Fidel Castro (Part 2)
"The world of the future has to be
shared by everyone"
• Fidel answers questions from
the editor, Carmen Lira Saade
(Taken from the Mexican La Jornada newspaper)
HAVANA.— Although there is nothing
to indicate any unease on his part, I think that
Fidel is not going to like what I’m going to say to
"Comandante, the whole charm of the
Cuban Revolution, the recognition, the solidarity
from a large part of the world’s intelligentsia, the
people’s tremendous achievements in the face of the
blockade; in short, everything, everything went down
the tubes as a result of the persecution of
homosexuals in Cuba."
Fidel did not shy away from the
subject. He neither denied nor rejected the
statement. He only asked for time to recall, he said,
how and when that prejudice broke out among the
Five decades ago, and as a result of
homophobia, homosexuals were marginalized in Cuba
and many of them were sent to military-agricultural
work camps, accused of being "counterrevolutionaries."
"Yes," he recalled, "those were
times of tremendous injustice, tremendous injustice!"
he repeated emphatically, "whoever was responsible
for it. If we did it ourselves, ourselves…I’m trying
to delimit my responsibility in all of that because,
of course, on a personal level, I do not have that
kind of prejudice."
It is known that some of his best
and oldest friends are homosexuals.
"But then, how did that hatred of
the "different" come about? "
Fidel believes that it was all
generated as a spontaneous reaction within the
revolutionary ranks, which stemmed from old customs.
In pre-revolutionary Cuba, there was not only
discrimination against blacks, but also against
women and, of course, homosexuals.
"Yes, yes. But not in the Cuba of
the ‘new’ morality, of which revolutionaries both
within and outside the country were so
"And so, who was responsible, either
directly or indirectly, for not putting a stop to
what was happening in Cuban society? The Party?
Because this occurred during a time when the
statutes of the Communist Party of Cuba did not
explicitly state the prohibition of discrimination
based on sexual orientation."
"No," said Fidel. "If anyone was
responsible, then it was me.
"It is true that, at that time, I
did not concern myself with that issue…I was mainly
immersed in the October (Missile) Crisis, in the
war, in political matters…"
"But that became a serious and grave
political problem, Comandante."
"I understand, I understand…We
didn’t know how to assess it…systematic acts of
sabotage, armed attacks, were happening all the
time; we had so many terrible problems, problems of
life or death, you know, that we didn’t pay
sufficient attention to it."
"After all of that, it became very
difficult to defend the Revolution outside the
country…Its image had been irretrievably damaged
among certain sectors, particularly in Europe."
"I understand, I understand," he
repeated. "That was fair…"
"The persecution of homosexuals
could have been taking place with greater or lesser
protest in any part of the world. But not in
revolutionary Cuba," I said to him.
"I understand: it’s like when the
saint sins, right? It’s not the same as the sinner
Fidel gave a hint of a smile but
then became serious again:
"Look, think about how our days were
during those first months of the Revolution: the war
with the yankis, the missile situation and,
almost simultaneously, the assassination attempts
against my person…"
Fidel revealed the tremendous
influence on him of the assassination threats and
the actual attempts of which he was victim, and
which changed his life:
"I couldn’t be anywhere; I didn’t
even have anywhere to live..." Betrayal was the
order of the day and he was forced to move around in
a haphazard way…
"Eluding the CIA, which was buying
so many traitors, including one’s own people, was no
simple matter; but, in short, in any case, if
someone has to assume responsibility, then I will. I
am not going to place the blame on other people..."
affirmed the revolutionary leader.
He only regrets not having corrected
the situation at the time.
Nowadays, however, the problem is
being confronted. Under the slogan "Homosexuality is
not a danger; but homophobia is," many cities
throughout the country recently celebrated the 3rd
Cuban Event for the International Day against
Homophobia. Gerardo Arreola, La Jornada
correspondent in Cuba, wrote a detailed report on
the debate and the struggle underway on the island
for respect for the rights of sexual minorities.
Arreola comments that it is Mariela
Castro – a 47-year-old sociologist and daughter of
Cuban President Raúl Castro – who directs the
National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX), an
institution that, she says, has succeeded in
improving Cuba’s image following the marginalization
of the 1960s.
"Here we stand, Cuban women and men,
in order to continue fighting for inclusion, so that
this is the fight of all women and men, for the good
of all women and men," stated Mariela Castro at the
inauguration event, surrounded by transsexuals
holding the Cuban flag and another rainbow one
representing the gay pride movement.
Today in Cuba, efforts for
homosexuals include initiatives such as the identity
change for transsexuals and civil unions between
Homosexuality on the island was
decriminalized in the 1990s, although it did not
immediately result in the end of police harassment.
And since 2008, sex change operations have been
offered free of charge.
In 1962, the United States decreed
the blockade of Cuba. That was "a ferocious attempt
at genocide," as Gabriel García Márquez, the writer
who has best chronicled the period, described it.
"A period that has lasted up until
today," Fidel informed me.
"The blockade is more than ever in
force today, and with the aggravating factor at the
present time, that it is constitutional law in the
United States for the very fact that the president
voted for it, the Senate did and the House of
The number of votes and its
implementation could – or not – considerably
alleviate the situation. But there it is…
"Yes, there is the interfering and
pro-annexationist Helms-Burton Act…and the
Torricelli Act, duly passed by the Congress of the
"I very well remember Senator Helms
on that day in 1996 when his initiative was passed.
He was elated and repeated the aim of his plan to
"Castro has to leave Cuba. I don’t
care how Castro leaves the country: whether he
leaves in a vertical or horizontal position is up to
them…but Castro has to leave Cuba."
THE SIEGE BEGINS
"In 1962, when the United States
decreed the blockade, Cuba soon found itself with
the proof that it had nothing more than six million
determined Cuban people on a luminous and undefended
Nobody, no country, could trade with
Cuba; there couldn’t be any buying or selling;
heaven help that country or company which did not
submit to the commercial harassment decreed by the
United States. What always struck me was that CIA
boat patrolling territorial waters until just a few
years ago, there to intercept boats carrying
merchandise to the island.
The greatest problem, however, was
always been that of medicines and food, which
continues up until today. Even today, no food
company is allowed to trade with Cuba, not even
taking into account the importance of the volumes
that the island would acquire or because Cuba is
always obliged to pay cash in advance.
Condemned to death by starvation,
the Cubans had to "invent life all over again from
the beginning," as García Márquez said.
They developed a "technology of
need" and an "economy of scarcity", he related: a
whole "culture of solitude."
There is no sign of regret, far less
of bitterness, when Fidel Castro admits that a large
part of the world simply abandoned the island. On
"The struggle, the battle that we
had to fight led us to make greater efforts that
perhaps we would have done without the blockade,"
He recalled with a touch of pride,
for example, the immense mass operation undertaken
by five million young people, grouped together in
the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution
(CDRs). In just one eight-hour day, they achieved a
mass vaccination program throughout the country,
eradicating illnesses such as polio and malaria.
Or when more than 250,000 literacy
teachers – 100,000 of whom were children – took on
the responsibility of teaching the majority of the
adult population, who were unable to read and write.
But the "great leap" forward is,
without any doubt, in medicine and biotechnology:
"They say that Fidel himself sent a
team of scientists and doctors for training in
Finland, who would subsequently be responsible for
the production of medicines."
"The enemy used the bacteriological
warfare against us. It brought the Dengue Virus 2
here. In pre-revolutionary Cuba, not even the Dengue
Virus 1 was known here. The Virus 2 appeared here;
it is much more dangerous because it produces a
hemorrhagic dengue that attacks children above all.
"It came in via Boyeros. The
counterrevolutionaries brought it, those same
individuals who went around with Posada Carriles,
the same ones who were pardoned by Bush, the same
ones who planned the sabotage of the [Cubana]
aircraft over Barbados…Those same people were given
the task of introducing the virus," Fidel denounced.
"They blamed Cuba because they said
that there were lots of mosquitoes on the island," I
"And how were we not going to have
them if the only way to get rid of them was with
Abate (Temefos, an insecticide) and we couldn’t get
Abate? Only the United States produced it," he
The Comandante’s face saddened:
"Our children began to die," he
recalled. "We didn’t have anything with which to
attack the disease. Nobody wanted to sell us
medicines or the equipment to eradicate the virus.
One hundred and fifty people died from that disease.
Almost all of them were children…"
"We had to resort to buying
contraband goods, even though they were very
expensive. Everywhere they prohibited them from even
being brought in.
Once, on compassionate
grounds, they were allowed a little to be brought
On "compassionate grounds," said the
strong man of the Revolution. I confessed that I was
Not exactly on compassionate
grounds, rather in solidarity, some friends of Cuba
resorted to doing precisely that. Fidel mentioned
Mexico, the Echeverría family, Luis and María Esther
who – although not in government at that time – were
able to secure some equipment that allowed Cuba to
alleviate the epidemic to a certain degree.
"We will never forget them," he
said, visibly moved.
"You see," I told him, "Not all your
relationships with figures from Mexico’s power elite
have been negative or difficult…"
"Of course not," he said, before we
drew the interview-conversation to a close and went
to have lunch with his wife, Dalia Soto del Valle.
From that terraced area where he
sits to reflect and analyze the world and life
itself, Fidel raised a toast to "a world of the
future with just one homeland."
"What does it mean that some of us
are Spanish, others English, others African? And
that some have more than others?
"The world of the future has to be a
shared one, and the rights of human beings have to
be above individual rights…And it is going to be a
rich world, where rights are going to be exactly
equal for everybody…"
"How is that going to be to achieved,
"By educating… educating and
creating love and trust."