Fidel Castro, one-time revolutionary firebrand, has advised Nicaragua’s Sandinista leaders that their revolution need not be as radical as Cuba’s was.
Private enterprise is allowable, said the man who did away with capitalism in Cuba. Political pluralism is fine, said the Communist leader who eliminated all other parties on his island nation after taking power 25 years ago.
By coming here for the presidential inauguration of a Sandinista revolutionary commander, Daniel Ortega, the Cuban president underlined his support for the Nicaraguan revolution. However, he also seemed to be saying that there is no need for a replica of Cuba in Central America.
“Each revolution is different from the others,” Castro declared in the only public speech that he has made so far during his visit.
Like an uncle visiting a favorite nephew, Castro was putting a protective arm around Ortega’s shoulder. The Cuban leader’s message of moderation endorsed the public position taken by Ortega, reportedly at odds with some of the other Sandinista leaders who want to radicalize the revolution along Marxist-Leninist lines.
Such radicalism antagonizes the Reagan Administration, which is supporting anti-Sandinista rebels in a guerrilla war against the Nicaraguan government.
In his inaugural speech Thursday, Ortega stressed his support for a “mixed economy” of state and private enterprise, for freedom of organization and expression, for political pluralism and for other moderate concepts.
Speaking at the dedication of a new rural sugar mill Friday night, Castro commended Ortega’s position. A mixed economy is not contrary to revolutionary principles, the Cuban president said.
“There can be capitalists in this economy,” he said. “What there undoubtedly will not be, and this is the essential point, is a government to serve the capitalists.”
Castro’s influence in Nicaragua is enormous. He supported the Sandinistas in their fight for power during the 1970s, and his government has provided large amounts of aid since the Sandinistas overthrew right-wing dictator Anastasio Somoza and took power in July, 1979.
At the sugar mill dedication, Ortega conferred on Castro this country’s highest decoration, the Order of Augusto Cesar Sandino in its First Degree. The Sandinistas take their name from Sandino, a renegade army general who led guerrilla fighters against U.S. Marines based in Nicaragua in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Castro announced that $50 million in credits that Cuba gave for the construction of the $220-million Victoria de Julio sugar mill will be converted into a gift.
Reports on the ceremony, including three photos of Castro, occupied most of the front page of Barricada, the official Sandinista newspaper, on Saturday.
Castro’s speech, almost three hours long, was carried live on Nicaraguan government radio and broadcast later on national television. Wearing his customary green uniform and fatigue cap, Castro gave an animated performance, gesticulating constantly with his hands and modulating his voice dramatically.
Security around Castro has been thorough and strict from the moment of his arrival. Police and soldiers patrol routes taken by his motorcade when he travels, such as he did Friday to the site of the sugar mill, 20 miles from this capital. Nowhere has he appeared before the general public.
At a reception Thursday night, after Ortega’s inauguration, a crowd of invited guests pressed in around Castro as he boasted about Cuba’s accomplishments in medicine. He predicted that within 15 years, medical care in Cuba will be better than it is in the United States.
Sources said that after the reception, Castro and Nicaragua’s nine “commanders of the revolution,” including Ortega, talked into the early hours of the morning.
Castro said in his speech at the sugar mill that he also met in Nicaragua with three of the foreign ministers of the peace-seeking Contadora countries. Those countries--Mexico, Colombia, Panama and Venezuela--have been trying for two years to mediate a Central American peace agreement.
In his meeting with the Contadora representatives, Castro repeated Cuba’s offer to help in the peace efforts.
“Everyone will have to make concessions of one kind or another,” he said. “But peace cannot be hoped for on the basis of some making concessions and the others making none. Peace based on the demands of the other side is not peace, it is ignominious surrender, and no revolutionary country sells itself or surrenders.”
He repeatedly decried what he called the “dirty war” of U.S.-supported Nicaraguan rebels-- contras, as they are called here--and said that if the United States were to invade Nicaragua or Cuba, “the imperialist invaders would be defeated no matter how many millions of men they brought to make war on us.”
Essential elements for peace in Central America, Castro said, include a negotiated solution to the guerrilla war against the U.S.-backed government of El Salvador and guarantees for “the security of Nicaragua in the face of direct aggressions or dirty wars.”
“If everyone works in good faith--and we are willing to work in good faith--it is possible, perfectly possible that there can be peace in the area,” Castro said. “And there can be friendly relations among our countries . . . and even good relations, normal relations, between our countries. And in this case, I speak of Cuba and the United States.”