Tuesday 12 December 2017

We got it wrong in Cuba, says Castro

Paul Haven in Havana

Cuba's communism doesn't work and the verdict comes from the most unlikely source -- Fidel Castro himself.

The revolutionary leader told a visiting American journalist and a US-Cuba policy expert that the island's state-dominated system is in need of change.

The comments are all the more remarkable for a man who has taken pains to steer clear of local issues since illness forced him to step down as president four years ago.

The fact that things are not working efficiently on this cash-strapped Caribbean island is hardly news. Fidel's brother Raul, the country's president, has said the same thing repeatedly. But the blunt assessment by the father of Cuba's 1959 revolution is sure to raise eyebrows.

Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for 'The Atlantic' magazine, asked Castro if Cuba's economic system was still worth exporting to other countries, and Castro replied: "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us any more."

The Cuban government had no immediate comment on Goldberg's account, which was posted on his 'Atlantic' blog.

Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations who accompanied Goldberg on the trip, confirmed the Cuban leader's comment, which he made at a private lunch last week. She said she took the remark to be in line with Raul Castro's call for gradual, but widespread, reform.

In general, she said she found the 84-year-old Castro to be "relaxed, witty, conversational and quite accessible".

Stepped

Castro stepped down temporarily in July 2006. He resigned permanently two years later, but remains head of the Communist Party. After staying almost entirely out of the spotlight for four years, he re-emerged in July and now speaks frequently. He has been warning for weeks of the threat of a nuclear war over Iran.

But the ex-president has said very little about Cuba and its politics, perhaps to limit the perception that he is stepping on his brother's toes.

Goldberg, who travelled to Cuba at Castro's invitation last week to discuss a recent 'Atlantic' article he wrote about Iran's nuclear programme, also reported on Tuesday that Castro questioned his own actions during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, including his recommendation to Soviet leaders that they use nuclear weapons against the United States. Fidel Castro's interview with Goldberg is the only one he has given to an American journalist since he left office.

Irish Independent

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