Castro: Criticism of Cuban System Misrepresented

Former Cuban president Fidel Castro, left, with a bodyguard at right, salutes while listening to his national anthem before delivering a speech to students outside Havana's university Sept. 3, 2010. Castro dusted off his military fatigues for the first time since stepping down as president four years ago. AP Photo

Fidel Castro says his comments about Cuba's communist economic model were misinterpreted by a visiting American journalist.

Appearing at the University of Havana on Friday, the 84-year-old ex-president says he meant "exactly the opposite" of the quote contained in a blog by Atlantic magazine reporter Jeffrey Goldberg.

Goldberg wrote Wednesday that he asked Castro if Cuba's economic system was still worth exporting to other countries. He said that Castro replied: "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."

It was a rare comment on domestic affairs from a man who has taken pains to steer clear of local issues since illness forced him to step down as president four years ago.

The fact that things are not working efficiently on the cash-strapped Caribbean island is hardly news. Fidel's brother Raul, the country's president, has said the same thing repeatedly. But the blunt assessment by the father of Cuba's 1959 revolution is sure to raise eyebrows.

Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, asked Castro if Cuba's economic system was still worth exporting to other countries, and Castro replied: "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore," Goldberg wrote Wednesday in a post on his Atlantic blog.

The Cuban government had no immediate comment on Goldberg's account.

Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations who accompanied Goldberg on the trip, confirmed the Cuban leader's comment, which he made at a private lunch last week.

She told The Associated Press she took the remark to be in line with Raul Castro's call for gradual but widespread reform.

"It sounded consistent with the general consensus in the country now, up to and including his brother's position," Sweig said.

In general, she said she found the 84-year-old Castro to be "relaxed, witty, conversational and quite accessible."

"He has a new lease on life, and he is taking advantage of it," Sweig said.

Castro stepped down temporarily in July 2006 due to a serious illness that nearly killed him.
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