F.M.- How did you receive
the news of Elián’s liberation by federal agents on April 22?
F.C.- I was almost shocked
that they had finally decided to do it, although it was something that
needed to be done urgently. The child’s life was in great danger. The
reunion with his father, his little brother, his stepmother and a number
of his little schoolmates has led to a spectacular change in the boy’s
spirits and health. He is making rapid progress in his studies, and
despite the months he spent captive, he will be able to successfully
complete the school year. The fundamental question now is when will he
finally return to Cuba. I do not think there are any legal, moral or
political grounds to keep him in the United States. The American people,
almost unanimously, have shown their support for his reunion with his
father and his return to Cuba. It is a gesture for which we will always
F.M.- How did you react to
the condemnation of Cuba in the UN Human Rights Commission on April 18,
2000, the result of an initiative of the Czech Republic and Poland? You
were reproached for violently repressing political dissidents and
F.C.- Regarding the vote in
Geneva, it was obviously the case of a new and hypocritical act of U.S.
hostility and aggression against Cuba, with the active complicity
governments from a few former socialist countries willing to play the
American dirty game and the support of their European accomplices which
vote as a bloc in Geneva, alongside their powerful ally and boss of the
We did not hesitate to
expose this infamous maneuver. Our people condemned it unanimously and
we formulated resounding denunciations against those involved in the
plot, many of which they have not been able to respond. The reactions
will be increasingly tougher, and the battle against Cuba increasingly
F.M.- Pope John Paul II
visited Havana in January of 1998. Did he convince you?
F.C.- I really do not recall
the Pope trying to convince me of anything. We received him with the
hospitality and respect deserved by such an outstanding personality, and
one with special talent and charisma. We both spoke in public upon his
arrival and departure, and we both put forward our ideas with respect
and dignity. I was brief: I spoke for fourteen minutes when welcoming
him and five minutes when bidding him farewell.
We handed the country over
to him. We provided him with the most historic public squares, which
were chosen by the organizers of the visit. Our television networks were
available to him. We provided the transportation requested for
mobilizations, using all of the means available in our blockaded
country. We invited our Party members, the Young Communist League and
the mass organizations to attend the masses, under strict instructions
to listen respectfully to everything he had to say, with no placards,
slogans, or revolutionary shouts. One hundred and ten foreign television
networks and five thousand journalists received permission to report on
the visit throughout the world. There was not a single soldier on the
streets, nor a single armed police officer. Nothing like this had ever
happened anywhere else in the world.
At the end, the organizers
of the Pope’s travels stated that it was the best-organized visit he
had ever made. Not a single traffic accident occurred. I think that he
took away a good impression of our country; at the same time, he made a
good impression on Cuba. I had the opportunity to admire his working
capacity and his dedication to strictly comply with the grueling
itinerary worked out by his staff. The only ones faced with a fiasco
were those individuals abroad – and there were quite a few of them –
who thought that the Revolution would fall with the mere presence of the
Pope, like the walls of Jericho. In the end, both the Revolution and the
Pope emerged very much aware of their own strengths.
F.M.- No one is immortal,
neither heads of state nor common men and women. Do you not think that
it would be wise to prepare a successor, even if it is only to spare the
Cuban people the trauma of a chaotic transition?
F.C.- I am very much aware
that man is mortal but I have never worried about that. In fact, that
has been a key factor in my life. When my rebellious nature led me to
the dangerous calling of a revolutionary fighter, something that no one
forced me into, I also knew that there was very little chance that I
could survive for long. I was not a head of state but a very common man.
I did not inherit a position, nor am I a king, therefore, I do not need
to prepare a successor. In any case, it would never be to prevent the
trauma of a chaotic transition. There will be no trauma, nor will there
be a need for any kind of transition.
The transition from one
social system to another has been taking place for over 40 years. This
is not about replacing one man with another.
When a genuine Revolution
has been consolidated and when ideas and consciousness have begun to
bear fruit no man is indispensable, no matter how important his personal
contribution may have been. There is no cult of personality in Cuba. You
will never see official photographs, nor streets or parks or schools
named after living leaders. The responsibilities are very well shared
and the work is distributed among many. A large number of young and
already experienced people, together with a smaller group of old
revolutionaries, with whom they closely identify, will be the ones who
keep the country going. It cannot be overlooked that there is a party
here with great prestige and moral authority. So what is there to worry
F.M.- What you are
saying is perfectly true. However, precisely by not putting into place
right now the individuals and structures, that is, the relief force that
can take over when the time comes, do you not think that you are
increasing the risk that these social achievements will be questioned?
F.C.- The relief force, as
you have called it, is not only already prepared but it has also been in
place and working for quite some time.
F.M.- It is your privilege
to be a living myth. Will you continue to be a myth after you pass away?
F.C.- I am not a myth. The
successive U.S. administrations have turned me into what you call a myth
and if I have been a living myth, it is also thanks to their failure in
the countless attempts to cut my life short. But, of course, I will
continue to be one after I am dead. Would it really be possible to
dismiss the merit of having struggled for so many years against such a
F.M.- Fidel Castro, always
the conspirator. Does this image belong to an obsolete past?
F.C.- On the contrary, it
has become such a significant habit of mine that I do not even talk to
myself about the most important secret strategies in my revolutionary
struggle. I prefer to talk about them on television.
F.M.- Why do you live by
night? When do you prepare your speeches?
F.C.- I live and almost
always work at all hours, day and night. Can you really afford to waste
time once you are over 70? As for my speeches, I have come to the
conclusion, a bit late perhaps, that speeches ought to be short.