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During Interview With Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, Fidel Castro Talks Israel, Iran

Fidel Castro gives a speech on Sept. 03, at the University of Havana, about the possibility of nuclear war.
Fidel Castro gives a speech on Sept. 03, at the University of Havana, about the possibility of nuclear war.

While he was vacationing on the "People's Republic of Martha's Vineyard," The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg got a telephone call from Jorge Bolanos, the head of the Cuban Interest Section, conveying a message from Fidel Castro:

He has read your Atlantic article about Iran and Israel. He invites you to Havana on Sunday to discuss the article.

After a charter flight to Havana, and a visit to a "protocol house," Goldberg was squired to a convention center, where he and Julia Sweig, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, met "a frail and aged Fidel."

He was wearing a red shirt, sweatpants, and black New Balance sneakers. The room was crowded with officials and family: His wife, Dalia, and son Antonio, as well as an Interior Ministry general, a translator, a doctor and several bodyguards, all of whom appeared to have been recruited from the Cuban national wrestling team. Two of these bodyguards held Castro at the elbow.

Goldberg's interview lasted three days.

Some highlights follow.

Goldberg, on Castro's health:

His body may be frail, but his mind is acute, his energy level is high, and not only that: the late-stage Fidel Castro turns out to possess something of a self-deprecating sense of humor.

On Israel:

His message to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, he said, was simple: Israel will only have security if it gives up its nuclear arsenal, and the rest of the world's nuclear powers will only have security if they, too, give up their weapons. Global and simultaneous nuclear disarmament is, of course, a worthy goal, but it is not, in the short term, realistic.

On Iran:

He criticized Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust and explained why the Iranian government would better serve the cause of peace by acknowledging the "unique" history of anti-Semitism and trying to understand why Israelis fear for their existence.

Goldberg says "there is a great deal more to report from this conversation, and from subsequent conversations." He promises to publish more posts about his visit to Cuba on his blog. You can read his first installment here.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Gura
Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.