AMY GOODMAN interview Cuba’s Ricardo Alarcon


Richard Moore

   ³A few weeks ago, on July the 10th, President Bush approved
    the last report of a so-called 'Commission to Assist a Free
    Cuba.' That means a clear plan of intervention in another
    country.... They said that they have additional measures
    that remain classified² 

Original source URL:

The Américas

Interview with Cuba¹s Ricardo Alarcon

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006

Exclusive From Havana: Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon Says 
Castro is ³Very Alive and Very Alert²; Condemns US Plans for Post-Castro Cuba 
and Bush¹s Meeting With Exiles Advocating Cuba¹s Violent Overthrow

In an exclusive interview from Havana, Ricardo Alarcon tells Democracy Now!: ³I 
met with [Castro] personally before the announcement was issued, and yesterday, 
I was in communication with him also. He is perfectly conscious, very good 
speech as always. We talked for over a half an hour on many things going on in 
the world, the impact that the announcement has had.²[includes rush transcript]

On Monday night, 79-year-old Cuban President Fidel Castro temporarily handed 
over power to his brother, Raul. This marks the first time since he became 
president in 1959 that Castro has ceded power. The Cuban President was forced to
undergo surgery to repair an ailment that has caused intestinal bleeding. In a 
speech read by an aide on Cuban television Monday night, Castro said that his 
ill health was caused by overexerting himself during his travels last month. 
Raul Castro, who is 75, is Cuba²s defense minister and first vice president. 
Under Cuba²s constitution, he is first in line to take over from the president 
in case of incapacitating illness or death. Three weeks before Monday¹s 
announcement, a U.S. presidential commission called for an $80 million program 
to support opponents of Castro. The funding has been billed as ³democracy 
promotion.² Critics say it will work to undermine Cuba²s government the same way
that US democracy funding has destabilized regimes in other countries such as 
Haiti and Venezuela. We are joined by Ricardo Alarcon ‹ the President of the 
Cuban National Assembly.

€  Ricardo Alarcon. President of the Cuban National Assembly who has often been 
refered to as Castro¹s heir apparent


AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Havana, Cuba, where we¹re joined on the line by the 
President of the Cuban National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon. We welcome you to 
Democracy Now!

RICARDO ALARCON: Good morning, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It¹s good to have you with us. First, how is President Fidel 
Castro¹s health? When did you last speak to him? And what is he talking about?

RICARDO ALARCON: Well, I was with him, I met with him personally on Monday 
afternoon, before the announcement was issued. And yesterday, on Tuesday, I was 
in conversation with him also. I must say that he¹s perfectly conscious. He¹s in
very good spirits, as always. We talked for over half an hour on many things: 
what¹s going on in the world and [inaudible] yesterday about the impact that the
announcement has had.

Of course, he is forced to have a period of rest. He underwent a complicated 
surgery. And he¹s in, I would say, a normal period of recovery after an 
important surgery ‹ that¹s essentially what I would say ‹ but very alive and 
very alert, as always, very interested in what¹s going on around him and around 
the world.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the surgery he underwent, and what is wrong with Fidel 

RICARDO ALARCON: Well, what is wrong with Fidel Castro is that he really works a
lot. He has been working his entire life. He¹s not a head of state that is 
available only for a few photo opportunities and some ceremonies, and so he 
really takes his responsibilities and his duties as a mission. That¹s why he, 
apart from being substituted provisionally according to the constitution as the 
head of state, as the head of the power and so on, he also had to designate 
certain comrades for specific programs, on healthcare area, on education, on 
energy and so on, programs that he was conducting personally. He is a very rare 
head of state. He¹s a head of state that works and works very, very much.

And, of course, if you travel, you go to the eastern Cuba and make two speeches 
in the same day and have many meetings and so on ‹ notwithstanding his very 
healthy reality ‹ things happen, and at some point he suffered a sort of crisis 
that probably was most created by the stress and the excessive effort that his 
body was making. And that¹s it.

But notwithstanding all of that, I will say that he is doing fairly well. It is 
a serious matter, of course. I do not want to diminish the complexity of the 
situation, because always surgery, intestinal surgery, as any doctor can tell 
you, it¹s a serious matter. And the recovery process is also some period of 
care, and he needs a lot of attention and care. And that is why he cannot be at 
the same time holding certain responsibilities, because, I repeat, for him that 
is not a photo op. It¹s a matter of hours and hours dedicated to healthcare 
programs, to education, to energy-saving programs, and so on and so forth.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Ricardo Alarcon, as you say, President Castro is legendary for 
the long hours that he keeps. The two opportunities over the years that I¹ve had
to interview him, both of the interviews didn¹t start until about 1:00 in the 
morning and went on for several hours. But here in the United States the 
commercial press and in Washington, they¹re trying to make much over the fact 
that he has not been seen or that he had not made the announcement himself. Your
reaction to some of the speculation here that he is even much sicker than the 
government is letting out?

RICARDO ALARCON: I think that the letter or the announcement that he wrote 
himself with his hands, the decisions that are in that document reflect a person
that is very much aware of what is going on and capable of taking decisions 
immediately after having been obliged to undergo a complicated surgery recovery.
Of course, he¹s not a young fellow. He is 79 years old.

But listen, I have seen some, not only the speculation, but some very shameful 
manifestations of people, like some people appear to enjoy a human being¹s 
physical sufferings or risks, and that reminds me when beginning almost a few 
weeks ago was the anniversary of the commencement of the Spanish Civil War. 
There was a general, notorious Franco general who became famous for an infamous 
phrase. Remember what he said: ³Long live death!² You see some groups in Miami, 
some federal congress people, some spokesmen from the U.S. government like 
enjoying the idea of this man being ill or even a longing of his death and even 
invented it. And they have spent years speculating, afflicting to him diseases, 

The facts are reflected, announced publicly by him, himself. And he said the 
truth. And unfortunately for those people, I can tell you, I will repeat, I met 
with him personally. We spent half an hour, not just talking about the document,
talking about Lebanon, talking about the U.S., talking about the situation in 
the world. And he was very alert, as always. We even exchanged some jokes. And 
yesterday, again, we communicated. And those are the facts, of course. I 
communicated. I saw him. But he is resting, physically resting. He has to do 

AMY GOODMAN: Ricardo Alarcon, we¹re going to break for 60 seconds with music, 
and then we¹re going to come back to you. We¹d like to play for you the response
of the White House, the White House spokesperson, Tony Snow, what he had to say.
We would also like to ask you about what President Fidel Castro had to say about
Lebanon and the United States, as he recoveries from his surgery. We¹re speaking
with Ricardo Alarcon, President of the Cuban National Assembly. We¹ll be back 
with him in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We¹re talking with the President of the Cuban National Assembly. 
We¹re talking to Ricardo Alarcon. He is in Havana right now, has already met 
with the Cuban President Fidel Castro after surgery and has spoken him 
yesterday, as well. I wanted to get your response, Ricardo Alarcon, to White 
House spokesperson, Tony Snow, who yesterday dismissed Raul Castro¹s leadership 
and said the U.S. government will not be reaching out to him.

€  TONY SNOW: The one thing that this president has talked about from the very 
beginning is his hope for the Cuban people finally to enjoy the fruits of 
freedom and democracy, and for the dictator Fidel Castro to hand off power to 
his brother, who has been prison keeper, is not a change in that status. So Raul
Castro¹s attempt impose himself on the Cuban people is just much the same as 
what his brother did. So, no, there are no plans to reach out. The one thing we 
want to do is to continue to assure the people of Cuba that we stand ready to 

AMY GOODMAN: That¹s Tony Snow, White House spokesperson. Your response, Ricardo 

RICARDO ALARCON: Well, let me tell you that this appearance ‹ all change of 
personalities in the Cuban government, which is a matter exclusively that 
belongs to us ‹ we are an independent country ‹ has become a very serious 
security issue for us. Remember that the U.S. government in the year 2004 
adopted, approved a program that President Bush said that was going to be 
seriously implemented to not to permit, precisely ‹ in fact, in Cuba, is the 
moment would appear.

A few weeks ago, on July the 10th, President Bush approved the last report of a 
so-called ³Commission to Assist a Free Cuba.² That means a clear plan of 
intervention in another country, and this program, this last report, begins with
a chapter with the title, ³Hastening the End of the Castro Regime.² It¹s not 
something waiting for to ³help,² quote/unquote, the Cuban people in the future. 
It¹s a plan to hasten the end of our government and begins with a phrase that 
should concern Americans a lot, saying that that report is just the unclassified
part of something else. They said that they have additional measures that remain
classified, in other words, secret.

What means that? Are they going to announce or are they announcing new military 
adventures abroad? Are Americans really prepared to, after having gone to war in
Iraq out of lies and distortion by all those same folks, people like Mr. Snow, 
are they prepared now to go to another war just because Mr. Snow and Mr. Bush do
not like the kind of government that we have down here in Cuba? I don¹t like the
U.S. government, to be very frank, but that doesn¹t give me any right to have 
plans, secret or otherwise, to change the way the American system operates. I 
think that¹s a very dangerous approach.

That¹s why we said that, in our communiqué ‹ Fidel repeated that yesterday, by 
the way, the second letter that was made public here in Cuba, that this issue, 
this matter that should be very, in a way, legally speaking, technically 
speaking, a rather simple matter, the substitution of the president by the vice 
president and so on and so forth, according to the constitution and the laws of 
a particular country. And it¹s an impeding approach that I think is a little bit

The U.S. at this moment is not prepared really seriously to entertain more wars 
and more wars and so on and so forth. That¹s why they have issued on July the 
10th this last report, but the most important part of it remains secret. For our
part, of course, we will do our best to defeat all of those plans, those 
announced and those that remain secret. We have a long experience in fighting 
and resisting U.S. attempts to undermine our independence and to defeat our 

JUAN GONZALEZ: Ricardo Alarcon, you mentioned that in your discussions with 
President Castro after his surgery that you discussed to some extent the 
situation in Lebanon. Could you share with us some of his thoughts about that 
and also how the Cuban government is viewing the situation, the escalating 
battles going on in the Middle East right now?

RICARDO ALARCON: Well, we are really very, very concerned about this situation. 
We have condemned the violation of Lebanese sovereignty and the attacks on 
Lebanon, the attacks on Gaza, and we are concerned that the situation, as it 
appears, is leading towards an enlargement, an extension of the war. The last 
news that I saw, the Israeli troops may be approaching the Syrian border. It¹s 
something that should provoke some international action to stop that. We believe
strongly that the very first issue ‹ we agree on that with the Lebanese 
government ‹ is to stop the fighting immediately. Many people are dying on both 
sides, mostly civilians, and that¹s really sort of a senseless policy of 
violence and aggression that must be ended right away.

AMY GOODMAN: Does Cuba, does the President, does Fidel Castro have a 
relationship with either the Iranian leadership or the Syrian leadership? And 
before his illness, was he communicating with them, if he does?

RICARDO ALARCON: Well, we have ‹ it¹s not a secret ‹ we have very friendly 
relations with both Syria and Iran, also with the Lebanese Republic. As a matter
of fact, part of our population comes from that background, Lebanese Christians,
Lebanese that immigrated to this part of the world. That¹s why it¹s an issue 
that touches us very directly, I would say, and we understand that they are also
concerned and they are, as many people around the world. Remember that if we 
don¹t have yet a ceasefire, it¹s only because of the U.S. and Israeli position. 
Even Europe, practically everybody, has been demanding for that, but you have 
again the UN Security Council paralyzed due to the successful efforts of Mr. 
Bolton and the U.S. delegation.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I¹d like to ask you, in terms of the current situation in Latin 
America, obviously a lot has changed over the years, as U.S. administrations 
have continued to support the embargo or to lead their sole embargo against Cuba
in Latin America, and do you think that in the current climate of the more 
popular governments that have come to power in many countries in Latin America 
that the United States would dare to try to intervene directly in Cuba?

RICARDO ALARCON: I think that at this moment in the current administration that 
you¹re enjoying in Washington, there are people that are thinking if they could,
they would even intervene militarily. That¹s why they went that far in the 2004 
program adopted by Mr. Bush and in the last report. The problem is that I do not
see how could anybody rationally in the U.S. consider the possibility of 
promoting or provoking another war. I don¹t think that that idea would be very 
popular among Americans at this particular moment. They are not really enjoying 
a very easy situation in Iraq, as they thought was the case when they had begun 
that intervention. That¹s why the previous report was more openly aggressive. 
Now, they have to reserve those areas to these secret plans.

But let me tell you that in this last report they recognized how Cuba has 
advanced and, at the same time, it reflects a desperate effort to reinforce that
embargo, notwithstanding the reality that nobody else is supporting it. For 
example, now, according to what Mr. Bush decided on July the 10th, no 
humanitarian items could come from U.S. churches to the Cuban National Council 
of Churches. That includes the Jewish community. They had been receiving, 
traditionally, support for their rights and their activities, the Evangelicals, 
the Protestants, the Anglican Church and the Jewish community, from their U.S. 
counterparts. Now they cannot anymore.

They are threatening to criminalize violations of the travel ban to Cuba. They 
are, in this last report, trying or threatening to undermine what they refer to 
as large-scale healthcare programs for foreigners in Cuba and elsewhere. What 
means that? That they have to recognize that at this moment millions, millions 
of people, Gonzalez, had received free healthcare here in Cuba or in Venezuela, 
or are receiving it in Bolivia, in Ecuador, in Indonesia, in Pakistan, in 
Guatemala, all over the world, that there are 30,000 Cuban doctors abroad 
helping people to recover vision, to fight illness and so on. They recognize 
that, and they say that they will not permit exports of equipment that may help 
those programs. All of that is in that report. That, unfortunately, has not been
noticed in some U.S. media that keeps talking about a so-called ³aid program² 
for Cuba after the Castro regime doesn¹t exist anymore, and blah, blah, blah, 

In other words, you have a very peculiar administration in your country, people 
that do not accept reality and imagine that they can ignore reality and change 
it. The reality is that Fidel Castro was down there in Cordoba, in Argentina. 
Why? Because we were invited. Because Cuba has joined, has established an 
association with Mercosur. But he was together with a number, a large number of 
heads of governments in South America, of the whole Mercosur group and Michelle 
Bachelet, the President of Chile, who was attending. And they condemned, of 
course, the embargo, again, and not just in words, but in actions that are 
reflected in the strengthening of our economic and other links with them.

By the way, since Monday we have received messages from practically every 
government in Latin America, expressing their concern and their solidarity with 
President Castro in his current situation, including one very beautiful message 
by President Lula that Cubans know, because it was published here yesterday ‹ I 
don¹t know if you know about it in New York. But I think that one has to be 
absolutely out of his mind to believe that that policy functions, that that 
policy works. The world and the reality around the U.S. is showing that it is 
not the case. But even in America, even in the U.S., you have people that would 
like very much to expand trade with Cuba, to have more normal relations, or to ‹
just to travel, just to travel to exercise that right that now may be even 
leading some people to court to be accused, indicted of that serious crime. By 
the way, I hope you are aware, Juan, that they arrested a number of Puerto 
Ricans when they arrived in Mayaguez a few days ago. The crime? Having come to 
Cuba. Now, it¹s a more serious crime, according to Mr. Bush.

JUAN GONZALEZ: No, I was not aware of those latest arrests, and thank you for 
informing me about them.

RICARDO ALARCON: They had traveled to Cuba via the Dominican Republic, and 
apparently they went by boat from eastern Dominican to Mayaguez in the west part
of Puerto Rico, and upon arrival there, they were ‹ it¹s not exact ‹ they don¹t 
say that they are detained in a formal way, but they were detained. Upon 
arrival, they are being interviewed and so on, because ‹ and they were notified 
that they did violate American law, and now, since July the 10th, they may be 
indicted and incarcerated, which is something that is crazy. It¹s easier to move
out of Mayaguez because of all the [inaudible] fishing and so on, they hope.

AMY GOODMAN: Ricardo Alarcon, we only have 30 seconds, and we¹re going to be 
going to Beirut in a moment, but I wanted to ask about your comments, quoted in 
Prensa Latina, calling the President, President Bush, a terrorist for what¹s 
happening in Lebanon right now. It was part of your condemnation of what you 
call the Israeli massacre in Qana.

RICARDO ALARCON: Not only because that time ‹ I visited Qana, in fact ‹ very 
movable to see that again the same story was repeated. But President Bush is a 
terrorist. His policy is terrorism. He was meeting last Monday in Miami with 
some very well known terrorists, this Monday, 48 hours ago. He keeps five young 
Cubans in detention, incarcerated. Next week, on August the 9th, will be one 
year after the Court of Appeals revoked the convictions of those people, but 
they remain in prison. And at the same time, you can watch on Miami TV or read 
in the Miami press how terrorist activities continue to be prepared, announced 
openly, very openly.

AMY GOODMAN: Who did President Bush meet with in Miami?
RICARDO ALARCON: Who is by ‹ sorry?

AMY GOODMAN: You said that President Bush met with terrorists in Miami when he 
was just there this week.

RICARDO ALARCON: Ninoska Perez Castellon, Armando Perez Roura. They had 
breakfast on Monday, and he was on the air interviewing some of the most radical
pro-terrorist programs in Miami.

AMY GOODMAN: And why do you call them terrorists?

RICARDO ALARCON: Because they are terrorists. Because these people belong to 
groups that openly, openly proclaim, proclaim that they have ‹ have you heard 
about Mr. Llama? He was on Miami TV claiming that he had spent $1.4 million to 
buy weapons, including small light planes that can be tele-directed for 
terrorist purposes. He said that in Miami the same day that in Miami half a 
dozen Black people were arrested on the accusation that they were going to blow 
up the Sears Tower. This very same day a guy, of course, white, a white 
billionaire, appeared on TV saying that, and then you have your president going 
down there to have a meeting. It was a funding operation that he had, a 
fundraising operation on Sunday and Monday, and I know, because that was 
published, that he had breakfast with some of them. Ninoska Perez Castellon, the
former leader of the Cuban American National Foundation, leader now of the 
so-called Cuban Liberty Council that advocates openly military actions against 
Cuba. Armando Perez Roura ‹

AMY GOODMAN: Ricardo Alarcon ‹
RICARDO ALARCON: ‹who was a daily [inaudible] ‹
AMY GOODMAN: We¹re going to have to leave it there.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you very much for being with us.

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