Cuba in President talks of Iran, nonalignment and his troops in Africa
Before Afghanistan there were Angola and Ethiopia. The use of Cuban forces to shore up revolutionary regimes in those countries was seen in the West as Soviet intervention in the Third World through surrogates. The Soviets' invasion of Afghanistan with their own troops abruptly changed the situation and challenged Fidel Castro's claim to leadership of the Third World. In the United Nations, nonaligned states attacked the Soviet imperialist thrust, while Cuba's representative lamely endorsed the Soviet action without specifically mentioning Afghanistan. The invasion killed Cuba's chances of winning a much desired seat on the Security Council.
At home, meanwhile, 21 years after Castro's revolution, Cuba's Soviet-supported economy is still in perennial trouble, with resources being diverted (for strictly idealistic reasons, says Castro) to foreign ventures. Castro has just personally taken over six Cabinet posts to gain tighter control over economic affairs. In two recent meetings in Havana with Time Inc. Editor in Chief Henry Grunwald and Chief of Correspondents Richard Duncan, Castro talked of the interplay between Cuba, the U.S., Russia and the Third World. He still insisted on Russia's peaceful intention.* Excerpts from the 4½ hours of conversation:
Q. Would you comment on the situation in Iran?
A. I'm absolutely convinced that the lives of the American citizens in the embassy are not at risk. I think also that the problem is coming to its solution. It seems to me correct for the U.S. not to have let itself be drawn by the temptation to use force because a grave conflict could have been created. If a conflict takes place in that area, the price of oil will increase by $50 or $60 a bbl. And that would be really disastrous for all countries.
Q. What is the future of the Iranian revolution?
A. The revolution has enormous popular force. It was able to defeat the Shah, who had one of the most powerful and best-equipped armies in that area, practically without weapons The people fought with tremendous courage, losing thousands and thousands of lives. I think the revolution is going to cling to its strong religious and nationalistic accent.
Q. Then you are not disturbed by the anti-Marxist views expressed by Ayatullah Khomeini and his followers?
A. I am not much disturbed. If [the revolution] can improve the future of the people, it doesn't matter whether it is based on a Marxist philosophy or a religious philosophy. I know that the Marxists in Iran are supporting Khomeini.
Q. Do you think the Marxists will inherit the revolution?
A. It doesn't seem likely. And I don't think it is in their minds. But look, we think that there is no contradiction between religion and revolution. I have said that Marxists and Christians can be strategic allies.
Q. You are widely considered a surrogate for the Soviet Union. How can you call yourself nonaligned?