The Miami Herald
Sat, Sep. 11, 2010

Comments were misinterpreted, Fidel Castro says


Former Cuban ruler Fidel Castro said Friday a U.S. journalist misinterpreted his comment that the ``Cuban model'' doesn't work, and that it's capitalism that has failed.

Castro also said Jeffrey Goldberg misunderstood his comment that with hindsight he would not have urged Moscow to launch a nuclear attack on Washington during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The two reported comments raised eyebrows around the world, portraying the 84-year-old Castro, who surrendered power in 2006, as being willing to admit to mistakes.

Castro's ``cuban model'' comment also was taken by some analysts as an endorsement of efforts by his brother and successor, Raúl Castro, to reform a communist-styled economy devastated by low productivity and corruption.

"I expected a correction because what he said could have put protesters on the streets,'' said Jaime Suchlicki, head of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami.

"I quoted him accurately,'' Goldberg, a writer for The Atlantic magazine who interviewed Castro over three days, told the news blog The Upshot on Friday. Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations who accompanied him, told El Nuevo Herald, ``The quote is accurate.''

Reading from a prepared text at an appearance at the University of Havana, Castro did not say he was misquoted and did not criticize Goldberg but said he was ``amused'' by the alleged misinterpretation.

Instead, Castro argued, with some fuzzy phrases and not always convincingly, that Goldberg missed the context of his comments.

Castro said when Goldberg asked him ``if he believed the Cuban model was still something worth exporting'' it was ``evident that the question implicitly contained the theory that Cuba exported its revolution.''

"I answer 'The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore.' I expressed this to him without bitterness or concern. I am now amused seeing how he interpreted this literally,'' he added.

"What's true is that my reply meant exactly the contrary'' of the meaning perceived by Goldberg and Sweig, Castro said. "My idea, as the world knows, is that the capitalist system no longer serves either the United States or the world.''

Capitalism is leading Washington and the world "from crisis to crisis, each more grave, global and frequent,'' he added. "How could such a system serve a socialist country like Cuba?''

Castro also recalled his exchange with Goldberg over his letter to Moscow at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 that it launch a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States.

Goldberg wrote that he asked Castro, ``At a certain point it seemed logical for you to recommend that the Soviets bomb the U.S. Does what you recommended still seem logical now?'

"He answered: 'After I've seen what I've seen, and knowing what I know now, it wasn't worth it all.' ''

Castro's version: "I had explained to him well, and there's written proof, the content of the message: If the United States invaded Cuba, a country that had Russian nuclear weapons, in those circumstances it should not allow itself to take the first blow.''

Castro's Oct. 26, 1962, letter to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev indeed urged that if U.S. troops invaded Cuba, Russia should launch a preemptive nuclear strike against Washington. "However harsh and terrible the solution, there would be no other,'' he wrote.

Castro added on Friday that readers of the Goldberg article were not aware of his reference to a U.S. invasion or the "profound irony'' of his words, "knowing what I know now.''

That was "an obvious reference to the treason committed by a president of Russia who, saturated in alcohol, handed the United States the most important military secrets of that country,'' he noted, apparently referring to Boris Yeltsin.