a candid conversation about reagan, revolution, dictators, drugs, debt and
personal life with cuba's communist leader--and washington's nemesis

Few world leaders, living or dead, have occupied history's center stage as
long as Fidel Castro, the Cuban caudillo, whose words and deeds have
irritated or enraged seven American Presidents and whose Revolution, in
1959, electrified the world. The political history of the years since is
well known, so we thought we'd use this space to tell you just how the
extraordinary "interview" came about.
For the past two decades, with rare exceptions, the 58-year-old Castro has
kept the press at arm's length. (One exception was PLAYBOY'S own first
"Interview" with him, in 1967, in, which he discussed the early days of the
Revolution and the 1962 missile crisis.) But times change, and Castro
clearly believes that the time has come to launch a new dialog with the
American public. And herein lies the rub-Although Castro's talkativeness is
legendary, after sifting through the transcripts of the most extensive
interview Castro has granted, it is difficult to imagine anyone engaging in
a true back-and-forth dialog with him. It isn't that he doesn't listen to
other viewpoints-he does and, though dogmatic about his political beliefs,
he seems genuinely curious about everything-but that his answers are long
and repetitive, complicating the usual process of editing the spoken word
for the printed page. Those film clips of his five-hour speeches to stadiums
full of people are not exaggerated: Even in a less formal interview setting,
answers are ten, 15, 20 minutes long and follow-ups become academic. He
waves away interruptions as his answers pile on one another. So we want to
let our readers know that even though this "interview" with Castro may well
be the most faithfully rendered ever, it has undergone extensive cutting as
well as interruptions to break up the text.
The questioners themselves are an unusual team, since the interviews were
conducted by free-lance writer and political-science professor Dr. Jeffrey
M. Elliot and U.S. Representative Mervyn M. Dymally (who also holds a
Ph.D.), a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the president
of the Caribbean-American Research Institute. Because of these credentials,
and because of the tradition of PLAYBOY'S "interviews," Castro sat for what
he called the longest and most far-reaching interview ever with a North
American journalist. Ten days after Elliot and Dymally returned, Kirby
Jones, an expert on Cuba and a co-author of a 1975 book on Castro published
by Playboy Press, raised several additional topics with the Cuban leader
that ware incorporated into the "Interview." Jones was in Havana to assist
with the filming of a documentary for Public Broadcasting Corporation/WNET,
produced by Carol Polakoff and Suzanne Bauman and directed by Jim Burroughs,
to be aired on PBS this fall.
The intense interest that Castro took in the PLAYBOY project may be unusual
in scope, but reporters agree that he is no less committed when he engages
in other enterprises, bringing his considerable charm and energy to bear on
anything he gets caught up in. This is part of the enigma of the man, of
course: The leader who can passionately talk about his Marxist beliefs,
scathingly criticize U.S. society and rationalize away Soviet oppression
can also admit, as he does in this "interview," that he missed the funeral
of Soviet leader Chernenko because-in so many words-he had pulled two all
-nighters in a row.
All-night sessions were also on the minds of Dr. Elliot and Representative
Dymally upon their return to the U.S., when they filled this report.
"Few interviews could have been as bumpy in the making as our eight-day
marathon with Fidel Castro. It's no wonder that a Sixties documentary about
a film crew's frustration over a promised-but-not-delivered interview with
him was titled 'Waiting for Fidel.' Castro's acquiescence to our request for
an interview was preceded by two earlier meetings with Dymally. In June
1984, Dymally accompanied the Reverend Jesse Jackson-then a presidential
candidate-to Cuba. As a result of his meeting with them, Castro offered to
release 27 Cuban political prisoners and 22 Americans who had been arrested
for illegally crossing into Cuban waters or for engaging in drug
trafficking. In. December 1984, Dymally again traveled to Cuba, that time on
a humanitarian mission on behalf of two constituents in order to help
reunite their families. It was on that trip that Dymally proposed an
in-depth interview, to which Castro agreed. Dymally then proposed a March 21
date, to which Castro also agreed.
That was the last simple thing that happened. On the appointed day, Elliot,
Dymally, technician Kenneth Orduna (the Congressman's chief of staff) and
photographer Gianfranco Gorgoni met in Miami and flew to Havana in a
twin-engine Cessna.
"Upon landing, we were met by two guards, protocol officer Armando Amieba
and Alfredo Ramirez, the minister of exterior relations. We were offered
lime daiquiris while our papers were processed. We had been instructed by
Cuban officials not to arrive prior to 10:30 A.M. After that, we assumed
that we would go directly to the Presidential Palace for the interview. Our
plan was to spend three days in Cuba.
"Upon arriving al the hotel, we were told to wait in our suite and that we
would receive a call when the president was ready. We assumed, with wondrous
optimism, that we would receive an early call and then begin the interview.
Ten. hours later, sitting in our hotel rooms, we had yet to receive the
call. We finally were told that the interview would begin the next day. Here
is a kind of journal of what happened next:
"Saturday. We awaken at seven A.M., expecting an early call. After all,
we're scheduled to leave Havana on Sunday evening. We hover again by the
telephone, waiting anxiously for the call. Afraid to leave the hotel, for
fear we'll miss the call. At 11 A.M., Amieba informs us that the session
will not begin until after one P.M. and that they have scheduled a tour of
old Havana. After sightseeing in the company of Havana mayor Oscar Fernandez
Mell-a comrade and close friend of Che Guevara's-we eagerly return to the
hotel in anticipation of the call. Again, we wait. At seven P.M., Ramirez
appears. He informs us that the president will see us later that evening but
not for the interview: It will be a get-acquainted session. Ramirez says a
driver will come for us at eight P.M. We're skeptical and start a betting
pool as to what hour the driver will actually arrive. The telephone rings at
11 P.M. Castro is ready!
"We are sped to the Presidential Palace. As we enter, we are met by an armed
guard. He stops u and clears us for entry. The door opens and there is Fidel
"He is a tall man, lean and fit, dressed in his usual military garb, boots
highly polished. His eyes are piercing. He greets us warmly and asks us to
be seated. Through an interpreter (this session and the entire 'Interview'
are conducted in Spanish), he raises a series of questions about the
project. We respond. He listens attentively. Following our presentation,
Castro rises, then sits and proceeds to lecture us for nearly an hour on the
shortcomings of the media, chiding U.S. journalists by name for their lack
of knowledge and integrity. Calming down, he asks us to explain the project
again. We do. Half an hour later, Castro rises, waves his hands and tells us
that he will do the interview-but on Sunday, the next day. We leave the
Presidential Palace at four A.M, buoyant and confident.
 "Sunday. after a few hours' sleep, we arise, eat breakfast and are met by
Amieba. We are informed that the interview will not begin until late
afternoon; would we like to explore Havana a bit more? Yes. An. hour later,
we are driven back to the hotel. We are told that Ramirez would like us to
meet him by the pool. We arrive shortly before he does. Ramirez then tells us
that the president has been up most of the night, that he is extremely tired
but that he hopes to see us late in, the afternoon or the early evening. We
politely stress the time pressures weighing on us: For one thing, Dymally
must be in Washington on Tuesday to vote on the MX missile. We return to our
suite and begin yet another wait. The betting pool grows larger. Hours pass 
-and no call. We begin to worry. Dymally has to fly out on Tuesday morning.
"Monday. We eat breakfast early. The food is becoming monotonous-we dine
every day in one of two hotel restaurants, so we won't be far from our
phones. We are anxious and nervous. We stay that way all day. This is the
low point of the trip. At seven P.M., Dr. Jose Miyar (referred to as Chomy),
Castro's closest advisor, arrives. He is accompanied by Ramirez and
interpreter Juanita Ortega. They offer their apologies on behalf of the
president, informing us that he has been extremely busy-that he worked
through the morning. However, they assure us that he will see us later that
evening-but only for a photo session. He is too tired to do the interview.
Finally, the call comes at 11 P.M. and we are sped to the Presidential
"We are escorted into Castro's office. He is talkative and begins yet
another long discourse, which meanders to the origin of his beard. He tells
us that while they were in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, he and his comrades
took to growing beards because there was little need or time to shave, then
kept them as practical symbols: If Batista's forces had tried to infiltrate,
they would not have had time to grow beards and would have been spotted.
Castro then calculates, to the minute-with pen and paper-how much time was
saved by their not shaving.
"The formal 'Interview' begins and our spirits are high. But after that
first session, Dymally makes his plane trip to Washington and gets to cast
his vote just in time-against the MX-and returns the next day to more
delays. By now, the pool of one-dollar bets has grown to a size that would
probably get us expelled from Cuba.
"Thursday. The 'Interview' resumes, and this time we keep our momentum. One
night, we tape from ten P.M. until four A.M., with a tired Castro reviving
as the hours pass. Armed with his favorite Cuban cigar, a Cohiba, and a
glass of Chivas Regal, he speaks in, a precise, didactic manner, treating
each question as if it were the only one. He struggles not to be
misunderstood and builds his responses brick by brick by brick. When the
session ends, Castro is exhausted-and so are we.
"Friday. We sleep until ten. A.M. Although we have made Herculean progress,
we're not finished. Castro wants to get to all our questions, regardless of
the time it takes. It has been eight days. We wait for the call. Just 11
hours later, the phone rings. Castro is attentive, effervescent. We tape
until four A.M.-another seven hours. At last, we are finished. Twenty-five
hours on tape. We express our appreciation, he expresses his. As we depart,
he extends his hand, withdraws it and tells us that he has thought of one
additional point he wishes to make-so it's back to the table, where Castro
adds an afterthought to an earlier answer. Despite the hour, he appears
energized and poised. We are wrecks. Our charter flight is scheduled to
leave within the hour. This time, we say farewell-for real-and return to our
separate worlds. "

PLAYBOY: People know Fidel Castro the public figure, but few know the man.
We'll be taking up many issues, but let's begin, Mr. President, with some
personal questions. After 26 years at the center of controversy and history,
what still motivates Fidel Castro?
CASTRO: That's a very difficult question. Let me start by stating the things
that do not motivate me: Money does not motivate me; material goods do not
motivate me. Likewise, the lust for glory, fame and prestige does not
motivate me. I really think that ideas motivate me. Ideas, convictions are
what spur a man to struggle in the first place. When you are truly devoted
to an idea, you feel more convinced and more committed with each passing
year. I think that personal selflessness grows; the spirit of sacrifice
grows; you gradually relinquish personal pride, vanity.., all those elements
that in one way or another exist in all men.
If you do not guard against those vanities, if you let yourself become
conceited or think that you are irreplaceable or indispensable, you can
become infatuated with all of that the riches, the glory. I've been on guard
against those things; maybe I have developed a philosophy on man's relative
importance, on the relative value of individuals, the conviction that it is
not the individual but the people who make history, the idea that I can't
lay claim to the merits of an entire people. A phrase by Josi Marti left in
me a deep and unforgettable impression: "All the glory of the world fits
into a kernel of corn."

PLAYBOY: Then you don't think certain men are destined for personal
greatness? It's a matter of time and circumstance?
CASTRO: Yes. Very much so. Let me give you some examples. If Lincoln had
lived today, he might be a simple farmer in the United States, and nobody
would have heard of him. It was the times in which he lived, the society in
which he lived, that made a Lincoln possible. If George Washington had been
born 50 years after independence, he might have been unknown, and the same
holds true if he had lived 50 years earlier. Lenin, with all his
extraordinary abilities, might have been an unknown, too, if he had been
born at another time.
Take my case, for example. If I hadn't been able to learn how to read and
write, what role would I have played in the history of my country, in the
Revolution? Where I was born, out of hundreds of kids, my brothers and
sisters and I were the only ones who had a chance to study beyond the first
few grades. How many more people were there, among those hundreds of kids,
with the same or better qualities for doing what I did if they'd been given
the opportunity to study?
One of the 100 best poems in the Spanish language tells of how often genius
lies dormant in one's innermost soul, awaiting a voice that will call out,
"Arise and walk!" This is true; I believe this deeply. This is why I believe
that the qualities required for being a leader aren't exceptional; they are
to be found among the people.
Why am I saying this? Because I've noticed, especially in the West, a great
tendency to associate historical events with individuals; it's the old
theory that men make history. There is also a tendency in the West to see
the leader of any Third World country as a chieftain; there's a certain
stereotype: Leader equals chieftain. From that, there is a tendency to
magnify the role of the individual. I can see it myself in what you say
about us: Castro's Cuba, Castro did this, Castro undid that. Almost
everything in this country is attributed to Castro, Castro's doings,
Castro's perversities. That type of mentality abounds in the West;
unfortunately, it's quite widespread. It seems to me to be an erroneous
approach to historical and political events.

PLAYBOY: You may feel that the West magnifies the role of the individual,
but aren't you under intense scrutiny here in Cuba? Don't you live in
something of a fish bowl?
CAStRO: Actually, I'm never even aware of it. There may be something that
explains this: My activities are almost never reported in the press. I may
be doing a lot of things for 15 days, yet none of it comes out in the
papers. You may have noted that by and large, all countries have what's
called a press office. Everything a leader does throughout the day is
published in the papers and reported on television and radio. In a sense,
ivory towers and fish bowls are built around these people. I haven't created
a fish howl for myself. I go out and visit factories, schools and the
various provinces and towns. It's true that I visited them more often in the
past, because I had more time then. But there's never been any protocol or
welcoming ceremonies for me, as is customary for leaders in many other
Yet crowds gather where I go. How long is it since I last went to a
restaurant? Why? A new Chinese restaurant has just been opened in old
Havana, which is being restored. It's small and cozy, in an old building.
For some time now, I've wanted to go there; but if I do, it will mean eating
while people wait to see me in the street. Well, these are the minor
inconveniences of my job. I have ways of getting around them. If I want a
rest, if I want to relax, I go to the sea. I go to a small cay out there
to scuba dive. There are some marvelous bottoms, fish and coral reefs, and
I've grown accustomed to those places. When I was a student, nobody ever
thought of scuba diving in the ocean as a sport. There were all those
stories about sharks. ...

PLAYBOY: Considering all the traveling you have done around Cuba, how would
you describe the relationship between the people and Fidel Castro?
CAStRO: I think that the people's feeling is one of familiarity, confidence
and respect; it's a very close relationship. I think it's a family
relationship. The people look on me as a neighbor, as one more person. They
aren't overpowered by positions, by public figures. No one ever calls me
Castro, only Fidel. I believe that that familiarity is based, among other
things, on the fact that we've never lied to the people. Ours has been an
honest Revolution. The people know we keep our word-and not only Cubans in
Cuba but also those in Miami; that is, people who don't have any feelings of
affection but trust our word. They have known ever since the Revolution that
there will be no tricks, no betrayals or entrapments: When we told them they
could leave from Mariel, they could-even if they are our worst enemies, even
if they're terrorists. We are like the Arab of the desert who welcomes his
enemy in his tent and doesn't even look to see which direction he takes when
he leaves. Of course, this is based on the fact that the Revolution never
lied. Never! This is a tradition that dates back to the war. Throughout the
entire war, all the information we released on the fighting, the number of
casualties, the munitions captured, was strictly accurate. We didn't add one
single bullet or rifle. Not even war justifies a lie or the exaggeration of
a victory. This has been an important element in our Revolution.

PLAYBOY: Do you have many close friends? Can a man in your position have
CAStRO: Well, I have many friends who are not Cubans, whom I've met through
different activities-some of them outstanding personalities: for example,
doctors, writers, film makers, scientists, friends from abroad. But my
friends in the Revolution are all my revolutionary comrades, all those who
work with me, all those who hold important responsibilities in the state. We
have a friendly relationship.
 I don't really have what you might call a circle of friends, because for me
a circle of friends is a very broad concept. I don't have the habit of
meeting always with the same group of eight or ten friends. I visit one
friend one day, another another day; with some I talk more because of work
relations-that's logical. However, I've tried to avoid-because it's not good
practice, from the viewpoint of my responsibility-cultivating just one group
of friends I see every Sunday.

PLAYBOY: What we were getting at is whether or not people feel intimidated,
whether or not they can argue with you. 
CASTRO: As a rule, any of the comrades who work with me in the state or
party can come to me in total familiarity and state any concern or problem
he may have. In general, my relations with comrades are excellent. But since
you've asked me, there are two or three people with whom I work closely who
would tell you I'm a big headache to them. Comrade Chomy, who is sitting
here with us, is the prime example. He has the unrewarding task of showing
me the list of people I must see, who ask for meetings. ... He is the one I
can grumble and complain to.
[Castro and Chomy laugh. Moments later, Chomy leaves the room and as Castro
is making a point, The tape recorder Castro's aides are using for their own
verification clicks to a stop. In exasperation, Castro shouts for Chomy, who
rushes back in.]
As a rule, I do not let myself get agitated or obsessed by problems. If I
didn't have a sense of humor, if I couldn't joke with others and even with
myself, if I weren't able to let go, I wouldn't be able to handle the job.
Because I also ask myself the same questions others do: How's my  blood
pressure? How's my heart doing? How have I been able to stand it for so many
I meet people who I immediately know are going to die young. I see them all
worked up, bitter, tense, but that's not my case. Exercise and moderate
eating habits have helped. And why not? Nature and luck have also helped.

PLAYBOY: Unlike most political leaders, you do much of your important work
late at night-often into the early hours of the morning. Why the odd hours?
CASTRO: On a day like today, with conversations that go on this long, the
schedule goes out the window, gets out of control, and this is frequently
the case. A lot of visitors come to Cuba: ministers of foreign affairs,
party representatives, a great many people. If I were to set an exact date
and hour for each one of the visitors asking for an interview through
Comrade Chomy, through the party, through the ministry of foreign affairs,
through the executive committee, through all channels, I'd be tied up all
the time. I dislike purely protocol meetings; they're a waste of time. I
prefer to talk about interesting things with visitors, and I dislike keeping
an eye on the clock. As a rule, I tell the people who have arranged
someone's visit here, "Make up the schedule; I only want to know where he is
and when he's free." This has, of course, its inconveniences. Many times
they tell me, "Minister so-and-so is leaving tomorrow," and then I'm forced
to meet him at night, very late. 
On the other hand, nobody upsets my life as much as interviewers and

PLAYBOY: Have you ever given any thought to marriage, a family, settling
down and retirement?
CASTRO: I've always been allergic to gossip-column publicity about the
private life of public men. I believe that's part of the few intimacies that
one has. That's why I maintain discretion-until one day. Someday, the things
you're asking about will be known, but not with my cooperation. I can tell
you that everything's perfectly well with my private life-no problems.

PLAYBOY: One more question in the personal vein: You are one of the last of
the great orators, with your booming speeches to stadiums full of people;
you are known as an effective communicator. Is there any difference between
that public figure and the private man?
CASTRO: [Laughs] I have a great rival as a communicator-and that is Reagan.
But let me tell you something that people may not believe: I have stage
fright. Whenever I'm about to speak in public, I go through a moment of
tension. I don't actually like making speeches. I take it more as a
responsibility, a delicate task, a goal to be met. The huge rallies are
difficult. I may have the basic ideas-you might call it a mental script of
the essential ideas-and more or less the order in which I'm going to present
them. But I work out and develop the ideas-the words, phrases and forms of
expression-during the speech itself. People prefer that to a written speech.
It seems to me that they like to see a man's struggle, his efforts to
elaborate ideas.

PLAYBOY: This year, you have granted several interviews besides this long
conversation. Why? And why now?
CASTRO: It's true that I've granted several interviews in the past few
months. I thought it would be useful to do this now. I'm not trying to
launch a publicity campaign, much less improve my image. I'm not running for
office in the United States. Rather, I'm doing this because this is a
special time in the international field.
For instance, there has been tension in Central America, and I believe that
there's a really critical situation in Latin America, both economically and
socially. There is great international concern over the problems related to
the arms race, the danger of a war; at the same time, there are conflicts in
southern Africa. If these problems are better understood, some contribution
may be made to solving them.

PLAYBOY: You've had a chance to see the results of your earlier interviews;
what do you think of your press so far?
CASTRO: I believe that the PBS interview was a serious one, on interesting,
complex topics. After PBS, there was an interview with Dan Rather of CBS. I
don't think very important problems were discussed in that interview. It was
more anecdotal, containing personal views about Reagan and other topics. But
television's possibilities for spreading information are, by definition,
very limited. Rather wanted to know why I hadn't attended Chernenko's
funeral. Sometimes you make a great effort and put a lot of time into
something, and then reporters take up anecdotal rather than essential
matters. That's why, as said to you before we began, if you want to express
your point of view in depth, you have to have the space to develop it.

PLAYBOY: You may consider it anecdotal, but we saw the Rather interview and,
like him, wondered about the Chernenko funeral. Why did you skip it? You
didn't really answer Rather.
CASTRO: Look, I was present at Brezhnev's funeral; I was present at
Andropov's funeral; I've attended the two most recent Soviet Party
Congresses, that is, almost all the most important occasions of that type
that have taken place in the U.S.S.R. One must bear in mind that the
distance between Cuba and the Soviet Union is great; the other socialist
countries are two hours away from Moscow, sometimes less.
Now, the death of Chernenko-a man whom I held in great esteem, whom I'd
known for some time and who was very friendly toward Cuba-occurred at a time
when I had an enormous amount of work. On the day of his death, we had just
concluded a women's congress to which I had devoted several days' intense
I'm going to tell you something else, since you force me to. Between the end
of the Federation Congress, where I delivered the closing address-that was
Friday evening-and eight o'clock Sunday morning, I worked for 42 consecutive
hours. No rest or sleep. Since I had other visitors in town in the following
days and I was worried about keeping them waiting-and you are exceptional
witness to the fact that I don't begrudge time or energy in attending to
visitors, regardless of their political rank-I decided to ask my brother
Raul to represent me at the funeral.
Fulfilling a formal obligation isn't the only way to show affection,
appreciation and respect for a friend. I can tell you in all frankness, our
relations with the Soviet Union are excellent, better than ever; and
precisely because of the confidence they have in us and the confidence we
have in them, I knew they'd understand.

PLAYBOY: What the Soviets feel for you is one thing, but it's no secret that
attitudes in Washington have hardened in recent years. President Reagan has
characterized you as a ruthless military dictator, one who rules Cuba with
an iron hand. There are many Americans who agree with him. How do you
CASTRO: Let's think about your question. A dictator is someone who makes
arbitrary decisions on his own, one who is above all institutions, above the
law, and is subject to no other central than his own will or whims. If being
a dictator means governing by decree, then you might use that argument to
accuse the Pope of being a dictator. His broad prerogatives for governing
the Vatican and the Catholic Church are well known. I don't have those
prerogatives. Yet no one would think of saying that the Pope is a dictator.
President Reagan can make terrible decisions without consulting anyone!
Sometimes he may have to go through the purely formal motions of securing
the Senate's approval when he appoints an Ambassador, but Reagan can order
an invasion, such as the one against Grenada, or a dirty war, such as the
one against Nicaragua. He can even use the codes in that briefcase he always
carries around with him to unleash a thermonuclear war that could mean the
end of the human race. If not, why does he have the briefcase? Why does he
have the codes? And why does he have an aide with the briefcase? It's to be
supposed that Reagan would make the decision to unleash a thermonuclear war
without consulting the Senate or the House of Representatives, without
consulting the Cabinet. And that's something that could spell the end of the
human race. Not even the Roman emperors had that kind of power.

PLAYBOY: But, Mr. President, don't you, in fact, rule by personal decree?
Don't you make all important decisions of state?
CASTRO: No. I don't make decisions totally on my own. I play my role as a
leader within a team. In our country, we don't have any institution similar
to the Presidency of the United States. Here, all basic decisions-all the
important decisions-are analyzed, discussed and adopted collectively. I
don't appoint ministers or ambassadors; I don't appoint even the lowliest
public servant in the country, because there: exists a system for selecting,
analyzing, nominating and appointing those officials. I do, in fact, have
some authority; I have influence. But my only real prerogative is to speak
before the Central Committee, before the National Assembly, before public
opinion. That's the main power I have, and I don't aspire to any other. I
don't want or need any other.
Those are the conditions in which a political leader in our country must
work. I don't think any of these mesh with the idea of a dictator, which
comes from the verb to dictate-one who is always dictating orders of all
kinds. I don't act that way, nor am I empowered to. I don't give orders; I
reason. I don't govern by decree, nor can I.
During the war, I led an army; in a war, it has to be that way. There has to
be that kind of responsibility-during World War Two, Eisenhower had the
responsibility and the power to make decisions-but, as soon as our movement
was organized, long before the attack on the Moncada Garrison on July 26,
1953, we had collective leadership; throughout the war, our movement had
collective leadership, and when the war was over, we immediately organized
collective leadership for the country. These principles have remained
unaltered throughout the years.
I honestly believe that the President of the United States has much greater
power and more capability of giving direct, unilateral orders. If his power
includes something as monstrously undemocratic as the ability to order a
thermonuclear war, I ask you who, then, is more of a dictator: the President
of the United States or I?

PLAYBOY: Nonetheless, what Americans see is that there is a marked
difference between the personal freedoms in a Western country and those
allowed in Cuba.
CASTRO: I think U.S. and Cuban conceptions of liberty are very different.
For example, there are more than 1,000,000 children who have disappeared in
the U.S. Next to your millionaires, you have beggars. We have neither
abandoned children nor beggars without homes.
You always speak of freedoms. Since your Declaration of Independence, you
have spoken of freedoms. We, too, consider it self-evident that all men are
born equal. But when George Washington and the others created U.S.
independence, they did not free the slaves; not long ago, a U.S. black
athlete could not play baseball in the major leagues. And yet you called
yours the freest country in the world. The freest country in the world also
exterminated the Indians. You killed more Indians than Buffalo Bill killed
buffaloes. Since then, you have made allies of the worst tyrants in
Argentina and Chile, you have protected South Africa, you have used the
worst murderers in the world to organize the contra revolution--and yours
is the country of freedom? What is the banner of liberty the U.S. is really
OK, if you are a Communist in the U.S., where are your freedoms? Can you
work in the State Department, in any form of Government employment? Can you
speak openly on TV? In what papers can you write? We may be criticized in
Cuba, but at least we are cleaner than you. Our system is cleaner, because
we're not pretending to be the best of liberty.

PLAYBOY: In fact, a Communist can speak openly in the U.S. In the U.S.,
people have the freedom to say whatever they like.
CASTRO: You can say what you want, but you have no place to say it-unless
you can afford it. If you do not own a paper or a media empire, you are
ignored. I have read how a right-wing Senator has tried to buy CBS to kick
out Dan Rather-and Rather is not a Communist. But they want to shut his
mouth. I admit that there are some brilliant writers and journalists who
write both for and against capitalism and can speak on TV, but a Communist
who wants to preach communism, who wants to change your system, does not
appear in any big papers or on large TV stations.

PLAYBOY: What about in Cuba? Could someone write against your system in your
CASTRO: No, a counterrevolutionary cannot write in our newspapers. Against
our system, he cannot write. But that is exactly the same thing that happens
in the U.S.-only we are honest; we say so. You say you are the best model of
freedom that ever existed. When I see a Communist writing in The New York
Times or The Washington Post, or speaking on CBS, I promise you I will open
the doors so all the counterrevolutionaries will be able to write in our
newspapers! But you set the example first.

PLAYBOY: Surely, you know there are Communist political candidates in the
U.S. who speak freely.
CASTRO: Yes, they are allowed to hand out their pamphlets and make speeches.
But they are not covered by the press, they are not allowed to participate
in the debates, the text of their speeches is not published.

PLAYBOY: Could we go out right now to the main park in Havana and speak
critically about Cuba?
CASTRO: Cuba is one of the places where people are most critical. Anyone who
visits here knows that Cubans speak openly. From morning until night, they
criticize everything. No one is arrested here for speaking out. If they
were, everyone would be arrested! Things are not the way you imagine.
Besides, people do not want another party. This country has had a political
education, a revolutionary education. People can speak their mind, but not
if they start conspiring or organizing terrorist plans.

PLAYBOY: So if we went outside and began speaking against the party--
CASTRO: Go ahead, try it, test it. You could get in trouble! [Laughs]

PLAYBOY: The history of relations between Cuba and the U.S. is quite bad;
how much worse have they become since Reagan took office?
CAStRO: Considerably. He has, of course, tightened the blockade against us.
Then he put an end to private citizens' traveling to Cuba-something that had
been reestablished for some years. He also applied an incessant, tenacious
practice of placing obstacles in the way of all of our country's economic
and trade operations. I don't know how many people in the United States are
engaged in compiling information on all of our economic and trade operations
with the Western world to try to keep us from selling our products, to block
Cuba's nickel sales to any Western country and to try to block credits to
Cuba and even the rescheduling of the debt. Every time we reschedule the
debt with various bankers, the United States draws up documents and sends
them to all the governments and banks.
The United States does not limit its blockade to trade between the United
States and Cuba-it even bans trade in medicine, a shameful thing. Not even
an aspirin can come from the United States-it is legally forbidden;
pharmaceuticals that may save a life are forbidden; no medical equipment can
be exported from the United States to Cuba; and trade is prohibited in both
directions. The U.S. also expands the blockade throughout the world as part
of its policy of unceasing, shameful and infamous harassment of all of
Cuba's economic operations. The only reason it doesn't interfere in our
trade with the other socialist countries is that it can't. That's the truth.

PLAYBOY: To ease these tensions, would you be willing to meet with President
Reagan, without a prearranged agenda?
CASTRO: [Very carefully, after several false starts] In the first place, you
should ask the President of the United States. I don't want it to be said
that I'm proposing a meeting with Reagan. However, if you want to know my
opinion, I don't think it's very probable; but if the United States
Government were to propose a meeting of that nature, a contact of that type,
we wouldn't raise any obstacles.

PLAYBOY: What if an invitation were extended by the United States Congress
or, specifically, by the Congressional Black Caucus? Would you accept such
an invitation?
CASTRO: Well, I have very good relations with the Black Caucus. I know many
of its members, and any invitation from them or any opportunity to meet with
them, in Cuba or in the United States, would be an honor for me. In any
case, I'd first have to know the position of the United States Government,
because a visit to the United States requires a visa from the U.S.
Government. If that were possible, indeed, if that could lead to a broader
meeting with U.S. legislators, I think I have the arguments with which to
talk, discuss things and debate with a group or with all U.S. Congressmen at
once. That is, I think so; I think I could go. There are many things to talk
about that it would be useful for the members of the U.S. Congress to hear,
and I could answer all of their questions. But all this is on a speculative,
hypothetical plane; I don't think it can be done unless the President of the
United States agrees.

PLAYBOY: And that seems hardly likely, with what current Administration
officials are saying about you. One particuLarly negative charge was by
Secretary of State George Shultz, who claims there is evidence of a Cuban
-Colombian drug connection. How did you react to that?
CASTRO: One of the Ten Commandments says, "Thou shalt not bear false witness
against thy neighbor." The Reagan Administration should be constantly
reminded of that. Besides, I believe that the United States Congress and the
American people deserve more respect.
It's absolutely impossible for the United States and the State Department to
have a single shred of evidence of this kind! [Stands up, paces angrily] I
believe that these are, in fact, dirty, infamous accusations, a dishonest
way of conducting foreign policy! During the past 26 years, Cuba's record in
this regard has been spotless, because the first thing the Revolution did in
our country, where drugs were once freely used, sold and produced, was to
eradicate that problem. Strict measures were taken to destroy marijuana
plantations and to strongly punish all forms of drug production and
trafficking. Since the victory of the Revolution, for 26 years, no drugs
have been brought into our country, nor has any money been made from the
drugs coming from anywhere else.
During the 26 years of the Revolution, I haven't heard of a single case of
any official's ever having been involved in the drug business-not one. I ask
if the same could be said in the United States or if that could be said in
any other Latin-American or Caribbean country or in the rest of the Western

PLAYBOY: Secretary Shultz has said that Cuba tacitly goes along with the
drug trade by allowing overflights of smugglers in light planes.
CASTRO: Look, our country is the place drug smugglers fear the most. They
all try to avoid landing in Cuba or making any sort of stop on our coasts,
because they have a lot of experience with the consequences and the strict
measures taken in our country. Our island has an east-west axis in the
Caribbean and is more than 1000 kilometers long but only 50 kilometers wide
in some places. It's easy to cross it in a matter of minutes and be under
international jurisdiction again. Radar very often detects airborne targets
approaching or leaving our territory. United States spy planes do this
almost every day, even without entering our national airspace; every so
often, they do it with sophisticated aircraft that fly at an altitude of 30
kilometers at 3000 kilometers per hour. I imagine that those planes aren't
carrying drugs.
Small civilian aircraft penetrate our airspace rather frequently, and they
don't pay our interceptors the slightest attention. Having to decide whether
or not to fire on an unarmed civilian aircraft is a serious, tragic
question. There's no way you can be sure who's in it. An aircraft in the air
isn't like an automobile on a road that can be stopped, identified and
searched. The occupants may be drug smugglers, but they may also be off
course or trying to save fuel by taking a shorter route. They may be
families, journalists, businessmen or adventurers-of whom there are many in
the United States-who are afraid to land and be arrested in Cuba.
Even though it is blockaded by the United States and doesn't have any
obligation to cooperate with the United States on this or any other problem,
Cuba has stood sentinel against drug trafficking in the Caribbean-as a
matter of self-respect, a simple question of prestige and moral rectitude.
Is it right that the treatment we receive in exchange is the infamous
accusation that Cuba is involved in drug trafficking?

PLAYBOY: Why do you think there have been such harsh charges over the years?
Why do you think American leaders-and, to some extent, the American public-
have had such a relentlessly negative view of Cuba and of you?
CASTRO: In the first place, basically, it is not a negative attitude against
Cuba and against Castro; it is fundamentally an antisocialist,
antirevolutionary and anti-Communist attitude. The fact is that for the past
100 years in the United States, Europe and elsewhere in the world, this
anti-Communist feeling has been drilled into the masses by all possible
means; the anti-Communist indoctrination begins practically when a child is
born. The same thing used to happen in our country: A permanent campaign in
all the newspapers, magazines, books, films, television, radio, even
children's cartoons, was aimed in the same direction-toward creating the
most hostile ideas and prejudices against socialism. I'm referring, of
course, to a socialist revolution, not to the much used and abused word
socialism, which so many bourgeois parties have taken up as something
elegant in an attempt to dress old-fashioned capitalism in new clothes.

PLAYBOY: Critics in the Reagan Administration would argue that you need to
employ cruel, punitive measures in imposing your kind of socialist system in
CASTRO: As regards the charge of cruelty, I think the cruelest people on
earth are the ones who are indifferent to social injustice, discrimination,
inequality, the exploitation of others-people who don't react when they see
a child with no shoes, a beggar in the streets or millions of hungry people.
I really think that people who have spent all their lives struggling against
injustice and oppression, serving others, fighting for others and practicing
and preaching solidarity cannot possibly be cruel. I'd say that what is
really cruel is a society-a capitalist one, for instance-that not only is
cruel in itself but forces man to be cruel.
Socialism is just the opposite. By definition, it expresses confidence and
faith in man, in solidarity among men and in the brotherhood of man-not
selfishness, ambition, competition or struggle. I believe that cruelty is
born of selfishness, ambition, inequality, injustice, competition and
struggle among men.

PLAYBOY: Getting back to the way the U.S. has portrayed Cuba specifically-
CASTRO: Really, a study could be made of how much space, how much paper, how
many media have been used against Cuba. But despite their huge technological
resources and mass media-and I say this with sorrow Americans are one of the
least politically educated and worst informed peoples on the realities of
the Third World, Asia, Africa and Latin America. All this is actually at the
root of those anti-Cuba, anti-Castro feelings-the anti-Castro part.
Now, I'd also like to say that, in turn, there is a broad minority of people
in the United States who think, who have a high cultural and political
level, who do know what's happening in the world, but they aren't
representative of the average citizen. Furthermore, I know for a fact that
there are many U.S. citizens who are not taken in by this phobia, by those
prejudices and by those anti-Cuba feelings. On the other hand, I want to
remind you of the following: Twenty years ago, the worst things, terrible
things, were said about China, about Mao Tse-tung, about Chinese communism,
about the Red threat and all the most inconceivable threats that China
posed. The press used to say the worst things about China every day.
However, that is no longer the case. The press is no longer full of insults
against the Chinese government and the People's Republic of China. Quite the
opposite, there are excellent diplomatic relations, investments and
increasing trade. And yet that process did not start with today's China but
with the China of Mao Tse-tung, at the time of the Cultural Revolution, at a
time when an extreme form of communism was preached and applied in China.
Now even Reagan has visited the Great Wall, and just look how everything has
And why? Could you tell me why? Now there are even two types ofCommunists: a
bad Communist and a good Communist. Unquestionably, we've been classified
among the bad Communists, and I am the prototype. Well, Mao Tse-tung had
also been included in that category far a long time.

PLAYBOY: What would it take to change your image from that of a bad
Communist to a good Communist?
CASTRO: Unfortunately, if changing that concept of a bad Communist to that
of a goad Communist implies that we stop denouncing the things we deem
incorrect, that we stop assisting the causes we deem just, that we break our
ties of friendship with the Soviets, that we become anti-Soviet in order to
be good Communists, acceptable to and applauded by the United States, then
that will never happen. If one day the United States changes its image of
Cuba and public opinion has the chance to learn the truth, it will have to
be on the basis of its ability to realize that neither Castro nor the Cuban
people are opportunistic, turncoats, people who can be bought.

PLAYBOY: And you feel that the U.S. treats the rest of Latin America as if
it can be bought?
CASTRO: I'm convinced that this U.S. policy toward Latin America, the idea
of acting as the proprietor of the peoples of this hemisphere, in contempt
of the peoples of this hemisphere, is evident everywhere-in the simple
things, in speeches, anecdotes and stories, in the toasts that are made, in
contacts with Latin-American leaders. I have the impression that when
Columbus, Cortes, Pizarro and the European conquistadors reached this
continent, they treated the Indians in almost the same manner and with the
same philosophy-which included bartering mirrors and other trinkets for
gold. I think that is the American attitude.
I notice it, I feel it. Not when they talk with me, because with me, none of
those visitors can talk like that-besides, the visitors I receive are
usually a different type of person, right? But when I look at the Presidents
of the United States in their relations with Latin America, it is impossible
not to sense their contempt, their underestimation of these Latin American
peoples-this strange mixture of proud Spaniards, black Africans and backward
Indians; an uncommon and strange mixture of people who deserve no
consideration or respect whatsoever.
I think that someday, that policy-the policy of intervening in all countries
of Latin America, setting guidelines, saying what type of government should
be elected, the social changes that can or cannot be performed-will give out
and result in a crisis, and I really believe that that moment is drawing
The United States has been lucky in that up to now, these problems have come
up in small, isolated countries like Cuba or Grenada or Nicaragua, in
Central America; it can still afford to speak of invasions, acts of
intervention and solutions based on force, as had already been the practice
in 1965 against another small Caribbean country, the Dominican Republic. But
when it is faced with these problems everywhere in the Southern Hemisphere,
in any one of the large or medium-sized countries in South America, it won't
be able to solve them through intervention, dirty wars or invasions; that
would be catastrophic.
Since I can picture very clearly what will happen, I have been raising these
problems, insisting on discussing them with all American people I meet, and
maybe my effort will be useful to some extent and make at least some
American people reason things out.
Maybe if, when the United States was about to embark upon the Vietnam war-
as it enthusiastically did-someone had persuaded the people of what was to
happen there, he might have done a great service to the American people. For
instance, it is said that if The New York Times had published the story it
had concerning the Playa Giron [Bay of Pigs] invasion, it would have done
Kennedy a great service and would have prevented that mistake. We are now
doing exactly that with respect to Central America: As we watch the United
States-or the U.S. Government; I can't say the U,S. people, because 72
percent of them are against intervention in Central America-move with
similar enthusiasm toward intervention in Central America, we are not doing
the people of the United States a disservice when we insist on warning them
of the consequences to them, to all of us.

PLAYBOY: There is obviously support for that position, as evidenced by the
votes in Congress blocking Reagan's proposals to support the Sandinista's
adversaries. But that is hardly a ringing endorsement of either the
Sandinista or the Cuban regime. In fact, there is a general feeling that
when a Marxist government takes over, the inevitable result is repression,
curtailment of human rights, imprisonment of political dissidents.
CASTRO: The idea that anyone is in prison in Cuba, no matter what you have
heard, for holding ideas that differ from those of the Revolution is simply
nonsensical! [Stands again, begins pacing] No one in our country has ever
been punished because he was a dissident or held views that differed from
those of the Revolution. The acts for which a citizen may be punished are
defined with precision in our penal code. Many of those laws were adopted
prior to the triumph of the Revolution, in the liberated territory of the
Sierra Maestra Mountains, and were applied to punish torturers and other
We have defended ourselves and will continue to do so. I don't expect that
the counterrevolutionaries will put up a statue for me or that our enemies
will honor me. But I've followed a line of conduct in the Revolution-and
throughout my life, in fact-of absolute respect for an individual's physical
integrity. If we had to mete out punishment-even drastic punishment-we meted
it out. But no matter what our enemies may say, no matter how much they may
lie and slander us, the history of the Revolution contains no cases of
physical abuse or torture! All the citizens in this country, without
exception, know this.

PLAYBOY: That's a sweeping denial, Mr. President. Does that mean that any
story told about unfair imprisonment or torture in Cuba through the years
has been a lie?
CASTRO: Yes. We've never had to resort to anything illegal-to force, torture
or crime. Throughout the entire history of the Revolution, no one can point
to a single case of torture, murder or disappearance-things that are common,
everyday happenings in the rest of Latin America. Another thing: Never has a
demonstration been broken up by the police in Cuba. Never in 26 years has a
policeman used tear gas, beaten a citizen during a demonstration or used
trained dogs against the people. Never has a demonstration here been broken
up by the army or the police-something that happens every day everywhere
else, in Latin America and the United States itself.

PLAYBOY: As well as in the Soviet Union and in the Eastern Bloc. But why is
it you claim that Cuba is the exception?
CASTRO: Because the people support their government, the people defend it.
The true repression I speak of occurs in countries whose governments are
against the people, whose governments have to defend themselves against the
people: in Argentina, with the military dictatorship; in Chile, El Salvador
and elsewhere, with repressive forces and death squads trained by the United
States. When the people themselves are the Revolution, you may rest assured
that there is no need for violence or injustice to defend it. Ours is the
only government in this hemisphere-and I can state this proudly-that has
never inflicted any bodily harm on an individual or committed any political
assassinations or abductions.

PLAYBOY: Are you claiming that the way you deal with political dissidents
actually results in greater freedoms than Americans have?
CASTRO: I'm sure that every day, United States citizens see things in their
country that are never seen here, things that simply can't happen here, acts
of violence against people. Here, nobody has ever seen-nor will they-the
murder of a champion of civil rights, such as Martin Luther King, Jr.
Actions such as this have never occurred here, yet we don't go around
bragging about the Revolution's humanitarian spirit and respect for human

PLAYBOY: You yourself were in prison before the Revolution. How do you
remember it?
CAStRO: I was in isolation for a very long time. Batista's men didn't want
me to go to trial, because I had been so vocal; I had denounced all the
crimes that were being committed, so it was clearly political. And even in
prison, I was able to organize such political activities as a school, with
courses in history, philosophy, politics.
I was sent to the Isle of Pines- we now call it the Isle of Youth-and we
organized while we were there, Once, I remember hearing that Batista himself
was visiting the island to inaugurate a small power plant. The moment he was
set to leave, we in the prison began to sing our anthem based on our
uprising of the 26th of July.  Batista thought he was hearing a song in his
honor-he may have thought it was the Angels' Chorale or something. But once
he heard some of our lyrics-"insatiable tyrants," and so forth-the policemen
came into the prison and took harsh, repressive measures. One comrade was
beaten-he was a black man and the author of our anthem. Others were put
into isolation. I was in solitary detention for more than a year; they even
shut off our electricity during the day.

PLAYBOY: Was it always so harsh?
CASTRO: I could say a few good things about prison. We took advantage of the
time; we read a lot-14, 15 hours a day. I studied a lot of Marxist works.
They even let us receive Das Kapital.

PLAYBOY: There has been speculation over the years as to when you became a
Marxist. Some have said it was only after you took power and were pushed to
embrace communism because of washington's hostility. But it sounds as if you
left prison a committed Communist.
CASTRO: No, I was a Marxist before I entered prison. Before our defeat at
Moncada, which sent me to prison, I already had the deepest convictions. I
had acquired them earlier, upon reading books about socialism. I was already
a Utopian Communist. I became convinced of the irrationality, the madness of
capitalism just by studying its economics. I was in my second year in law
school when I felt inclined toward Marx's theories. I did not have the
knowledge I have today, but if I hadn't had a Marxist orientation, I would
not have conceived of the struggle against Batista.

PLAYBOY: It has recently been reported that Cuba has dramatically expanded
its own defenses. After all these years, do you still fear an attack or an
invasion by the United States? Do you think of it as a real possibility?
CASTRO: [Very intentely] It's no secret that we have increased our defense
capability considerably in the past four years. Not just that, we've
actually revolutionized the way we think about defense. Over these past four
years, we have incorporated more than 1,500,000 men and women into the
country's defenses, besides the army and its reserves; we have trained tens
of thousands of cadres; we have prepared for all possible scenarios of
aggression against Cuba, even in the most adverse circumstances; the
population is organized, even in the remotest corners of Cuba, to fight
under all circumstances, even under occupation.
Why have we done this? Obviously, not as a sport; not for fun or for the
love of arms. I'd rather have said, like Hemingway, "Farewell to arms." It
has been in response to an open, declared policy of force and threats
against Cuba implemented by the U.S. Government.

PLAYBOY: You say this has happened in the past four years, so it's obviously
the Reagan Administration's policies you feel threatened by.
CASTRO: We launched this effort even prior to the present Administration,
when we realized that the wave of conservatism and great economic
difficulties might turn the U.S. constituency in favor of a chauvinist
policy, when we saw there was a possibility that the Republican Party could
win the elections. We were familiar with its program, ideas and philosophy
concerning all Caribbean and Latin-American issues; the Republican Party
didn't hide them. Indeed, it openly proclaimed them in its platform. We
perceived a strong ideological component in this Administration: With the
ideas and mentality of crusaders, they virtually proclaimed their objective
of sweeping socialism off the face of the earth. In other times, there were
people who had the same goal, and we know what happened then. Our effort was
intensified after the U.S. invasion of Grenada. What we've done is perfectly
logical. We couldn't wait until the U.S. Administration decided to invade
Cuba to start making ready. That's a mistake we could not afford to make;
those who made it didn't survive.

PLAYBOY: Do you think the United States will intervene militarily in
CASTRO: I do not rule out military intervention. It is obvious that the
Reagan Administration is obsessive about Nicaragua. To be more precise, the
President of the United States has an obsessive attitude and a very high
degree of personal commitment on this issue, which could lead at a certain
moment-to direct intervention. It is quite evident that the Administration
has been preparing to that end; it has built new airstrips in Honduras and
has rebuilt and expanded three old ones; it has set up land and sea military
installations, training centers and numerous troops; the military exercises
and maneuvers are all obviously aimed at creating the conditions for an
invasion of Nicaragua, if that decision is ever made. Now it is possible:
Tanks, armored vehicles and other military equipment-all the military
conditions are in place.

PLAYBOY: Do you believe that the Reagan Administration does not really want
a peaceful solution in Nicaragua?
CASTRO: The objective of the Reagan Administration regarding Nicaragua is to
crush the Sandanista Revolution; regarding El Salvador, to exterminate every
last revolutionary; more generally, to destroy once and for all the spirit
of rebellion in this Central American people. It's as if the Reagan
Administration wants to teach an unforgettable lesson so that no one else in
Central America or in Latin America will ever again think of rebelling
against the tyrannies serving U.S. interests, against hunger and
exploitation-so that no one will ever again fight for independence and
social justice.

PLAYBOY: Washington would argue that it is not how Cubans or Nicaraguans run
their own countries that is a threat but your policy of spreading revolution
to other countries.
CASTRO: I once said that Cuba does not have nuclear rockets but it does have
moral rockets. If the U.S. feels threatened by the altruism and sacrifice of
Cuban teachers and doctors in other countries, perhaps they are right to
feel threatened-because those workers are expressing a morality that is
superior. If they want to fear our ideas, then I will say yes, they are
right to fear the ideas-that is why so many lies have to be invented. But to
say that we represent a physical danger to the U.S.-that's absurd!
How can Cubans or Nicaraguans be a threat to a country that has 16 or 17
aircraft carriers, 300 bases throughout the world, thousands of nuclear
weapons? How can a Third World nation that does not produce any airplanes be
a threat to a country thinking about Star Wars defenses? It's ridiculous;
it's brainwash.

PLAYBOY: Let's discuss El Salvador. Your critics claim that Cuba is working
to overthrow the newly elected government of President Jose Napoleon Duarte
in El Salvador by supplying military arms to the rebels. Is that true?
CAStRO: I don't know where this notion of the legality of that government
comes from. Everyone knows that there was a civil war there; everyone knows
that over the past six years, more than 50,000 people have been murdered
there by the death squads and by the Salvadoran army itself; everyone knows
that true genocide has been going on there and that Duarte has contributed
to that genocide. He has actually been a coconspirator and an accessory to
those crimes, and he cannot shirk his responsibility for what has been
taking place in El Salvador for the past five years.

PLAYBOY: But isn't it true that Duarte was elected president by the people
of El Salvador in an open and free election?
CASTRO: No! [Pounds table] Everyone knows under what conditions the
elections took place: amid the most ferocious repression, terror and war;
everyone knows that the electoral campaign was planned by the United States,
that the political parties were manipulated by the United States and that
the electoral campaigns were funded by the CIA. The present government and
all other allegedly legal bodies are the result of all that manipulation and
all those maneuvers by the United States. Augusto Pinochet of Chile could
also say that his government was legal after the fascist constitution was
imposed upon the people in an alleged plebiscite in which no one but he and
his constitution took part. Actually, one can't help wondering why the
United States considers the El Salvador elections to be legal and, in turn,
considers the Nicaragua elections illegal. In spite of the fact that the
elections in Nicaragua were sabotaged by the United States, the people
turned out to vote with enthusiasm, granting the Sandinistas and the left
more than 70 percent of the vote. This was witnessed by more than 1000
people from all over the world: representatives of governments, political
organizations and parties and journalists from everywhere.

PLAYBOY: As you say, it can be argued both ways. The question remains, Isn't
it true that Cuba has worked, and is actively working, to overthrow the
government of President Duarte? If so, what right does Cuba have to
intervene in the internal affairs of another country?
CASTRO: I'm not concerned in the least about charges against Cuba in
relation to our solidarity with El SaLvador. We have stated that the United
States knows perfectly well that sending weapons to the Salvadoran
revolutionaries is very difficult, in practice almost impossible; but I have
no interest whatever in clarifying anything on this subject, because I
consider that morally, it is absolutely fair to help the Salvadoran
revolutionaries. They are fighting for their country; it's not a war from
abroad, like the dirty war the CIA carries out in Nicaragua; it's a war born
inside the country that has been going on for many years.
What I can assure you is that, in fact, the main supplier of the Salvadoran
revolutionaries is the Pentagon, through the weapons given to the Salvadoran
army. That also happened in Vietnam; the revolutionaries there seized huge
amounts of weapons delivered by the United States to the puppet army. I
really don't know who could feel morally entitled to criticize Cuba for
allegedly supplying weapons to the Salvadorans when the United States admits
to supplying weapons to the Somoza mercenaries to overthrow the government
of Nicaragua.

PLAYBOY: What evidence do you have that the CIA manipulated the presidential
elections in El Salvador? Didn't they have the same kind of scrutiny as
Nicaragua's elections, which you claim were fair?
CASTRO: The information was published in the United States-and the CIA
admitted it publicly. It gave money not only to the Christian Democrats but
also to all the other parties and covered the expenses of the election
campaign. Proof is not necessary in the face of a confession.

PLAYBOY: You've mentioned Grenada. How do you explain the failure of the
socialist revolution in that country?
CASTRO: The invasion of Grenada by the United States was, in my view, one of
the most inglorious and infamous deeds that a powerful country like the
United States could ever commit against a small country. What was occurring
there had nothing to do with the failure of socialism. What had been taking
place in Grenada was a process of social change, not a socialist revolution,
I believe that what opened the doors for invading that country, what gave
the United States a pretext on a silver platter, were the activities of an
ambitious and extremist sectarian group. I believe that the main
responsibility for the domestic situation created there lies with Bernard
Coard, an alleged theoretician of the revolution, who was really advancing
his own ambitions to conspire against the popular leader, Maurice Bishop.

PLAYBOY: Do you believe that the United States would have intervened in
Grenada had Bishop still been in power?
CAStRO: No. If Bishop had been alive and leading the people, it would have
been very difficult for the United States to orchestrate the political
aspects of its intervention and to bring together that group of Caribbean
stooges in a so-called policing coalition that didn't include a single
policeman from the Caribbean-it was exclusively U.S. soldiers.

PLAYBOY: You say the U.S. invaded on a pretext. But President Reagan argued
that the United States had no choice but to intervene in Grenada, because
Cuba was building an airport and stockpiling weapons with which to export
revolution-and, of course, because the American medical students studying in
Grenada were in mortal danger. Why didn't the U.S. have a right to protect
its citizens and prevent the spread of revolution?
CASTRO: The U.S. invasion was accompanied by unscrupulous lies, because for
one thing, U.S. students on the island never ran any risk. The first thing
the coup group did was to give assurances of safety to everyone,
particularly the medical students. The safest people in Grenada were the
U.S. students. As to the airport, Washington claimed a thousand times that
was a military airport, but not a single brick that went into that airport
was military. It was built with the participation of the European Economic
Council and England, Canada and other United States allies.

PLAYBOY: What explains the fact that the Grenadian people cheered the United
States intervention and rallied behind its goals and objectives?
CASTRO: I doubt very much that that support is as deep and widespread as you
suggest. Bishop was a man greatly loved by the people. He was the leader of
the Grenadian people. He had the real, sincere and enthusiastic support of
the people. The group involved in the coup plotted against Bishop, arrested
him, fired on the people when they revolted and, furthermore, assassinated
Bishop and other leaders. Naturally, this caused great outrage and confusion
among the masses. The United States intervened, stating its sole purpose as
the noble aim of liberating the country from those people and that it would
punish Bishop's murderers and those who had fired on the people. It was
logical for a large number of people in that country, even most of the
population, to be susceptible to accepting invasion as desirable.

PLAYBOY: What about public support in the U.S.? The overwhelming majority of
the American people rallied behind President Reagan's decision.
CAStRO: Public opinion in the United States was manipulated by a pack of
lies told over and over again. Melodramatic elements were brought into play:
the students kissing U.S. soil on their arrival; the bitterness and
frustration resulting from the Vietnam adventure and its humiliating defeat;
the problem of the Marines killed in Lebanon and the memory of the Iran
hostages; all these elements, latent in the spirit of the U.S. people, were
manipulated in a cold, calculated manner. People can be manipulated; they
can even applaud crimes. When the Nazis annexed Austria, the German people
applauded; when they occupied Warsaw, the vast majority of Germans
applauded. Some Americans applauded at the start of the invasion of Vietnam;
later we saw the consequences. I believe future generations of U.S. citizens
will be ashamed of the way their people were manipulated.

PLAYBOY: You compare the "shameful" Grenada invasion to actions by Nazi
Germany; some would say that the actions of Soviet troops in Afghanistan are
a more appropriate comparison. How can the bloodshed caused by the Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan be anything but a shame and an embarrassment to
socialist countries?
CASTRO: Afghanistan is one of the most backward countries in the world,
where a feudal regime had existed until April 1978. It had an illiteracy
rate of 90 percent and an infant mortality rate of 235 for every 1000 live
births-one of the highest in the world. Two thousand families owned 70
percent of the land, and the population consisted of around 1500 tribes. I
believe that Afghanistan was one of the places in the world where a
revolution was becoming more and more indispensable. As soon as that
revolution took place-as it inevitably had to-the CIA began its subversive
activities, exactly like the ones being carried out in Nicaragua. The United
States has invested one billion dollars in helping the counterrevolutionary
gangs since the beginning of that Revolution.
The Afghan Revolution led to a series of tensions in the region. Cuba was
involved in trying to find solutions, including hosting the sixth summit
meeting of the non-aligned countries in Havana, in 1979. There I met
President Taraki of Afghanistan. I had also met the man who was to overthrow
him and cause him to be murdered-Amin. He was a man who came to resemble
Pol Pot, the genocidal leader of Cambodia. You can't imagine what a pleasant
man he was! You know, I've had the rare privilege of meeting some figures
whom you would find courteous, well educated, who have studied in Europe or
the United States, and later on you find out that they've done horrible
things. It's as if at some moment, people go mad. It seems that there are
people whose brain neurons aren't adapted to the complexities of
revolutionary political problems, so they do crazy things that are really
In any case, everyone had a hand in that situation until the events that
took place in Afghanistan in later 1979. The Soviets were helping the
Afghans-that is true-because Taraki originally requested their help. Amin
also asked the Soviets for help later, and a lot of Soviets were there,
assisting in a wide range of fields-military, economic, technical, all
kinds-up until Soviet troops were sent into the country on a massive scale.

PLAYBOY: That is, when they invaded. You say that was based on what
CASTRO: Essentially, counterrevolutionary actions fostered from abroad.
Revolutions always entail more than a few complications and headaches. No
revolution has ever avoided that; not the French Revolution of 1789, the
Russian Revolution of 1917, the Chinese Revolution, the Vietnamese
Revolution, the Cuban Revolution or the Nicaraguan Revolution. There are no
exceptions, and all the problems arise from the invariable attempts made
from abroad to overthrow the revolution. This is also what happened with the
revolution in Afghanistan.

PLAYBOY: You blame the invasion on the CIA, then?
CASTRO: The CIA was doing, and continues to do, everything in its power to
create problems for the government of Afghanistan and for the Soviets. It's
pouring enormous numbers of weapons and amounts of money into Afghanistan,
using the emigres, playing on the political backwardness of a part of the
Afghan people, using religion-it's making use of every tool it can to create
difficulties for the Afghan revolutionaries and for the Soviets. I don't
think the CIA is particularly interested in promoting peace in the country.

PLAYBOY: Yet there was a bloody invasion. How can you defend the Soviet
action, and at the same time preach the philosophy of revolution and
CASTRO: I sincerely believe that the Afghan Revolution was just and
necessary, and we could support nothing that would jeopardize it. We
sympathize with and support the Afghan Revolution; I say this frankly. But I
think Afghanistan could be a nonaligned country-but one in which the
revolutionary regime was maintained. If a solution is sought that is based
on the idea that Afghanistan should go back to the old regime and sacrifice
the Revolution, then, unfortunately, I don't think there will be peace there
for a long time. I think it's in the interest of all the neighboring
countries, including the Soviet Union, to find a solution. And I believe
that the observance of the principle of respect for Afghanistan's
sovereignty and for its right to make social changes, build the political
system it deems best and correct and have a nonaligned government-as a Third
World country-should serve as the basis of a solution for the problems

PLAYBOY: You repeatedly describe the United States as the source of many of
the world's problems while either praising or avoiding criticism of the
Soviet Union. Yet many see Soviet foreign policy as warmongering and
expansionist. The invasion of Afghanistan and the crushing of Solidarity
would seem to fit that category.
CAS'TRO: You can't ask the Soviet Union to remain impassive if it actually
feels threatened. I believe that these accusations of warmongering have no
historical foundation whatsoever. Let's go back for a moment. Any scholar
who knows the history of the Soviet Revolution can't ignore the fact that
while Lenin's first decree was a proclamation of peace-immediately, 24 hours
after the victory of the 1917 Revolution-the first step the Western
countries took was to invade Russia. It was Lenin who first stated the
principle that the nations that had made up the czarist empire had a right
to independence.

PLAYBOY: Pardon us, but-
CASTRO: [Waving away the interruption) I would cite the example of Finland,
which was part of that empire and became an independent nation. Yes,
everyone who has studied history knows that Lenin waged a great battle for
the enforcement of that principle. It can't be ignored that as this was
happening, there were armed actions against the Soviet people from all over
the West: from the Germans, who attacked and penetrated the Ukraine to Kiev;
from the French in the south; from the English in the Murmansk region in the
north; from Japan and from the United States in the eastern territory.
Everyone joined in. World War One had already ended, but intervention in the
Soviet Union went on for several more years.
What happened in later years is well known: Even Finland itself was used by
Fascist Germany to attack the Soviet Union. The country was invaded, and I
believe that contemporary history doesn't know of any other example of such
massive destruction and death as was caused by fascism there.
After World War Two, the Soviet Union was surrounded by dozens and dozens of
nuclear bases-in Europe, the Middle East, Turkey, which lies on the Soviet
border, the Indian Ocean, Japan and other Oriental countries-and by military
fleets near its coasts in the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific
Ocean. No one can deny these facts. It was surrounded by nuclear bombers,
nuclear submarines, military bases, spy bases, electronic installations-a
country totally surrounded. How can the Soviet Union be accused of
warmongering and aggressive attitudes in the face of these historical
realities? How can we not explain the Soviet Union's highly sensitive
reactions regarding anything that occurs near its territory? Who is
historically responsible for this lack of trust on the part of the Soviets?
How can international politics be explained so simplistically?

PLAYBOY: Many people believe that the next full-scale war will break out in
South Africa. As an opponent of apartheid, what do you think can be done
CASTRO: [In the most impassioned tone of the entire interview] Apartheid is
the most shameful, traumatizing and inconceivable crime that exists in the
contemporary world. I don't know of anything else as serious-from the moral
and human standpoint-as apartheid. Particularly after the struggle against
Nazi fascism, after the independence of all the former colonies, the
survival of apartheid is a disgrace for humanity. The major industrialized
countries, however-the United States included-have made heavy investments in
and have collaborated economically, technologically and through the supply
of weapons with the apartheid regime. In fact, South Africa is an ally of
the West's, and it is the West that has actually made it possible for that
system to endure. The United States has systematically opposed all sanctions
against the South African regime.

PLAYBOY: What international measures would you propose to force South Africa
to abandon its policy of apartheid?
CASTRO: As long as South Africa continues to receive technological
assistance, economic assistance and assistance in the form of weapons, it
will remain unaltered and will continue in its blackmailing position. South
Africa, like Pinochet, the West's other fascist ally, parades itself before
the West as the great standard-bearer of anticommunism and other social
I wonder: Is there any fascist regime in the past 40 years that has not been
an ally of the United States? In Spain, the France regime; in Portugal, the
Salazar regime; in South Korea, the fascist military; in Central America,
Somoza, the military dictatorships in Guatemala and El Salvador; and
Stroessner, the military dictatorships in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, as
well as the Duvalier regime, I don't know of any reactionary, fascist state
that has not been a close ally of the United States.
Yes, the West is responsible for the survival of apartheid. How can you
justify the aggressive, subversive measures against Nicaragua, the economic
blockade of Cuba-which has already lasted 26 years-and then talk about
constructive relations with the apartheid regime? If South Africa were
effectively isolated, economic measures were implemented against it and
everyone were to support them, the apartheid system would come to an end.
The measures the United States take against socialist countries are not
taken against apartheid! Nothing about apartheid has produced sufficient
revulsion in leaders of Western countries, just a few embarrassing
situations that they try to explain with hypocritical statements.

PLAYBOY: Would you favor, then, an international war against South Africa?
CASTRO: No. I'm not saying that violent measures should be taken. They're
not needed. What is called for is simply international political, moral,
technological and economic pressures. This will not in the least harm the
vast majority of South Africa's population, who live in the ghettos and who
are being massacred and assassinated every day. Not a month goes by without
a slaughter of greater or lesser magnitude.

PLAYBOY: You are passionate about South Africa, yet Cuba has been widely
condemned for its extensive military involvement in Africa. How do you
justify sending Cuban troops to such countries as Ethiopia and Angola?
CASTRO: We sent troops for the first time outside our country in 1975,
precisely when South Africa invaded Angola, at the moment of its
independence. We are the only country that has actually fought the South
African racists and fascists, the only country in the world-in addition to
Angola, of course, which was under attack. You can be sure that all the
African countries have always admired and been thankful for this action by
Cuba. The troops are still there, to defend Angola against another operation
by the South Africans. It was simply that, an unexpected situation in which
somebody had to fight against the racists, and not part of some larger plan
by the Soviet Union, as the United States has claimed.

PLAYBOY: What about Ethiopia? There was no South African invasion there.
CASTRO: Until very recently, Ethiopia had lived under a feudal regime.
Before the Revolution, there was even slavery in Ethiopia. We appreciate the
importance of the Revolution in Ethiopia, one of the largest African
countries, with the longest tradition of independence, but a very poor
country, one of the poorest in Africa. Right after the Revolution, contacts
were established between the new Ethiopian leaders and ourselves. We
supported their socialist experiment and also sent them doctors, instructors
and weapons.
Then came an invasion to seize some oil-rich land, this one from Somalia, in
the south, while the separatist movement in the north was being fanned with
the aid of such American allies as the Sudan and Saudi Arabia. It was a
difficult moment for Ethiopia. The Revolution could have collapsed; the
Ethiopian people needed our help and we sent it. No one could help them when
they were invaded by Mussolini's troops, but this time they received support
from tiny Cuba.

PLAYBOY: In one case you intervened in what would be called a civil war, and
in both cases you have troops in African countries well after the crisis has
passed. Do you really claim that Cuban troops are still there in a just
CASTRO: Only a few well-equipped units with combat capabilities remain in
Ethiopia, as a symbol of solidarity. They will remain there as long as the
Ethiopian government deems it convenient. That is not the situation in
Angola, a nation with a smaller population and less experience and one faced
with South Africa's military might. There, too, the dirty war was
organized by the South Africans, who did just what the United States is
doing in Nicaragua. I consider what the Cuban troops are doing a truly
honorable cause, among the most honorable in the history of Africa. I think
that nothing can stop the course of history. Nothing shall prevent the tens
of millions of Africans living in ghettos and bantustans in their own
homeland from someday becoming the masters of their own destiny. The
concentration camps of Dachau and Auschwitz also came to an end.

PLAYBOY: You've talked bitterly in the past about the 26-year trade blockade
by the U.S. Because of its effect-and your own domestic problems-haven't you
had to reduce many needed programs and services that your revolution
promised in its early days?
CAStRO: No, not at all. We. already know what we are going to do during the
next 15 years in all fields of economic and social development-in the
industrial, agricultural, housing, educational, cultural, sports and medical
programs. And despite the blockade, there are some areas, such as public
health and education, in which we expect to be ahead of the United States in
the not-too-distant future. That is, we use our resources rationally to
achieve sustained economic development in the interests of the people. We
certainly won't adopt any such measures as cutting aid to the elderly,
reducing old-age pensions, cutting medicines for the sick, reducing
hospital and school appropriations. We don't sacrifice social programs, as
they do in the United States, for the sake of building aircraft carriers, MX
missiles and other engines of war that the world abhors.

PLAYBOY: Do you mean to suggest that Cuba can boast a stronger record of
accomplishment in the social realm than the United States?
CASTRO: What I'm suggesting is this: While the United States has recently
adopted a policy of cutting or freezing its social-assistance programs, in
our country these are top-priority items. Rather than being cut, as has been
suggested in the United States, they are increasing every year, as our
economic performance improves.

PLAYBOY: You're also saying; that, despite the problems you mentioned
earlier, Cuba is not really facing an economic crisis, as other Third World
countries are. 
CASTRO: Precisely. Due to the factors mentioned, we are the only Latin-
American or Caribbean country that hasn't suffered from the present economic
crisis. We haven't been exposed to the crisis, except as it affects the 15
percent of our trade that is carried out with Western countries-which, of
course, charge high prices for their products, pay low prices for ours and
force us to pay high interest rates on our foreign debt.

PLAYBOY: And, of course, your economy is tied to that of the Soviet bloc.
CASTRO: Eighty-five percent of our trade is within the socialist community,
and this is what gives us a solid foundation for the sustained growth of our
economy. That is why we are morally entitled to speak about the economic
crisis and Latin America's debt; we don't have to keep silent. That is
precisely why we are energetically denouncing it. But we can feel secure,
because, fortunately, we depend very little on the Western world, and we
don't depend at all on economic relations with the United States. I wonder
how many other countries can say the same.

PLAYBOY: Some would say you have merely traded a former dependency on the
United States for another dependency-on the Soviet Union.
CASTRO: That question is older than the rain. Actually, we consider
ourselves the most privileged nation of all, because in a world where
everyone depends on the United States, there is one country-Cuba-that does
not. It is a unique privilege.

PLAYBOY: But you have paid a price for that support-some of your
CASTRO: The Soviets have given us their support with no conditions; they do
not say what Cuba can or cannot do. In 26 years, I cannot remember a single
time when the Soviets have attempted to tell us what to do in our foreign or
domestic policy. And criticizing us for our dependency on the Soviets is
like telling us, "Look, we sank the ship-and you used a lifesaver!"
No country in the world can be an economic island. You in the United States
depend on Saudi Arabia, on Kuwait, on the Persian Gulf states for your oil.
We depend on others, too, to a greater or lesser degree.

PLAYBOY: Let's speculate: What would happen if the United States were to
resume trade relations with Cuba?
CASTRO: Frankly, the United States has fewer and fewer things to offer Cuba.
If we were able to export our products to the United States, we would have
to start making plans for new lines of production to be exported to the
United States, because everything we are producing now and everything we are
going to produce in the next five years has already been sold to other
markets. We would have to take them away from the other socialist countries
in order to sell them to the United States, and the socialist countries pay
us much better prices and have much better relations with us than does the
United States. There's a folk saying that goes, "Don't swap a cow for a

PLAYBOY: Talking about economics for a wide audience can be cumbersome, but
one thing everyone has heard about is the staggering debt Latin-American
countries owe to Western countries, particularly the U.S. You have recently
spoken out against attempts to pressure these countries to repay that debt.
Don't you think they have a moral responsibility to pay their creditors?
CASTRO: Some 20 or 25 years ago, Latin America bad practically no debt; now
it amounts to 360 billion dollars. What did that money go for? Part of it
was spent on weapons. In Argentina, for example, tens of billions of dollars
went for military expenditures, and the same was true of Chile and other
countries. Another part of that money was embezzled, was stolen and wound up
in banks in Switzerland and in the United States. Another part was returned
to the United States and Europe as a flight of capital. Whenever there was
talk of devaluation, the more affluent people, out of mistrust, would change
their money for dollars and deposit it in U.S. banks. Another part of that
money was squandered. Another part was used by some countries to pay the
high prices of fuel. And, finally, another part was spent on various
economic programs.

PLAYBOY: But, with respect, you're avoiding the question. Don't these
nations have a moral responsibility to repay the debt?
CASTRO: You say that they have a moral responsibility. When you talk about
nations, you're talking about the people, the workers, the farmers, the
students, the middle class-the doctors, the engineers, the teachers, the
other professionals-and the other social sectors. What did the people get
out of the billions that were spent on weapons, deposited in U.S. banks,
misspent or embezzled? What did the people get out of the overvaluation of
the dollar or out of the interest spread? They got absolutely nothing. And
who has to pay for that debt? The people: the workers, the professionals and
the farmers; everybody has to make do with reduced wages and reduced income
and make huge sacrifices. What is the morality of imposing measures that
result in a blood bath in an effort to make the people pay the debt, as was
the case in the Dominican Republic, where the International Monetary Fund's
measures resulted in dozens of people's being killed and hundreds more shot?
The people have to protest, because they are being forced to pay a debt that
they didn't contract and that brought them practically no benefits.

PLAYBOY: Mr. President, are you saying that Third World countries should
simply cancel their debts?
CASTRO: Even if they wanted to repay them, it would be an economic
impossibility, a political impossibility, a moral impossibility. You would
practically have to kill the people to force them to make the sacrifices
required to pay that debt, Any democratic process that tries to impose those
restrictions and sacrifices by force will be ruined. The debt simply cannot
be paid. "Give me liberty or give me death." The choice for those governing
Latin America now is between the cancellation of the debt and political

PLAYBOY: Do you honestly feel that any of this is realistic-that creditors
should simply swallow the losses from the canceled debt?
CASTRO: I'm not suggesting that the banks lose their money or that the
taxpayers pay more taxes. I am suggesting something very simple: using a
small percent of military expenditures-which wouldn't be more than 12
percent-so the governments of the creditor nations can assume the debts from
their own banks. That way, neither the banks nor the depositors would lose;
to the contrary, the banks would have that money guaranteed. Who could
guarantee this better than the rich and powerful industrial states of which
the Western nations are so proud? They consider themselves capable of
dreaming up and waging "star wars" while giving barely a thought to the
risks involved in a thermonuclear conflict that would in the first minute
destroy a hundred times more than what is due their hanks. In short, if the
idea of universal suicide: doesn't scare them, why should they he afraid of
something as simple as the cancellation of the Third World's debt? It's a
simple accounting operation. It's not going to close a single factory; it's
not going to stop a single ship along its route; it's not going to interfere
with a single sales contract on the market. To the contrary, employment,
trade, industrial and agricultural output and profits would be increased
everywhere. It isn't going to hurt anybody. The only adverse effects would
be on arms and military spending.

PLAYBOY: What effect do you think a change in U.S. military spending would
CASTRO: The avoidance of financial catastrophe for all of us. What will be
the consequences for the future U.S. economy of spending two trillion
dollars in only eight years for military purposes, instead of investing it
in industry, technology and economic development? The only significant
development has been registered by the arms industry, but weapons aren't
goods that the population can consume. Rifles, bullets, bombs, bombers,
battleships and aircraft carriers increase neither the wealth nor the
productive capacity of a country; they can't meet any of man's material or
spiritual needs. You can't even fish with those boats; you can't do anything
with them that's useful for human life, health or the struggle against
cancer and other diseases that kill so many U.S. citizens every year.

PLAYBOY: Again, you focus on the dire economic consequences of military
spending by the U.S., even though the Soviet Union-a socialist state-is
engaged in the very same arms race.
CASTRO: A socialist can better understand-is better prepared to understand,
from a theoretical point of view-the folly of spending on weapons the
resources needed to meet the pressing needs and problems of any human
society. The socialist states know what can be done with those resources
both at home and abroad. A glance shows the poverty and disasters that
plague our planet. The arms race is a crime against mankind. Why not opt for
a sincere effort to seek peace and cooperation among all countries, based on
full respect for the sovereignty and the social system that each people has
chosen for itself? As for the Soviets, they are not to blame for the arms
race. Their response reflects decisions made in Washington-the desire to
protect themselves against possible U.S. aggression. But they are not the
culprits. They are not to blame for the arms race.

PLAYBOY: What will happen, in your opinion, if the industrialized world
refuses to cancel the debt?
CASTRO: If a negotiated solution cannot be found, the Third World will
impose a solution unilateral cancellation. Industrialized nations will not
have any actions open: economic blockades, invasion of Third World
countries, repartitioning of the world's territories and resources, as in
past centuries, are simply impossible today. Any rational person can
understand this. They couldn't invade ten countries, blockade 100 countries.

PLAYBOY: Since it's not likely that the industrialized world will follow the
course you're recommending, what do you see as the final outcome?
CASTRO: If we want to be madmen, if we want to continue the arms race and
keep this unfair economic order, we will continue along the path leading to
large-scale famines, great social conflicts and-what is even worse and
probable-a large nuclear conflict, until all people, both sane and insane,
are wiped off the face of the earth. By the way, it may also be said that
not all madmen are in government, and not all who govern are mad.

PLAYBOY: You have made several literary references during this Interview. To
shift again, as we near the end, to a personal topic, are you still an avid
reader? Do you still find time to read?
CAStRO: Yes, though my tastes have varied with time. Of course, when I was
younger, literary works and novels, for example, interested me more than
they do now. Obviously, a good novel is pleasant reading, really
recreational reading, so I read many novels. I remember perfectly that
during the 22 months I spent in prison, there weren't enough books there for
the 15 or 16 hours a day that I read. I read literary, economic, historical
and political works, but throughout my life I have usually preferred history
books, biographies, books about nature, narratives.
I've read many memoirs, from Churchill's-which is quite unwieldy but
interesting, with a lot of historical data-to DeGaulle's. I've also read
numerous books on the World Wars and the main events that took place then.
I've read most of the books dealing with the actions carried out by both the
Western powers and the Soviets. I've read practically all those books-
memoirs, narratives, particularly about the military actions. I've always
been interested in that kind of literature.
Once in a while, I delve into the roots of the language and reread
Cervantes' Don Quixote, one of the most splendid works ever written. If it
weren't for the long narrative passages it contains, which make it somewhat
boring at times, I would read some excerpt from it every day.
I've also read all of Hemingway's works, some more than once. I'm really
sorry he didn't write more. I've also read most of Garcia Marquez' novels,
stories, historical works and newspaper articles. Since we are friends, I'll
dispense with the praise.
It is amazing, isn't it, to think of the enormous number of quality
publications that are printed every year and the tension between the desire
to read all of them and the real possibility of reading very few?

PLAYBOY: You mentioned Don Quixote. Is there anything about Don Quixote, the
character, with which you specifically identify?
CAStRO: Well, I think that a revolutionary is what Don Quixote resembles the
most, particularly in his desire for justice, in that spirit of the
knight-errant, of righting wrongs everywhere, of fighting against giants. It
has been said that Don Quixote was written to ridicule the romances of
chivalry. I believe it was written very ingeniously. In fact, I think that
it is one of the most marvelous exaltations of man's dreams and idealism
and, above all, it's very interesting. We have the two characters: Sancho,
with his feet on the ground, looking at all the problems and giving advice,
a model of caution who remembers all the details; and the other, who's
always dreaming about a cause to defend. Don Quixote's madness and the
madness of the revolutionaries are similar; the spirit is similar. I like
that character very much. I'm sure Don Quixote wouldn't have hesitated to
face the giant of the North.

PLAYBOY: Have you ever had any self-doubt?
CASTRO: Let me state, in all frankness, that I have never harbored personal
doubts or a lack of confidence. That may be good or it may be bad. But if
you see your actions as objectively correct, then not having doubts is good.
I must admit that pride may have influenced my attitudes from time to time.
But once I came to a conclusion as to what was right, I had great personal
confidence in those ideas. This doesn't mean that I am not self-critical.
Quite the contrary: I constantly question the rightness of my beliefs and
actions. In that sense, I'm quite hard on myself. I've never fallen victim
to the trap of complacency. But I have always persevered.

PLAYBOY: Clearly, you cannot live forever. What plans, if any, do you have
for the succession of power? Is there an heir apparent?
CAStRO: Well, of course I don't have any plans for dying. I'll tell you
this: Since the beginning of the Revolution, since the very first year, and
particularly when we started realizing that the CIA had plans to shorten my
life, we suggested the prior nomination of another comrade, Raul Castro-
today second secretary of the party-who would immediately assume leadership.
In my opinion, the comrade chosen is the most capable, not exactly because
he's my brother but due to his experience and revolutionary merits.

PLAYBOY: If you were to step down tomorrow, what would happen in Cuba?
CASTRO: In this question, I am not yet dead, correct? [Laughs] Let me tell
you one thing. If tomorrow I were to resign all my functions, first, there'd
have to be a truly convincing reason for the population to understand it-it
would have to be logical, natural and justifiable. I couldn't just say, "I'm
going to drop these activities because I'm bored or because I want to lead
a private life." It would be difficult to explain and difficult for the
people to understand. The people have also been instilled with the idea that
one must do everything possible, that one must give top priority to all
revolutionary obligations.
I haven't the slightest doubt that although I can still be useful and make
further contributions to the Revolution-there are still some things that
need a little time to mature-I believe that the opinion and the recognition
of the people with respect to the role I've played and my efforts in the
Revolution would be truly high if I were to quit tomorrow. This in no way
means that everything has been perfect, free of errors or anything of the
sort. But I'm quite sure that there'd be a high opinion of my services. I
haven't the slightest doubt.

PLAYBOY: Let's end on a note of imagination. Here is something truly
wonderful from your point of view: Suppose the U.S. canceled Latin America's
foreign debt, as you propose, and offered substantial aid to boot-in other
words, offered to treat the hemisphere with the fairness you think it
deserves. What would you do then? Reassess your views?
CASTRO: If the United States were to spontaneously do what you say-if such
an inherently selfish, neocolonialist system were capable of that generosity
-a real miracle would have taken place, and I would have to start meditating
on that phenomenon. I might even have to consult some theologians and revise
some of my opinions in that field. If that were to happen, I might even
enter a monastery.

PLAYBOY: We asked you toward the beginning of this Interview whether or not
you considered yourself a dictator. Do you again deny the charge?
CASTRO: I would say that I am a sui generis type of dictator, one who has
been subjected here to the oppression, torture, demands and impositions of a
journalist and a legislator from the United States and who has shown his
willingness to discuss any topic openly, frankly and seriously.


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