Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba’s National Assembly since 1993, smiled when he recalled the afternoon he joked with Fidel Castro about the upcoming announcement to the world that the Cuban president was ill and had been hospitalized. "Now he is doing pretty well."

"That afternoon I spoke with Fidel and we had a lot of fun talking about what would happen after the announcement. We were quite accurate in our forecasts: the first headlines will immediately be followed by all kinds of speculations. On the one hand, this is also an acknowledgement of Fidel’s stature, not even his enemies can ignore him, but on the other hand, there was a lot of distortion and plenty of foolishness. For the media, it seemed that the country was on the verge of a social and political collapse. And in fact, it was the quietest place on earth," he said.

Alarcon arrived in Oviedo on Monday to attend the Second International Seminar "Humanity Against Imperialism: Ideas for the 21st Century," taking place at the Philharmonic Theater. Friday at noon he will deliver a lecture at the Milan Campus Faculty of History. At 5:00 p.m., he will participate in a round table discussion at the Philharmonic entitled, "How Much Is the Mass Media Worth?" and at 7:30 p.m. he will give a presentation during the debate "Current Trends of Imperialism and Peoples’ Responses to Them."

Is this your first visit to Oviedo. What brings you here?

These kinds of meetings are very important. Firstly, because of the human contact that cannot be replaced by the internet or cell phone. Secondly, the discussion of ideas is very important, the debate that takes place in the quest for new common roads. I think it is a big mistake to believe that what can be attained in the theoretical plane does not have a practical use. The world is changing, and to a good extent, that change stems from the theoretical plane. And there are plenty of examples of this.

Like the Cuban government that has survived many changes?

Yes, the Cuban Revolution dates back to the Cold War era. It has lived through times of détente and then it went through the failure of the so-called real socialism. We have spent more than 15 years in a unipolar world and we are now witnessing the crumbling of that world. When I was a student, it seemed to me that History had longer phases; there were 100-year wars. Now the timeframes are shorter, and we are going to see many more changes.

But Cuba remains at the center of international attention.

Mass media rely to a large extent on news agencies, and in this regard, there has been a lot of manipulation about Cuba. There are lots of clouds deliberately placed between the individual and reality. Noam Chomsky has a very good phrase for this that defines US society. He taalsk about "a historical series of lies." Imagine the poor human being under this skyscraper of lies, and journalists as well. How is one supposed to deal with the real world if it is so difficult to get to it? People use their intuition and the media loses credibility. But now there are real alternatives.

Like what?

Twenty years ago, one had to wait for a boat to arrive from Asia to receive a letter from Indonesia. Now, to get a deeper look at a story that is being carried in the newspapers takes just a few minutes. You call Jakarta, and that’s it. That is what happened on March 11, people mobilized by cell phone.

Could this be politically profitable?

It could be, but more than the political use of technology I am interested in the possibility of communicating in real time.

The other side of today’s world is the lack of commitment.

In some places people have run aground, obsessed by consumerism and individual material wealth. But in Latin America, societies are much more in motion, just take a quick look at events in Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay and Brazil.things are boiling. You cannot talk about the planet as a whole, nor see the world from a European perspective. In fact, Europe should be getting ready for a second discovery of America, a rediscovery.

Is Hugo Chavez leading that Latin America?

Today, Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution are a key part of the process underway, but I do not think he would agree with being called "the leader." We must not forget about the first indigenous government of Evo Morales. I was told he was here in Oviedo two years ago, and few people at that time imagined that he would become the president of his country.

Is there any way to include all national interests at a world level?

George Bush thought he could do so. Just look at how the world has changed in ten years. Richard Nixon was forced to resign because he lied, Bill Clinton was subject to an impeachment process because he lied with regard to his relation with Monica Lewinsky, and now we know that George Bush deliberately lied when he said there were weapons of mass destruction, and nothing happened.

He is worried about Islamic terrorism.

I don’t like to give family names to terrorism. How about if we called the anti-Cuban terrorists Christians, just because they are catholic? It would amount to an insult to Christians. Terrorism is an aberration that should be eradicated, but from a position of knowledge, not with hypocrisy.

What is your position regarding the nuclearization of Korea?

We are concerned with this situation. Proliferation means that something is spreading, and the only way to put an end to this is by a generalized nuclear disarmament.

Taken from La Nueva España online.