Posted on Friday, 09.10.10
Castro says he was misinterpreted on Cuban economy
By WILL WEISSERT
Associated Press Writer
HAVANA — Fidel Castro said Friday his comments about the Cuban economic
model no longer working were misinterpreted by a visiting American
journalist – taking back an admission that caused a stir around the globe.
The 84-year-old ex-president said he was not misquoted but meant "the
opposite" of what he was reported as having said by The Atlantic
magazine reporter Jeffrey Goldberg.
Goldberg wrote Wednesday that during three days of interviews with
Castro in Havana last month, he asked the former leader over lunch and
wine if Cuba's communist system was still worth exporting to other
countries. He said Castro replied: "The Cuban model doesn't even work
for us anymore."
Castro read from Goldberg's blog during an event at the University of
Havana and said he was misunderstood.
"I expressed it to him without bitterness or worry. It's funny to me now
how he interpreted it, word for word, and how he consulted with Julia
Sweig, who accompanied him and gave a theory," Castro told those
assembled. "The reality is, my answer meant the opposite of what both
American journalists interpreted about the Cuban model."
Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Washington-based Council on Foreign
Relations who came to Cuba with Goldberg, confirmed Castro's comment
earlier this week, telling The Associated Press it was in line with
calls by Raul Castro, Fidel's brother and successor as president, for
gradual but widespread economic and labor reform on the island.
Goldberg blogged that Sweig told him Raul Castro "is already loosening
the state's hold on the economy."
Since July 2006, when serious intestinal illness nearly killed Fidel
Castro and forced him to cede power to Raul, Cuba has implemented
reforms such as allowing the unrestricted sale of cell phones,
privatizing some state-run barbershops, licensing more private taxis and
distributing fallow government land to private farmers in hopes they
could put it to better use.
Still, Cuba's former "Maximum Leader" maintained Friday that wasn't what
he meant at all.
"My idea, as the whole world knows, is that the capitalist system no
long works – neither for the United States nor the world, which it
steers from crisis to crisis, which are ever more serious, global and
repetitive, and from which there is no escape," Castro said. "How could
such a system work for a socialist country like Cuba?"
The comments came during an unveiling at the university of "The
Strategic Counter-Offensive," Castro's second book on his revolution
that toppled Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959 that he has
written and released in less than a month.
His tone was not angry, more baffled and even a bit bemused. At one
point Castro said, "I continue to think that Goldberg is a great
journalist. He doesn't invent phrases, he transmits them and interprets
Castro had invited Goldberg to Cuba to discuss Iran – not domestic
island politics – and he apparently did not elaborate on his comment
about the economy, making it difficult to decipher the meaning.
Still, it made headlines globally: The Guardian newspaper of Britain
called it "an aside heard around the world."
Castro said Goldberg missed the irony in his quip and took issue for the
same reason with a a Goldberg blog entry from Tuesday, when he wrote
that during another conversation, Castro questioned his own actions
during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis – including his recommendation to
Soviet leaders that they use nuclear weapons against the United States.
Goldberg wrote that with Castro, he revisited the Missile Crisis,
asking: "At a certain point it seemed logical for you to recommend that
the Soviets bomb the U.S. Does what you recommended still seem logical now?"
He said Castro's answer surprised him: "After I've seen what I've seen,
and knowing what I know now, it wasn't worth it all."
"It's true that I broached the subject as (Goldberg) relates," Castro
said Friday. But he added that if he had known the true nature of Soviet
leader Nikita Khrushchev, he would have pushed for another course of action.
Castro said his remark to Goldberg came in "obvious reference to the
treachery of the Russian president who, saturated with alcoholic
substances, gave the United States all his country's most important
Castro did not take issue with other aspects of Goldberg's reporting,
such as his revelation that the gray-bearded revolutionary criticized
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust and for
what he called anti-Semitic attitudes.
Blogging about his trip to Cuba – which included a visit with Castro to
the dolphin show at Havana's aquarium – Goldberg said he would post
further items and write a longer piece for The Atlantic.
"He didn't mention many other aspects of our conversations," Castro said
Friday. "I will respect the confidentiality of the matters we discussed
while waiting with great interest his extensive article."