Nicholas Storozynski: What can Cubans learn from Lech Walesa and the Solidarity movement?
Lech Walesa: Solidarity means that when you can’t lift some heavy burden, you ask someone who is willing to help you. Everywhere there are burdens that we can’t lift by ourselves. So let’s get organized, whether they are burdens in our own cities, or powers that be of all kinds, and even with Fidel Castro himself. Let’s get organized, lift up and throw him out.
Nicholas Storozynski: What to you think of America’s foreign policy toward Cuba – for example does the boycott make sense?
Lech Walesa: There is no easy answer for this. Because half of Americans say that there should not be a boycott, and the other half say that there should be no cooperation with Cuba. I think to a certain extent both arguments are correct. So boycott those in power, but find people in Cuba to cooperate with, and encourage them.
Nicholas Storozynski: Is it true that you have compared Cuba to a Jurassic Park, a sort of museum of Communism that keeps dinosaurs alive?
Lech Walesa: (Laughing) Because Cuba is so close to the United States, it seems that Americans can’t manage Cuba, or the notion of a Soviet Union at all. So I suspect that Americans cannot help to try to preserve that island as a museum of Marxism Leninism, with Castro as the head. I have kind of joked about this idea in America.
Nicholas Storozynski: Does the world, or the United Nations, have any kind of obligation to help the people of Cuba to become free?
Lech Walesa: More and more people are realizing that the whole world really belongs to us all. So for example a country like Cuba that has such conditions for health care, and to establish sanatoriums, hospitals where people could go rest and recover from illness. If it has a broken system, then because of this I am sick, because if it was open, I could go there and get cured. So they need a chance in their system so that everyone could have access to the great things that God has created. But because of Castro people can take advantage of what Cuba has to cure themselves. And when Cuba is sick, the whole world is sick.
Nicholas Storozynski: What role does social networking have these days in bringing about change?
Lech Walesa: Every generation has its possibilities and difficulties. Previous generations used other methods to fight. Today we have the Internet and satellite television. We need to link this to the battle, but we need a good script to follow for change. First, in Cuba we need to fight to ensure that Cubans have legal rights and freedom, second we need to encourage Cubans to take advantage of their freedom, right now they can’t and some are not even interested. So our action should be to bring them computers and get them access to the Internet in as smart way that they can get together and act as a group.
Nicholas Storozynski: What role does religion have in this struggle? Because in Poland, religion played a major role in the changeover, but can religion play such a role in Cuba?
Lech Walesa: You have to remember the philosophy of Communists that wanted to stay in power. They did not let us gather in large groups. They did not let us have our own free organizations, and if we met, they would break up the meetings. And then they would organize larger, counter-manifestations and say, what kind of minor opposition are they? How many of them were there? And don’t let them unite. We were united by Pope John Paul and religion. The Pope did not unite us to fight Communism, he united us to pray. And this allowed us to see how many of us there really were. And the Pope said, “Don not be afraid,” so we became more courageous. And the opposition took over these manifestations and led the battle. In Cuba, the Pope did the same that he did in Poland. He gathered people together in large manifestations, but there was no one to lead, no opposition that can takeover, and we are still waiting someone who can lead.
Nicholas Storozynski: The Soviet Union had a strong relationship with Cuba, but now that it no longer exists, what role does Russia play in Cuba?Lech Walesa: The problem is that Russia is between epochs. Russia once controlled half the world. And various countries depended on it. But now that fell apart, so Russia is looking for kindred spirits. But in the long run, Russia does not have real interests in Cuba. It had military, strategic interests in the past, but now that the threat of war with Russia has passed, what kind of interests does Russia really have with Cuba?