Latin American Herald Tribune
September 12, 2010

Cuba's Fidel Castro Backpedals, Says He Was “Misinterpreted”

In his first public comment after the release this week of excerpts from his interview with The Atlantic magazine’s Jeffrey Goldberg, 84-year-old former Cuban President Fidel Castro said he was misinterpreted when talked about Cuba's economic model

HAVANA – Fidel Castro said Friday that when he told a U.S. journalist the Cuban economic model no longer works he really meant to signal the failures of capitalism.

“How could such a system (capitalism) work for a country like Cuba?” he asked rhetorically during an event at the University of Havana to present his latest book.

It was the 84-year-old former president’s first public comment on the stir caused by the release this week of excerpts from his interview with The Atlantic magazine’s Jeffrey Goldberg.

“The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore,” Fidel Castro said when Goldberg asked if he considered it worthwhile to try exporting Cuba’s economic system.

Castro said Friday that while he uttered the phrase “without bitterness or concern,” he was “amused to see how (Goldberg) interpreted it literally ... and elaborated the theory he outlined.”

Goldberg wrote that he turned to Julia Sweig, a Latin American specialist with the Council on Foreign Relations who accompanied the journalist to Havana, for analysis of Castro’s words.

“He wasn’t rejecting the ideas of the Revolution,” the scholar told Goldberg. “I took it to be an acknowledgment that under ‘the Cuban model’ the state has much too big a role in the economic life of the country.”

Sweig also suggested that by expressing such views, Fidel could provide political cover for successor Raul Castro “to enact the necessary reforms in the face of what will surely be push-back from orthodox communists within the Party and the bureaucracy,” Goldberg wrote.

Fidel turned over the reins to his younger brother after falling seriously ill in July 2006, but it was only after he formally became president in early 2008 that Raul Castro began making significant policy and personnel changes.

Last month, President Castro announced a loosening of restrictions on small business and the self-employed as well as forthcoming reductions in payroll at state enterprises as part of a “structural and conceptual change” in the Cuban economy.

“The truth is that my response signified the opposite of what both U.S. journalists interpreted about the Cuban model,” Fidel said Friday.

“My idea, as everyone knows, is that the capitalist system no longer works for the United States or for the world, since it leads to crises that are ever more global and frequent,” he said.

Fidel, whose recent public pronouncements have been dominated by warnings that a U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran could spark a nuclear war, invited Goldberg to Havana to discuss the writer’s recent article on Israel and Iran.

In the first installment about his exchanges with Castro, Goldberg said the Cuban leader criticized anti-Semitic remarks by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iran’s government should understand that the Jews “were expelled from their land, persecuted and mistreated all over the world,” Castro said.

At the same time, Castro said he understood Iran’s fear of an attack by Israel and the United States and predicted that neither threats nor sanctions would persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear program, which Washington and Tel Aviv claim is geared toward producing weapons.

On Friday, he sought to balance those comments with observations about the sufferings of Muslims and criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. EFE