The Washington Post
 Octubre 10, 2002

CASTRO BLAMES KHRUSHCHEV FOR CRISIS

                                   By Anita Snow
                                   Havana
                                   Associated Press Writer
                                   The Washington Post
                                   Colaboración:
                                   Mary García
                                   New York
                                   La Nueva Cuba
 
 
 

                                   President Fidel Castro said on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Cuban missile
                                   crisis that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev aggravated the standoff by misleading
                                   President Kennedy indicating that there were no nuclear weapons on the
                                   communist island.

                                   Castro's comments, which came in an interview with ABC's "20/20" program,
                                   coincided with a conference here bringing together Cubans and Americans who
                                   played roles during the real life Cold War drama. ABC, which will broadcast the
                                   interview Friday, made the transcript public Wednesday.

                                   "He believed what Khrushchev told him," Castro said during the interview,
                                   conducted this week in Havana. "Therefore, Kennedy was misled. That was a very
                                   big mistake on the part of Khrushchev ... one that we opposed vehemently."

                                   The transcript, while not elaborating on Khrushchev's position, reflected the
                                   mistrust that grew between the leaders.

                                   Documents from that period show that Khrushchev continued to insist to American
                                   officials in mid-October 1962 that all Soviet activity in Cuba was defensive even
                                   after U.S. officials had spy plane photographs showing that on the island there
                                   were Soviet surface-to-surface missiles with a range of approximately 600 to 1,500
                                   miles.

                                   The discovery of the Soviet nuclear warheads just 90 miles south of the Florida
                                   coast brought the world to the edge of nuclear conflict.

                                   As President Bush musters support to oust Saddam Hussein, former members of
                                   the Kennedy administration are heading to the Cuba conference to revisit that
                                   earlier standoff.

                                   Former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and former special aide Arthur
                                   Schlesinger Jr. are among those expected at the conference, aimed at showing a
                                   lesser known view of the crisis: Cuba's. Castro is also expected.

                                   In his ABC interview with Barbara Walters, Castro said his country did not agree to
                                   accept the missiles out of fear, and "we would have rather not had them in order to
                                   preserve the prestige" of Cuba.

                                   He also said officials on the communist-run island did not like being considered
                                   "the Soviet base in the Caribbean."

                                   Still, Castro indicated respect for Khrushchev and his support of the Cuban
                                   revolution.

                                   "Even though Nikita was a bold man, he was a courageous man ... and I can make
                                   criticisms of him ... of the mistakes he made. I have reflected a lot on that," Castro
                                   said. But misleading Kennedy, the Cuban president said, "was his main ... flaw."

                                   The crisis, marking the Cold War's tensest moments, was defused when
                                   Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba.

                                   Cuban Vice President Jose Ramon Fernandez, an organizer of the conference, was
                                   an army commander when Castro put 400,000 soldiers in position to repel a
                                   possible invasion of the island.

                                   As Kennedy's words clicked onto the paper rolling off the teletype machine at
                                   military headquarters Oct. 22, 1962, Fernandez knew the Americans meant
                                   business.

                                   "I had the impression that war was probable," recalled the 79-year-old Fernandez,
                                   now a vice president in Castro's government. "I was also preparing myself to die, all
                                   the while hoping that I would stay alive."

                                   Kennedy's message to the United States and the world was direct.

                                   "Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a
                                   series of offensive missiles is now in preparation on that imprisoned island,"
                                   Kennedy said in his speech to the nation. "The purpose of these bases can be
                                   none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western
                                   Hemisphere."

                                   Earlier that day, about 2,500 relatives of U.S. forces stationed at Guantanamo Bay
                                   were given 15 minutes to pack a bag each before evacuated to Norfolk, Va.

                                   "I was ordered to destroy papers and help move ourselves elsewhere because
                                   obviously the ministry (of defense) would be a target," Fernandez told The
                                   Associated Press this week.

                                   Most Americans invited to the conference, including McNamara, Schlesinger,
                                   former Kennedy speechwriters Richard Goodwin and Ted Sorensen and ex-CIA
                                   analyst Dino Brugioni, will arrive Thursday.

                                   Also attending are several Kennedy family members, including Ethel Kennedy,
                                   widow of Robert F. Kennedy, the president's brother who was attorney general and
                                   a key player in the crisis.

                                   Along with the gathering, Cuba will release some formerly classified documents
                                   about the days known here as the Crisis of October.

                                   The nonprofit National Security Archive at George Washington University will also
                                   release newly declassified American documents about the crisis.

                                   During a similar conference last year, Cuban organizers worked with the National
                                   Security Archive to release a wealth of U.S. and Cuban documents about the
                                   unsuccessful CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion.

                                   The missile crisis conference will feature seminars on Friday and Saturday.
                                   Participants will visit crisis-related sites, including a former missile silo in the
                                   western province of Pinar del Rio.

                                   Fernandez said he hoped new lessons would emerge for politicians and military
                                   leaders, "to never again take the world to the brink of nuclear catastrophe."