Editors’ Note: Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada is Cuba’s Vice President and President of its National Assembly. He was interviewed in Havana on May 23, 2007 by SAUL LANDAU.
SAUL LANDAU: Cuba recently received billions in investment from China and Venezuela. In addition, nickel prices have risen sharply and foreign firms are drilling for oil off Cuba’s coast. What will the Cuban government do with this revenue?
Ricardo Alarcon: Although we have been producing more and reducing our dependency, we still must import oil and food. And prices of food are rising with this craziness of using grains for bio-fuel. Historically, Cuba has always required lots of buying and selling with other countries. We sell sugar and other things, of course, but still have to pay for services and machinery-and for other imports. Remember, we pay a higher price than anyone else, thanks to the US embargo.
SL: The question on the minds of most Americans–after Fidel?
RA: After Fidel, after me, after you, life will continue, the revolution will continue. Fidel is one of the few survivors of the generation which fought in the Sierra Maestra. Others have died, retired. Fidel has been healthy, strong, and was young at the beginning. Throughout those years we have developed generations of people with 20-30 years experience in government; another generation of younger people have also accumulated some experience. In other words, I have no doubt the revolutionary process in Cuba will continue. To those who ask the question, I suggest they look at what’s been going on throughout the entire region. The revolution has been reproduced successfully around the area.
SL-Four of Fidel’s ideological sons are now presidents in Latin America?
RA: Some actually refer to Fidel as their father, not biological of course. Each revolutionary process, Venezuela [Chavez], Bolivia [Morales], Ecuador [Correa]and Nicaragua [Ortega]–and you’ll see more — are different. Of course, they have certain things in common. But each has its own style, its own response to different realities. The most important fact is that long before Fidel will pass away, they and we can feel very proud of seeing that we succeeded. It could not have succeeded before. Cuba being small and isolated could have been smashed. But now the revolutionary process cannot be stopped. The US desire to crush Cuba all these years failed and with the new revolutions it is impossible to crush revolution.
SL Counterrevolution? A federal judge has just released a man accused of terrorism in Venezuela and Cuba. Luis Posada Carriles is accused of sabotaging a Cuban airliner over Barbados in October 1976 [killing all 73 passengers and crew members]. Ironically, five Cubans sent to the US to spy on terrorists were arrested and imprisoned (1998) Posada walks Miami’s streets along with other known terrorists. What is Cuba’s response?
RA- First, what happened to Posada illustrates our reason for sending the five to monitor terrorist activities that were and are being planned against us. We have to try to learn what those terrorists are planning against Cuba. The most important obligation of any government is to protect its people. We have that right and obligation. Cuba has been the object of terrorism, mostly coming from Miami, for decades. And the terrorists have acted with impunity. Many Americans don’t realize that. The Posada story repeats the Orlando Bosch story. Bosch is also at large and wanted for the bombing of the Cuban plane — with Posada.
Unfortunately, the U.S., having learned about terrorist plans, has not acted to stop them, has not fulfilled its legal obligation. So, Cuba’s only option was to try to discover the attack plans before they occurred and then notify the FBI in the hopes that they will act; they haven’t. What kind of regime do you have? A crusade against terrorists? Or one that protects terrorists? Apply Bush’s famous Doctrine. “He who protects the terrorist is as guilty as the terrorist” He’s been saying this for years. Well, he’s protecting them, as he has for years.
I don’t criticize the federal judge who freed Posada; quite the contrary. Posada was the object of a fake legal process, was not indicted for any serious crime, just for minor alleged immigration violations. The government knew he was on trial in Venezuela for destroying a plane in another country. Posada has even published his autobiography. He gave press interviews to the NY Times and even talked about his terrorist accomplishments.
SL- He doesn’t suffer from modesty?
RA- More like megalomania. On the airplane sabotage, the Bush Administration has been unmasked. There are international agreements that require the US to either extradite Posada to Venezuela, where he escaped from prison, or try him in the United States. Washington has done neither. On punishing criminal acts Article 7 of the Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Civil Aviation says a country housing somebody wanted in another country for violent attempts against a civilian plane has two options: extradite him or, without any exceptions whatsoever, immediately prosecute him. The US neither warned us nor stopped the act. Two years have elapsed and still Bush has not identified Posada as a terrorist. He cannot be pardoned. It is one thing is to attack someone on earth; another in mid-air. The latter damns everyone.
The US Embassy in Caracas transmitted information immediately after the October 6 event, detailing the report of Trinidadian police who captured the 2 individuals who placed the bombs on the plane. Both confessed that Posada and Bosch had hired them. The US Embassy alerted Washington that “we are going to be asked for cooperation and we need instructions.” There is another report, fascinating, about taking Bosch out of Venezuela, because he isn’t a Venezuelan citizen–Posada is–and they didn’t get it done. Something happened. Finally, the Venezuelans had to detain the two because the news had spread all over the Caribbean. I was UN Ambassador at the time and I recall President Carlos Andres Perez, — the closest US friend in the region — not Hugo Chavez — spoke at the UN. I was there. He made a candid, dramatic appeal to the US. He said: “Please help us. Give us information about this case because many in Caribbean nations are accusing the CIA and the US government of being involved in the plane sabotage.” It was a big scandal in our area. That’s why the Posada affair continues to provoke such reaction around the Caribbean. You have daily editorials, articles, commentaries on every island. People are astonished by the way this case has evolved. There are plenty of documents on this case.
Why? Because as Posada himself told the judge, he has been working “with them” for more than 25 years. His connection with the CIA and FBI is so longstanding and so intense that there have to be many documents around over a long period of time.
SL: Isn’t there a Spanish saying, “when you educate the crows they return to peck your eyes out.” Is this case an example?
RA: If not, very close to it.
SL: To change the subject: you’ve been watching the war in Iraq. Four years and two months ago Bush announced “Mission Accomplished” and a few months ago he said “we’re making a little progress” in securing Baghdad. How do you see the Iraq War from Havana?
RA- It’s a tragedy for the American people, for the US as a nation and for the entire world. You have an unjustifiable war that has provoked huge suffering for Iraqis. No one knows how many have died! The excuse for war has been so manipulated. The result also can’t be ignored by Bush. Terrorism is more of a danger now than at the time of the invasion of Iraq. By invading Iraq, the US has promoted more anger, more resentment, more hate.
Remember what Fidel Castro said after 9/11, when he expressed our solidarity with the American people. He warned that war would make the situation worse. What’s the solution? No one knows. And the US has become so entangled and no one knows for how long. It has done so in an explosive area in a way that has brought violence and hatred to the area. This is beyond a mistake. It’s a human tragedy.
SL: We have global warming, the spread of disease and poverty. I see optimism expressed on the billboards [patria es humanidad] in Cuba How do you maintain optimism? How would you turn around this looming disaster?
RA: Humanity has reached a point at which we don’t have many options. We must change. Remember the agreements at the Earth Summit in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, attended by President Bush Senior. Humanity must change its patterns of production and consumption, the only way to face what’s going on in the environment. If we don’t, it’ll be the end of our troubles. No one will care about crises in the Middle East. Left and right, Neo cons and communist alike will have no hope, no future unless we change our ways. I’m optimistic. History has shown that humans are the only species who have created spirit, thinking and to imagine that animal destroying life is unthinkable. I think people are becoming more aware. This means we must find another mode, based not on greed and selfishness but solidarity and cooperation. The other choice — the end of the world.
SAUL LANDAU’s new book, BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD, with a foreword by Gore Vidal, is now available from Counterpunch Press. His new film, WE DON’T PLAY GOLF HERE, is available on DVD from email@example.com