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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Washington Post Interview: Colin Powell on Cuba

Posted October 13, 2003 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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Excerpts from an Oct. 3, 2003, interview with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, conducted at the State Department by Washington Post diplomatic correspondents Glenn Kessler and Peter Slevin.

The Post: In a number of parts of the world, you face this issue of how much to engage, what to give up, what to get back, how to negotiate. If we could talk about Cuba as the last question. You’re familiar very well with Central Europe and the Soviet Union and the arguments that openness to those societies ultimately created hopes, which led to expectations, which led to new governments. Interestingly enough, Gorbachev is going to be giving a speech in Miami tomorrow where, presumably, he will talk about some of these themes..

The Post: In a number of parts of the world, you face this issue of how much to engage, what to give up, what to get back, how to negotiate. If we could talk about Cuba as the last question. You’re familiar very well with Central Europe and the Soviet Union and the arguments that openness to those societies ultimately created hopes, which led to expectations, which led to new governments. Interestingly enough, Gorbachev is going to be giving a speech in Miami tomorrow where, presumably, he will talk about some of these themes..

Powell: An old friend. . . . How do you say “perestroika” in Spanish. . . ? Quick! What’s the other word?

The Post: Glasnost.

Powell: Okay. I usually can trap people.

The Post: And so he will . . . be talking about openness. You’re well aware of what’s going on on the Hill where there is great debate about whether there should be more openness. And a lot of people think the travel ban should be lifted, that the embargo after 40 years maybe doesn’t deserve that much more time to see if it’s going to work. What do you believe is the right way to approach it?

Powell: I think the approach we’re taking is the correct one. This isn’t the Soviet Union in 1987 and ‘88.

The Post: Because?

Powell: Because there is still absolutely no realization of the problems that Cuba is facing with respect to its political system and its economic system, and the need to start changing the political and economic systems, and to start realizing that there is a better way.

Castro of 1959 is the same Castro in 2003. And Gorbachev was not Stalin, Khrushchev, Andropov or any of the others. He realized that change had to come and he was willing to lead that change. Castro is quite the contrary. He has used openings not to benefit his people, and he has used openings to enhance his power. “Pay me in dollars, and I’ll pay the people in pesos.”

And we just don’t find that to be the kind of system that should be rewarded with the sorts of openness and encouragement that we provided to other states of similar political and economic views, you know, and then they started to realize change was appropriate and necessary.

The Post: And you just don’t feel it’s a tool that would work either, whether or not it’s a reward for Castro?

Powell: No. You know, we’ve seen some countries try it. I mean, and some of our friends in the hemisphere said we were wrong, and “Let’s make major investments in Cuba, and let’s help them.”

Well, guess what: They not only pulled back from those investments, they didn’t help anybody, they helped the regime. And we think there is a body of evidence that suggests this is not the way to deal with Castro.

And even the European Union and other nations have been kind of shocked that this fellow they were trying to bring out in the open would, essentially, lock up people who dare to say anything against him for 15, 20, 25 years, or would shoot people who tried to get in a ferry boat and escape his little island of paradise.

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