500 million. We never even organized a group to hunt them down, and we had
countless volunteers to go to where he was and settle accounts with Mr. Batista and others
like him. We didn't want to apply justice on our own beyond our borders.
In Switzerland, hundreds of billions of dollars stolen from our peoples
have been deposited; there was never any law, there were never any trials, there was never
any justice to reclaim that money. Mobuto carried off seven billion dollars; nobody knows
where that money is. Our countries have always been totally unprotected; but yes, I would
be in favor of impartial and independent international courts that could offer protection
to all nations, against all crimes, genocide and plunder. I would definitely be in favor
of that, in order to put the people who commit those kinds of deeds on trial. That's what
I know this world very well and our adversary isn't just any adversary;
it is the strongest power ever to have existed in history.
When I was touring this museum, every so often I recalled Rome, its
immense power, capable of constructing what has been built here, on land so far from Rome,
like Mérida, at a time when there was no steam navigation, no airplanes, no telephones,
nothing, and I wondered if one day, all that will remain of the decadent empire are ruins
like these because in its time, the Roman Empire and its legions appeared as unshakable as
the U.S. empire appears today.
I even tried to imagine what the remains of the huge cities would be
like within a few centuries, what would remain of Disneyland, the massive skyscrapers and
all those things that the new Rome has built, because here one receives the lesson that
time passes and that no economic and social regime is eternal.
Formerly, in many places these works were built by slaves and some
craftsmen. Today, many works in the world - the Itaipú Dam, for instance, and many others
that could be mentioned - are built by contemporary slaves to enrich a minority which
has many resources.
They were telling me that many patrons paid for these works, these
buildings; but here one receives a lesson on how time passes. That's what we expect.
But all of you didn't fulfill your part; you didn't give me your
opinions on the problem. Why? You, you're a young journalist, aren't you game? Tell me.
Journalist: I'm not here to give an opinion.
Fidel Castro: What? You're not here to give an opinion?
Only to write? And what are you going to say in your article?
Journalist: I'm not going to give an opinion.
Fidel Castro: You're going to write but not give an
opinion. All right. Well, I'll have to leave here without knowing anything about your
Thank you very much, I'll go on inquiring, reading cables and using my
Journalist: There's a journalist here who was
saying something, who's in agreement.
Journalist: The thing is that we don't know how to
express ourselves as well as you, and so we prefer you to talk; but many of us agree with
what you say.
Journalist: I want you to know that a great many of
us are with Cuba and with you.
Fidel Castro: Thank you very much.
There are many factors. Cuba is outside of this problem; the most Cuba can do is give an
Journalist: And, in your opinion, who should be put
Fidel Castro: In the revolutionary sense, Pinochet
should be put on trial with the entire group that produced Pinochet, supported Pinochet,
educated Pinochet and led him to commit so many crimes.
Journalist: Tell me who, because I was a little
girl when the Pinochet problem happened.
Fidel Castro: Tell you who? I already defined them, I
don't wish to mention names, but those who participated must have included many people
much younger than Pinochet. I recommend you to search in the archives on the Internet for
the declassified documents in relation to the way in which Allende's overthrow was
engineered, who participated in all of that and what each one did, because the list is a
lengthy one and there are many of them. The role each of them played is noted there.
Well, that would be a great lesson, but it would have to be in the
revolutionary sense, for those who are in favor of bringing Pinochet to trial wherever.
All I am proposing is that the major guilty parties and those who created Pinochet should
be judged alongside him. It won't do any good sending him to the firing squad or life
imprisonment - I believe they've abolished the death sentence in Europe, but life
imprisonment remains - that he should be judged with all those who have been his
accomplices, that would be my preferred option. If that cannot be done, well, I would say
that I am far more concerned about Chile, its current situation, its future prospects,
than the fact that Pinochet might receive a greater or lesser prison sentence.
If I were to say more, I believe he should have been put on trial a long
time ago. If I were to say more, I would affirm that those who are responsible for the
30,000 disappeared persons in Argentina should have been tried and given heavy
punishments, as a deterrent; that those who committed crimes in many other Latin American
countries should have been given trials which serve as a deterrent. I'm not going to dwell
on the purely legal aspects. To make a revolution, one has to change constitutions and
laws of all kinds, and that is precisely what our Revolution consisted of; if one has to
transcend legal principles, in a revolutionary context, that has to be done in order to
apply with total justice the new revolutionary principles arising from that action.
You, as a journalist, consult the Internet people.
Journalist: Before they privatize it?
Fidel Castro: Before they privatize it; we're afraid
that they will privatize it and they could privatize it at any minute. Today it's a
technological instrument of communication, for certain things. You send a letter for
publication to many newspapers and they're not going to publish it because, as you know,
each newspaper follows a particular line, and the lines are drawn up by those who control,
who own the publications. Some allow more freedom, others less. And it shouldn't be denied
that there are also many independent people. But Cuba's experience has taught us that when
some of the things condemned by Cuba don't suit the United States, or its politics, they
There's something else. At the time of the Bay of Pigs invasion, many
major U.S. publications knew all about the invasion and received appeals, pleas and
instructions, in the name of sacrosanct national security, not to publish a single word on
what was being planned against Cuba.
In other words, not much of the media is open to us. I was saying
yesterday that we have to use what's available to us: the Internet, the five minutes or so
that somebody gets on television; some of these competing television channels will give
you five minutes.
During the Pope's visit, 110 television networks went to Cuba, went
everywhere, took in everything, poked into everything and broadcast everything they wanted
to, with absolutely no restrictions. One hundred and ten networks! Everyone was there. We
said to our comrades: "You go as well." They asked for interviews everywhere,
with people who were against the Revolution, people in favor; everyone gave their opinions
for the 110 networks.
I said to the comrades: "Go ahead and talk with them." In
fact, our people did speak, approximately 300-350 revolutionary comrades expressed their
points of view on the 110 television networks. It was an opportunity; in two or three days
many truths can be spoken, and we took advantage of every possibility. We have to take
every chance we get to disseminate our ideas.
THE MOST ADVANCED AND PROGRESSIVE IDEAS
SHOULD BE POSED IN ACCESSIBLE TERMS
I reiterate what I said yesterday: at this point in time, events are
overtaking ideas. Theoretical work has to be undertaken.
Theoretical work doesn't mean starting to print tomes like this (MAKES A
GESTURE SUGGESTING A FAT VOLUME) that only a few educated people can understand. The idea
is to disseminate the most advanced ideas, the most progressive ideas, the charges that
have to be made in the context of all those situations, in terms that are accessible to
the masses, using examples and information that coincide with what they see in the streets
every day. There are possibilities.
I remember that from prison, in solitary confinement, I sent many
messages in the form of underground manifestoes, and they got around; all the people read
them. All the crimes that were committed against our comrades following the attack on the
Moncada Garrison were denounced, not only in the trial; nothing was published in relation
to the trial. From prison, in solitary confinement and utilizing lemon juice - a little
secret I'm going to tell you, I hope you won't ever need it - you can write lengthy
manifestoes. With the lemon juice and a little patience, with that and a little passion,
with that and a bit of a spirit of struggle - because it's a laborious process - we sent
out many lengthy manifestoes denouncing crimes, and they had a far larger circulation than
all the newspapers at the government's disposition. But they carried the truth, they
carried the denunciation, from a cell in a prison.
José Martí uttered a sentence that could be considered universal:
"A just principle spoken from the depths of a cave can do more than an army."
And, at the end of the day, from the depths of that cave from which we disseminated ideas,
we were preparing the conditions for our subsequent struggle.
However, battles aren't won solely with ideas and disseminating ideas;
one has to labor alongside ideas, fighting and making many sacrifices. That's what we did,
we went about creating our people's awareness.
When the Cuban Revolution took place, the history of Latin America
changed. The United States discovered that Latin America existed, that it was not a
private preserve; they were scared because in that hemisphere there were objective
conditions superior to those of Cuba for making a revolution similar or more radical than
They came up with the Alliance for Progress as soon as that 72-hour
expedition, backed by aerial support and the U.S. squadron at a distance of four miles,
collapsed on them. At that time, territorial waters extended for three miles, and the Bay
of Pigs battle was waged with the latest U.S. aircraft carriers and battleships four miles
off the coast, prepared to intervene if given the order, but they had no time to give the
If they had intervened before the war in Viet Nam was escalated, it
would have been a huge war, because our people were not going to surrender. There were
already hundreds of thousands of people who were armed, and hundreds of thousands of armed
men can't be dominated by anyone; in any event, it would have been a lengthy, costly, and
destructive war, nobody knows how many hundreds of thousands of lives would have been
lost. The war in Viet Nam cost them four million lives and millions were mutilated; that
was a capricious and unjustified war on the other side of the world. The people of Viet
Nam suffered all that; we almost suffered it first.
The Alliance for Progress made its appearance: for the first time they
gave the Latin Americans a bit of money, 20 billion dollars; they redistributed our sugar
quota, which stood at about four million tons, as a sweetener for all those who supported
the proposals in the OAS [Organization of American States] and to isolate Cuba. We have
had all those experiences.
Now everyone's telling me that we have to go and, with your permission,
I will retire.