October 29, 1998
Cuba's Fidel Castro has no retirement plan

                  HAVANA (Reuters) -- Cuban President Fidel Castro, who has ruled the
                  island for nearly four decades since his 1959 revolution, said he is not
                  "married" to power, but has no immediate plans for retirement.

                  "Do you believe that one has the right to retire in the middle of a battle like
                  the one this country is fighting?" Castro, 72, asked a questioner during a
                  marathon interview broadcast into the early hours of Wednesday morning.

                  Castro, one of the world's longest-serving rulers and the head of the only
                  Communist state in his hemisphere, habitually uses terms of war to describe
                  Cuba's struggle for economic and political survival and resistance to a
                  36-year-old U.S. embargo.

                  "I have just one reason to be here at my age -- the sense of responsibility. ...
                  The beneficiary (from retirement) would be me. But while I still have physical
                  and mental energy to be useful, and they ask it of me, I will be there," he

                  "When I have the slightest notion that I am causing a nuisance, or no longer
                  being useful, or hindering the cause instead of helping it, they won't even
                  have to ask me, because I would be the first to propose it (retirement)."

                  Castro, who is called a dictator by his critics but claims his one-party
                  political system is more truly representative than Western models, said he
                  was not "married to power" and was confident others would continue his
                  work after him.

                  "I detest individualism, egotism. ... I have no special devotion to money," he

                  He sought to illustrate the latter point by displaying a $30 Japanese watch on
                  his wrist, saying he had no significant property beyond his clothes. He
                  recounted how at the start of Cuba's current economic crisis, or Special
                  Period, he gave away 17,500 gifts that had been given him over the years.

                  As if to prove he is still fit for power, Castro has this year given numerous
                  lengthy interviews and speeches. On several occasions, he has spoken on his
                  feet for about five hours without a pause for a sip of water.

                  Castro's latest comments came in a more than six-hour exchange with a
                  group of U.S. newspaper editors at his Revolution Palace in Havana over
                  the weekend. State television is broadcasting the interview in three parts this

                  The editors, all members of the American Society of Newspaper Editors
                  (ASNE), pressed Castro to consider allowing more U.S. media into Cuba
                  permanently, starting with the Associated Press news agency.

                  "We prefer to go bit by bit," replied Castro, saying the chances would be
                  better if U.S.-Cuban relations improve. "You do not create a climate of trust
                  in a day. There have been many years of hostility."

                  The Cuban leader, dressed in his trademark olive-green military fatigues,
                  took a swipe at the international media for lacking objectivity and
                  independence when reporting on Cuba. He cited as examples recent reports
                  of prostitution on the island, and, back in 1961, the New York Times'
                  delaying of publication of news about the CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs

                  "I ask myself whether we should fill this country with reporters and all their
                  corresponding risks," he said. "After they are in the country, it's hard to get
                  them out."

                  Cable News Network (CNN) is currently the only U.S. media organization
                  allowed to have a permanent office in Havana.

                  In the comments broadcast on Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning,
                  Castro also broke a virtual taboo in Cuba's sporting world by publicly
                  mentioning the island's two most famous baseball defectors: brothers Livian
                  and Orlando Hernandez.

                  Referring to the latter's nickname "El Duque," Castro mentioned the success
                  both have had in the United States since fleeing Cuba illegally by boat. He
                  added that "we didn't think for a second" in giving permission to Orlando
                  Hernandez' family in Cuba to travel to the United States for the celebrations
                  of his New York Yankees' team's recent World Series triumph.

                  Referring to all Cuba's baseball defectors, Castro told the U.S. editors: "We
                  didn't send them. You robbed them."

                  The defectors' success abroad showed both the deplorable lure of money
                  and the level of talent in Cuba, Castro added, saying he hoped the island
                  would one day be able to send a baseball team to compete in the U.S.
                  major leagues.

                  Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.