Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fidel, let me help you walk that back...

Jeffrey Goldberg affects bemusement as Fidel Castro tries to walk back his startling statement to Goldberg that "the Cuban model doesn't even work for us any more."  Castro told CNN
he was correctly quoted, but that, "in reality, my answer meant exactly the opposite of what both American journalists interpreted regarding the Cuban model. My idea, as the whole world knows, is that the capitalist system no longer works for the United States or the world," he said. "How could such a system work for a socialist country like Cuba?"

Castro called Goldberg "a great journalist." "He does not invent phrases, he transfers them and interprets them," he said. "I await with interest his extensive article."
Goldberg responds with perhaps a shade too much glee:

First, thank you very much, Fidel, for the kind words. Second, I'm sorry to say it, but I think the expression, "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore" means, "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."

Fidel says that his answer meant "exactly the opposite" of what Julia Sweig and I heard him say. Just as a language experiment, here is what the opposite of his statement would sound like: "The Cuban model works so well for us that we want to export it." But he didn't say this. What he said was -- well, you've read what he said. I'm not sure how this statement --accurately quoted, according to Fidel -- could mean anything other than what it means.
For what it's worth, it seems likely to me that Castro meant that the Cuban model can't work in total isolation  -- the ideological isolation imposed by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the de facto transformation of China into a capitalist economy, and the more direct isolation imposed by the U.S. embargo.  His enemies control the environment - that is, the global economy, so "the Cuban model" withers on the vine. 

A lot of people claim that the Betamax videotape recording format was technologically superior to the VHS format that became universal.  But a Betamax home video system wouldn't work too well today, unless you wanted to play only movies you made yourself.  Castro seems to think that the best economic operating system didn't win -- and "socialism in one country" doesn't work too well.

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