(Ed. Note: Roberto Alarcón, a long-time protégé of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and currently head of Cuba's parliament, traveled to Chile last week to represent his country at Gladys Marín's funeral (March 9, 2005), when he was interviewed by the conservative magazine Qué Pasa. In the interview Alarcón touches on a number of topics, including Marín's legacy, José Miguel Insulza's candidacy for the Organization of American States and Cuba's feared invasion by Uncle Sam, should Castro die.)
Question: Hundreds of thousands of people turned out for Gladys Marín's funeral. So why is it that neither she nor her party have received much support in recent elections?
Roberto Alarcón de Quesada: You could ask the same question in reverse: why is there no representation in Congress for a person and an organization that can turn out so many people? Some people say it has to do with Chile's election laws that were not devised by a democracy.
Q: But the binomial election laws weren't in effect for the presidential race (in 2000), and Gladys did very poorly.
RAQ: Life and the world each have their own rhythm. A political force can receive limited votes at a given moment, and then rise quite a bit. I don't want to get into speculation about vote counts, but it is evident that the Communist Party has a real presence in Chilean society. Something else is how that is expressed in an election at a given time. And there is the example of someone from the political right who can get a lot of votes at one point in time, and then later, not so many. Regardless of political ideas, the Communist Party is part of Chilean society. During the craziness of the Pinochet era an effort was made to exterminate the party, as though it was a malignant tumor. But it is not that way.
Q: A large part of the Concertación alliance believes that Chile's vote at the United Nations against human rights violations occurring in Cuba was a simple matter of being consistent. If Pinochet's government is to be questioned for these issues, then Cuba, too, should be questioned for its lack of liberties.
RAQ: In the first place, Cuba does not recognize the right of anyone from abroad — left, right or center — to give us lectures about human rights issues. Secondly, it is infantile and simplistic to act like a judge in something like this, because then you'd have to be perfect yourself with respect to human rights issues as defined in international documents. Those who are so quick to judge Cuba are themselves oftentimes on the short end of many human rights concerns. For example: health rights, housing, work, civil and political rights. I would like for those who condemn Cuba to please come visit us between Feb. 15 and March 17, when we hold regular elections. Thousands of elections!! And when you speak of human rights, you are talking about the physical integrity of people. What is to be said about the massacres that occur in Latin American prisons? Their talk is so incoherent! If they think they need to vote against Cuba, then they ought to also vote to investigate the situation at Guantanamo. And then you'd have to begin with a condemnation of the United States ∑ Cuba is an issue in Geneva because the U.S. government has made it one. And those countries that vote with the United States do so because they are pressured by the United States.
Q: Even though Cuba is not a part of the Organization of American States (OAS), it's been said that Cuba would be pleased with a victory by José Miguel Insulza in the race for the OAS presidency.
RAQ: I don't want to prejudge any candidate. But of the three candidates, I have only dealt with Insulza, and I like him. I have no doubt that he has the ability and qualities needed to help the OAS. (Mexican Foreign Affairs Minister Luis Ernesto) Derbez is a person from a country we are very friendly with, Mexico, even though there have been some stumbling blocks. He is an outstanding person. The third candidate (El Salvador's ex-President Francisco Flores), supported by the United States, is something else again. We don't have any relationship with him. But the OAS has also been changing, as seen by the fact that there are three candidates. There was a time when there would only be one candidate - the one proposed by the North Americans - and so there was no doubt about who would be the secretary general of the OAS.
Q: How do you see things in Cuba after Fidel Castro?
RAQ: On May 6, 2004, U.S. President Bush proclaimed that once Castro is no longer there, the United States won't just keep its arms crossed. And Roger Noriega, the undersecretary for Latin American affairs added: "We are going to act quickly and diligently" to prevent a normal succession as outlined in Cuba's legislation. What on earth does all this mean? All the rest is speculation, but these facts are not!
Q: Washington's viewpoint is clear. But how are things seen from Cuba's vantage point?
RAQ: We have to see it the same way from Cuba. It is something we have to deal with, because the announcement has already been made. And what would happen if Mr. Bush choked on a pretzel one day? Does anyone ask that question?
Q: It's just that Cuba's case is different, because of historical reasons.
RAQ: Cuba is a civilized country, with a Constitution, laws and a defined structure, like you find in any other country in the world. Every human being is unique and precious. Who can take Gladys Marín's place? No one! I don't believe in cloning people. The same thing will happen with Fidel Castro: who can take his place? No one! No one can be replaced. But, of course, functions can be assumed by someone else. Fidel Castro can travel outside of the country, and the country doesn't shut down. The country continues functioning, just as it is envisioned in the Constitution and in our laws. The vice president takes over. I am in Chile now, and our national assembly isn't shut down.
Q: But in the case of Castro, it is much more complex.
RAQ: I have a good British friend who would always ask me, "What's going to happen in Cuba when Castro dies, if he ever dies?" But I am not so sure that he will die: he has surprised us in a lot of ways, and maybe this will be another ∑ (laughs). This kind of analysis can go on forever. In my opinion the jost important thing is that there is a government that has already announced that it will intervene. So, in conclusion, what will happen when Castro dies? According to what the U.S. government has announced, there will be war. Nothing less than that.
Translated by Steve Anderson
(c) Copyright 2005, Chile Information Project (CHIP)