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
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 sought to illustrate the latter point by displaying a $30 Japanese watch
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
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
corresponding risks," he said. "After they are in the country, it's hard to get
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:
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.
Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.