Castro `Amused' at How Remark on Cuban Economic Model Was Interpreted

Former President Fidel Castro said his comment on the failure of Cuba’s economic model was misunderstood, adding that he was “amused” by those who interpreted his remark as an attempt to steer the country further away from communism.

Castro said today that he meant “exactly the opposite” of how the remark was reported by Jeffrey Goldberg, a correspondent for The Atlantic magazine who interviewed Castro over three days, according to Agence France-Presse. Castro said he made the statement to Goldberg “without anger or worry. Now I’m amused to see how” it was interpreted, he said in a speech at the University of Havana, AFP reported.

Goldberg wrote on his blog this week that Castro, when asked whether the Cuban model was still worth exporting, said “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.” Castro, 84, made the comment during conversation at a casual lunch that included family members, according to Goldberg’s blog post.

The remark was “overplayed” by opponents of the regime, said Wayne Smith, director of the Cuba program at the Washington-based Center for International Policy, which advocates for human rights and international cooperation.

“It was taken out of context,” said Smith, who was chief of mission at the U.S. Interest Section in Cuba from 1979 to 1982. “He’s not saying the communist system doesn’t work -- it’s parts of the economy. They are moving toward change, they have to. The economy is in bad shape.”

Goldberg wrote on his blog that he didn’t follow up on the comment and that Castro didn’t go into further details. Goldberg didn’t immediately respond to messages from Bloomberg News seeking comment.

Castro’s speech today was an attempt to “backtrack on a rare admission,” said Tomas Bilbao, director of the Cuba Study Group. The Washington-based organization seeks to move Cuba to a market-based economy, according to its website.

Raul Castro, 79, has initiated measures to open the economy since being handed power by his brother in 2006.

To contact the reporter on this story: Blake Schmidt in Granada, Nicaragua at bschmidt16@bloomberg.net

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