(Cafe Fuerte is a Spanish-language blog with a major focus on Cuba. It's based in Miami and its editors are NOT friendly toward the island. They provided a transcript of Mariela Castro's half-hour interview with RUSSIA TODAY, which CubaNews has translated to English. In this interview she not only speaks about the LGBT issues which have been the focus of her work, but personal and family matters as well as her long-term vision for Cuban socialism. There has been no other interview of this length and detail with Mariela Castro to the best of my knowledge. The interview was just under thirty minutes long, so this will take sometime to read all the way through. Read it, enjoy it, share widely.
(Spanish-speakers will also be able to see the entire half-hour long video which was posted at the RT website.)
Mariela Castro: "I believe in a democratic socialism, without dogmas or prejudice"
Updated Friday, 3 June 2011 10:56 Published Friday, 3 June 2011 08:30
By REDACCION CAFEFUERTE
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Psychologist Mariela Castro, daughter of President Raúl Castro, said Barack Obama's administration was coarse and vengeful as they refused to exchange the five Cuban prisoners in the US for the American contractor Alan P. Grass, sentenced to 15 years of prison on the Island
Mariela Castro during her interview with Russian media Actualidad RT
"We see it as a vendetta by the mafiosi US power system," declared the sexologist in an interview broadcast on Thursday by Russian TV. "They are so coarse that they do not even want to exchange our prisoners for the American prisoner who is here and was sentenced in a legal trial."
The 30-minute interview was granted to Actualidad TV, from the independent organization TV-Novosti. During the conversation, the Director of the Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual (CENESEX) [ National Center for Sex Education], answered different questions about her father, her uncle Fidel Castro and the fascination she felt for guerilla Ernesto Ché Guevara, whom she described as "tender".
She also said Raúl Castro had confessed to her he would like to have as much freedom as she had. She discussed the change which has taken place in the mentality of both brothers on subjects such as male chauvinism and homosexuality. She said neither Raul nor Fidel have lost the romanticism of the first stage of the Revolution.
She also talked about an American invasion to Cuba which according to her seemed imminent in 1994.
CaféFuerte is publishing the full transcript of this interview to coincide with recent declarations by Raúl Castro who, nearing his 80th birthday, said he is ready to retire after completing his first term as head of the Cuban government.
INTERVIEW WITH MARIELA CASTRO
ON ACTUALIDAD RT SHOW "A SOLAS"
ON JUNE 2, 2011
Elena Rostova: Thank you so much for having agreed to share with us some of your personal experiences. You are the daughter of Raúl Castro and the niece of Fidel Castro. In your everyday life, does this have an impact, is it a limitation?
Mariela Castro: It does have an impact. From a certain angle it is uncomfortable, but from another it is nice, because I have received a lot of spiritual gratification; beautiful messages of acknowledgement and sincere thanks from people not only from Cuba but from other places in the world. In fact, it has given me a lot of spiritual gratification.
ER: You were born soon after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. How do you remember the atmosphere surrounding your childhood?
MC: I remember a very happy childhood. My parents let me do a lot of exploring. I remember I was always climbing a tree, a column, or whatever
there was no restriction on me as a girl to do things boys did. Of course there was always somebody who would tell me, "Hey, get off that tree; that is boy's stuff." But I feel there was freedom, that they accepted my questioning with sympathy and affection; there was always the possibility of dialogue, of finding time and space for family dialogue, even for questioning from them to us and from us to them -- of society itself, of history
I remember when I started university and began studying Marxist philosophy [which] gave me many more tools for questioning our reality. I remember I used to read the magazine Literatura Soviética, which was sold here then and was very good, and there was one issue I will never forget; I think I'll keep it forever; it was devoted to Mayakovsky, and gave me a pretty good idea of the times when Mayakovsky lived: a contradictory period between Lenin's times and after Lenin's death when Stalin took over and the way of experiencing socialism changed and of how he [Mayakovsky] suffered. In this magazine I read Lenin's speeches where he questions "meetingism" and a number of trends he thought did not help the experimental process of socialism, because they distorted its essence. I remember this was illuminating, this gave me clues to question Cuban reality; and after I read it thoroughly I passed it along to my dad. I told him, "Look, this has to be changed here too, because it was happening to Lenin there and is happening to us now."
We were able to talk about and question our own Cuban reality. And we also questioned the Socialist Camp. And looking back, I realize I had that possibility, that freedom to speak openly about many things at home. And having that possibility really gave me a lot of strength and made me very happy.
Raul Castro wants as much freedom as Mariela
ER: In previous occasions you have said your parents have tried to protect you from politics, which of course is not a simple world. But, how much was this possible? Isn't there a responsibility that comes with the name?
MC: No, I don't like to undertake public responsibility shielded by my name, only a responsibility as a citizen and the responsibility dictated by affection to my family; I don't want to do things that would hurt my parents, my family, of course, like any other person with a sense of belonging to a family. But no
Sometimes when I was much younger they would select me for, let's say, as a delegate for a conference of a student organization, and then I would wonder, well, why me? In the end it was reality that told me that yes, I had to take part, and undertake responsibilities but not far beyond those I undertook in a simpler environment
And every time someone proposed me for a task, my mother [Vilma Espín] said no, let her be, let her be quiet where she is. And my dad too; I see he has done everything possible and when someone proposes me for whatever responsibility he asks to please let me stay in my job, doing the things I do. I take this as his trying to protect me. I'm very passionate and they, mostly my dad who is very passionate, and [knowing] the political world is very complex and contradictory, maybe he prefers I don't have to experience such contradictions. Parents always tend to protect. Maybe I should thank them, because I characterize my political participation as that of an ordinary citizen. I think this gives me more freedom. My dad even told me once; he said he liked my freedom very much; he would like to be as free as I am. And well, maybe that is the message I should get.
ER: Once, in an interview with Ricardo Alarcón he mentioned a strong campaign to discredit Cuba. You, being a member of the Castro family, have ever felt a victim of this campaign?
MC: Yes. I think all Cubans have been victims
I mean all Cubans involved with the revolutionary process have been victims of it. I must be thankful, however, that most of the journalists I have been in touch with have been very honest with me and then
well, of course, when news get to editorials or press media things can change. But yes, I have felt honesty in most of the journalists I have been in touch with.
More a than an uncle
ER: Great characters in history sometimes have to sacrifice family for their duty to the people, to their mission. In your case, how much can we say Raúl the politician, did not leave room for Raúl the dad?
MC: No, I couldn't say that, because both my father and my mother made a great effort to devote time to their family; against all odds. Sometimes they would combine work meetings with family presence; if they had to offer a work lunch or dinner, they asked to be with their children. They missed us a lot and valued greatly the time we spent together. I thank them for that as well. Sometimes I said I wished I had an ordinary father and mother; that were at school everyday just as other parents; who would take us
My mother had more time than my father to attend PTA meetings, to be more involved with our everyday lives, but she too had a lot of work. And still, they found the time.
ER: When we talk about Fidel Castro, the whole world thinks of this hero, this legendary character who dared challenge the American empire. To you, is he mostly uncle Fidel or is he the legendary figure?
MC: No, When I was a child he was uncle Fidel, but as during my teenage and early youth years, I began to realize more clearly who Fidel was, in a historical sense, and what he meant for the Cuban people, I started seeing him as Fidel, just like everybody else.
ER: And was there a certain distancing?
MC: Yes, there was a certain distancing of respect, and besides it was dignifying to see Fidel as the leader and not as the uncle. I felt it was more dignifying. It's like growing up and realizing: this person is not your uncle, this person has a social responsibility that puts you in a different standing in front of him.
ER: What could you tell us about him as a human being, as an everyday person?
MC: In everyday life
I liked him very much since I was a child; you see
when Fidel visited the family, suddenly if they said Fidel is coming, hey, Fidel is here, this was always an event, a great sensation, and quite pleasant. I mean, it was good to spend time listening to him. We always wanted to listen to him, and ask him many questions; when you see Fidel you always want to ask him questions, because Fidel has answers for everything, ingenious answers, intelligent answers. And I was always very pleased to have the opportunity to share those moments when he would talk about things in history, things they had lived or the analysis of the reality we were living.
But most of all, more in private, it was real fun when he, my dad and Ramon, the oldest brother, got together and started telling about their childhood and their lives, about the guerrilla war, and it was nice to listen to things they had never said to each other and they were saying just then, "And so you reprimanded me and I did not like it, because It had not been my fault." And this was very funny; they laughed a lot remembering things, even of difficult times.
Angola, between whispers and secrets
Cuban soldiers in Cuito Cuanavale
ER: About the things you were told, do you have any particular memory of the Revolution that you especially cherish?
MC: Many. There were many events, many things were happening and I was very attentive because a lot of things were spoken furtively and in whispers and I was always trying to understand what was going on. Sometimes I tried to ask; other times I didn't, to avoid being excluded. I wanted to grasp their points of view on what was going on in Cuba and the world
Something that struck me deeply was Angola, the war in Angola, Cuito Cuanavale which was the turning point in the war in Angola that led to the final victory. It was a very special military event, as far as military tactics are concerned, for people who study those topics.
I remember the time when the Cubans in the south of Angola were surrounded by South African forces and in the middle of the siege, at night, they built an airfield so that the reinforcements could fly in and strengthen the Angolan and Cuban positions. I remember those were very tense moments, with a lot of anguish, a lot of silence. I was young and couldn't understand what was happening; I thought it had something to do with me. I used to come in and say "why don't you talk? What is wrong with you people? What is your problem?" And I left feeling very offended; I simply didn't know what was going on. Until one day I come home to find a party, everybody happily celebrating. Fidel was there with a big group of companeros from the Army and then I learned what had happened. Mind you, I didn't know things were so serious and all the while I thought I had done something wrong. All kinds of different things happened which couldn't be talked about then. They met and discussed secretly while I was dying to know what it was all about
In time I understood that it is better not to know what you are not supposed to and not to ask when you are not supposed to.
ER: Since you lived through those hard times from the inside, were there any apprehensions, any atmosphere of doubt, any moments of fear?
MC: I would say there were. From the very outset of the situation that led us to the special period after the fall of the socialist camp all Cubans suffered intensely. That looming feeling of uncertainty which then took us all by surprise when as Fidel said- the sun was turned off in a second when the Soviet Union fell. It was a very tough moment and everything that came after that was even tougher, suffering because of what was being lost, all the social achievements that were being lost. All families lived through that with great sorrow.
The war in Angola and our dead in Angola also caused great sorrow; [and then] Elian, when Elian Gonzalez was kidnapped. I also remember when fishermen were being kidnapped my father was deeply hurt, very anguished as well as every time a terrorist act was committed. The crime in Barbados caused great suffering in my family and in every Cuban family; we still mourn the crime in Barbados regarding which no justice has yet been done.
The few successes we were able to slowly achieve brought great happiness and rejoicing. And yes, I remember 1994 when there was one of many attempts of manipulating international opinion through the US media to intervene in Cuba during that rafter's crisis. I went to Santiago de Cuba with my dad, who was controlling the situation at the Guantanamo Naval Base, assessing what could come out of that, and I knew there was a real possibility of a US invasion. I was very anguished, but Fidel handled it with diplomatic genius.
I would say that Fidel always made excellent chess moves. We were all expecting to see what would be Fidel's move and in the end he always came up with spectacular moves that saved our country's sovereignty.
Another very sad event that is causing great sorrow to my family and to the immense majority of the Cuban families is the situation of our five heroes illegally and arbitrarily jailed in the United States for protecting the Cuban people from the terrorist acts organized in the United States with US government financing. We have been living through this with a lot of impotence, with a lot of rage and I must use the term rage because in the face of arbitrary actions, of injustice, a human being has to feel awful. Their rights are violated in every way in this process and we see it at least I see it- as a vendetta of the mafiosi US power system using them as the joker card: the card they have at hand to try to manipulate Cuba's political responses vis-a-vis the United States.
But up to now they've been unable to make us bend our knees, they haven't made us forget our most essential principles and really I don't know what their next move is going to be. Because they're really so coarse that they are not even willing to trade our prisoners for the North American prisoner here [Alan Gross] who was legally tried and sentenced with every respect for the rights of a prisoner. So we are living through this with great indignation and we will not stop fighting, for justice to be done.
I liked Ché
ER: Together with your family, you have had the possibility of meeting great figures of the 20th Century. Among others, Ché Guevara used to visit your home. How did your girl's eyes see him? What memories do you have of Ché
Raul Castro and Ernesto Che Guevara [photo caption]
MC: I liked all the friends of my father's. They all seemed handsome, attractive. Ever since I was a little girl I was very communicative and wanted to be near them to hear them talk. And I have a vivid image of Che. Once they were having a roast [BBQ] and were all around the roast talking, still in their green fatigues and the memory I have of Che is that I liked him very much, and always wanted to get close to him, carefully so that my father wouldn't scold me for bothering people who were there talking. And when I got close to Che I was radiant and happy, because I remember he was very tender; a very tender man who knew how to treat children. And for children this is important , people who know how to treat you. And I have a very special memory, fascinated of how he was, of who he was and this was nourished with other images later on, of course.
When I told this to my mom she was completely surprised and said "How can you remember if you were only two years old?" But it was just like I said; I described the entire scene, that my father scolded me and then
"Yes it was just like that, how can you possibly remember? Well, special things are not forgotten. Che was an impressive man.
ER: Others you met and impressed you, who would you mention?
MC: Giap. General Giap, a Vietnamese. He was a brilliant man, a fascinating human being
I admired him very much. A Vietnamese general who was Defense Minister, who won the war against Japan, France and defeated the Americans in Vietnam. He was so modest, which is what I liked most about him, his modesty, that unassuming oriental spirit. Beautiful. I felt great admiration for that man. He already passed away. But there are many more whom I can't recall now
Well, there is Garcia Marquez, a great friend of the family, Garcia Marquez, the author. I remember Angela Davis whom I admired very much; my mother was her contact in the women's organization. And all those Vietnamese women
And Valentina Tereshkova, whom I liked very much, she was very nice. She was a friend of the family, not only an historic figure. Many very special people.
Fidel and Raul, tender and romantic
ER: How do you perceive the change in both your father and your uncle over time?
MC: I'll tell you, it's a long way from girl to adult; how I used to see my father when I was a girl, how I perceived Fidel and how they have changed. Regarding Fidel I notice it in his speeches, how his topics have evolved. With regards to my father, in his personal approach to many aspects. He changed even in his way of leading, of focusing on issues, for example on the issue of machismo, how his perception of the homosexual person evolved, although my mother was very influential in the changes he came to accept in his life. But generally speaking, yes, of course, more maturity, more clarity.
ER: Would you say that in some way they have lost that romanticism, that strength they had, that they have grown disillusioned?
MC: No. Of course they have lived through hard times, they have had many disillusionments, but they have also had many gratifying experiences making them ever more confident about the social project. That is, even when they have a practical sense of reality in search of solutions -which require coolheadedness- they have never lost the tenderness, romanticism was never lost. And I like that; you can never lose romanticism.
ER: There have been different rumors about Fidel's health. A few months ago we had Hugo Chavez on our program and he told us that Fidel spends his time studying and teaching. What can you tell us?
MC: Well, personally I haven't seen him because visitors are kept to a minimum. But I do know through my father and by his own writings which I read like every other Cuban that Fidel has an impressive capacity for recovery. And it's not a matter of having it in his genes though he obviously has strong family genes- I think it is all in his head. Fidel has always had the ability to surprise us. No one knows what his response is going to be, no knows what his next move is going to be like, but one the things that fascinates us most about Fidel is his ability to take everyone by surprise.
ER: Which concepts already implemented by the revolution do you revisit as a representative of a different generation?
MC: I feel that the study of Cuban history and Marxist philosophy has been a tool to interpret reality, together with other theoretical and methodological tools, of other sciences other than philosophy, which give you the means to interpret and see the road you must follow to continue transforming reality. That spirit of transforming reality that Marx posed is one of the things I like most in my life. That willingness to transform in search of more justice among human beings fascinates me and it has defined the purpose of my life, personally and professionally, and that is what I am trying to do.
That means that I do believe in the possibilities of socialism. I think socialism had a fascinating beginning with the Leninist experience; then came other experiences that were not as good; some were, some were not, but they taught us. The history of Cuba always gave us other clues which, in the process of transformation, allowed the Cuban people to discuss now what kind of socialism it wants, how does it want to experiment with socialism as a setting of justice, solidarity and fairness.
Socialism without dogmas or prejudice
ER: It's not a matter of rejecting what was affirmed in the past, but rather of moving forward
MC: No, I think that it's a case of critical review based on past experience to take from the past everything that is valuable and it helps to keep on moving forward. Some Cuban professors argue that what we now think we should discard were not really errors. I believe some experiences gave us clues as to what works and what doesn't and how we should do those same things.
ER: To what extent are the new generations ready to take up the legacy of a such a sturdy generation as your father's and your uncle, with that romanticism, that spiritual strength?
MC: I think they are ready, insofar as new mechanisms for popular participation are put in place and the new generations are able to consciously --not formally-- take up responsibilities. That means educating the population about that historical knowledge which is showing us the way to plan the future. To the extent that the young generations take part in that process of learning and questioning
ER: Are they participating
MC: Yes, yes. In Cuban society you realize that a part of every generation participates and another part does not; a part that shows greater awareness, that is more educated and is therefore more capable of participating, and another part that is less aware and more ignorant. There lies the weakness, in the ignorant part. Sometimes what we say is let's create a scenario so they can apprehend the historic knowledge that will allow them to say this is mine, because I have to join this project, because I have to try to change things and what exactly do I want to change
What is important is for people to participate in a conscious way, which is the way to participate freely, without any kind of manipulation neither by us nor by our enemies-- but instead offering knowledge and information that allows them to draw logical conclusions from the logic of history. If we facilitate that, the number of people who will participate and contribute to our future will be ever greater.
ER: Let's say that you are optimistic about the future
MC: I love what I imagine.
ER: How do imagine Cuba?
MC: A democratic socialism, dialectical, participative, where dialectical thought prevails without dogmas or prejudice; that is what gives you strength as a culture, as a nation; what gives you strength as a sovereign nation that is defining its own project. The unity of the Cuban nation in that creative search of a society is what I imagine as the society which I would like to live in here in Cuba.
ER: Thank you very much for sharing your priceless memories with us.
MC: Thank you very much.
Video of the interview: