Cuban model no longer works, says Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro in Havana on 3 September, 2010 Castro invited Jeffrey Goldberg to Cuba for the interview

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Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has said the Cuban model no longer works.

He made the comment in an interview with a US journalist, who asked him if Cuba's model was still worth exporting to other countries.

In a previous interview with the same journalist, he criticised Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for what he called his anti-Semitic attitudes.

Mr Castro also questioned his own actions during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

Mr Castro was speaking to Jeffrey Goldberg, a journalist with The Atlantic magazine based in Washington, DC, whom he personally invited to Cuba.

"The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore," he told him.

With this comment, it is clear Mr Castro is not abandoning the principles of socialist revolution, says the BBC's Will Grant: rather, it is an overt acceptance by the 84-year-old former leader that state control of the economy in Cuba is gradually being loosened.

The comment came as the current Cuban leader, Fidel's younger brother, Raul Castro, is reducing the state's control of the economy and allowing private ownership on the communist island.

Last month, Raul Castro announced to the National Assembly that small businesses would now be permitted and small business owners would have the right to employ and pay employees.

Recent examples include hairdressers, who are now allowed to run their businesses as private entities, as well as a growing number of taxis and buses. Agriculture and tourism have also opened up to private investment.

A barber works in a salon in Havana on 7 September 2010 Cuba's economy is gradually being liberalised, with some businesses being run privately

Mr Castro led Cuba for almost 50 years after toppling the government in a revolution. He fell ill in 2006 and handed power to his brother Raul in 2008.

Since then, his public appearances have been rare, but in recent months he has made a series of public speeches and televised appearances.

'Gradual escalation'

Mr Castro's "body may be frail, but his mind is acute, his energy level is high", wrote Mr Goldberg on his blog on The Atlantic website on Tuesday when he published the first excerpt of his interview with the Cuban leader.

About Iran, Mr Castro warned that an escalating conflict between Iran and the West could lead to nuclear war.

Over the course of a five-hour discussion, Mr Castro "repeatedly returned to his excoriation of anti-Semitism", and criticised Mr Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust.

"The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust," the former president said.

Mr Castro said that Iran could further the cause of peace by "acknowledging the 'unique' history of anti-Semitism and trying to understand why Israelis fear for their existence", Mr Goldberg wrote.

Start Quote

The Iranian capacity to inflict damage is not appreciated”

End Quote Fidel Castro

Mr Castro told Mr Goldberg that he understood Iranian fears of Israeli-American aggression and that he did not believe that sanctions and threat would dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons.

"The Iranian capacity to inflict damage is not appreciated," Mr Castro said. "Men think they can control themselves, but [US President Barack] Obama could overreact and a gradual escalation could become a nuclear war."

Mr Castro has recently made a number of warnings of the danger of a nuclear war between the West and Iran.

Mr Goldberg then questioned Mr Castro about his stance during the Missile Crisis of 1962, asking if he stood by his recommendation that the Soviets bomb the US.

"After I've seen what I've seen, and knowing what I know now, it wasn't worth it at all," he said.

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