The Castro Quote That Wasn't

Urban legend of the month


Back in the '70s, Fidel Castro supposedly declared: "The United States will come talk to us when it has a black president and the world has a Latin American pope." That would have been an extraordinarily prescient wisecrack if the Cuban dictator had really said it, but The Guardian has looked into the matter and concluded that it didn't happen:

As long as I'm idly speculating about the future, I suggest you avoid the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995.

Several Spanish-language outlets, at least one French one, and untold retweeters have reported or re-reported the quote, citing an anecdote writer Pedro Jorge Solans told in the Argentinian paper El Diario. Reporting from Cuba in March, Solans relays a colorful story of how his Havana taxi driver, Eduardo de la Torre, "recalled the episode as if he were giving a lecture of eternity."…But Solans does not attempt to fit his vignette of a quirky Havanan cab driver with any historical record, and none appears to exist to corroborate his claim. Rafael Rojas, author of A Brief History of the Cuban Revolution, told Mexico's El Universal: "I don't believe Fidel Castro ever said these 'prophetic' words."

The Guardian goes on to note that before Solans' story appeared, The Havana Times had cited the line as "a habitual joke these days on the island" and a Mexican writer had relayed a similar gag in an op-ed. (In that version, Castro tells Che Guevara that Cuba will have diplomatic relations with Washington again on the "day when the US president is black and the pope an Argentinian like you.") The writer wraps up by mentioning that in 1977,

Castro told Barbara Walters in an interview that he thought the US and Cuba could restore relations between 1980 and 1984, during Jimmy Carter's second term in office.

The interview likely should have put to rest all doubt about Castro's skills of prediction: in 1980 Ronald Reagan knocked Carter out of office in the biggest electoral defeat since the Great Depression.

I'm not sure what led the reporter to think Carter's loss in 1980 was larger than McGovern's in 1972 or Goldwater's in 1964, and I suppose someone deeply committed to the Castro story can hold out hope that the rest of the story is equally unreliable. But the alleged quote looks like a joke turned urban legend to me.

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  1. I bet if you check again in a month there will be a Granma blog post from 1973 where el jefe says exactly that.

  2. I’m sure the Cuban strongman had plenty of real predictions about communism taking over the globe.

    At least Bernie Sanders is carrying the dream!

  3. Jesse,

    I think opening an embassy with a country that Americans still can’t visit because it might embolden the designs of Nikita Khrushchev is yet another black mark on the legacy of President Obama. Ah well, Leninists of the same feather shall be in the same flock.

    We all know the Castros are like the worst thing ever, but I’m kind of interested in mathematics and thus wonder what the ratio of people killed by the Bush Presidency is compared to the ~60 years in which the Castros have been around. 50:1?

    1. the ratio of people killed by the Bush Presidency

      41 or 43?

      1. 41 was certainly a viscous war-monger in his own right– using a foreign policy policy strategy in the Westrrn Hemisphere that was more suited for 1889 than 1989, but I was talking about 43. Now if you include 41’s stint in the CIA he begins to have the sorts of numbers that right-wingers like to brag about when talking about 43

        1. Viscous?

        2. Yeah, because by 1991 the world had changed soooooo much compared to 1989.

          1. He’s an idiot but I think you misread him.

    2. Precisely, comrade! Now the workers of the world can finally unite and throw their oppressors in concentration camps and murder them slowly like the good old days. Right?

      1. You know how bad Jeffrey Dahmer was?

        Well, what does his body count look like when compared to the Iraq War?! Huh?

        How bad does Bush look now?
        How awesome does Jeffrey Dahmer look in comparison?

        Boom, bitch!

        1. Dahmer for President? It’s a dead gay serial killer’s turn.

          1. If you don’t vote for Dahmer, then you’re probably a homophobe.

        2. You’ll notice my main point was about the perfidy of Barack Obama, who we all know is like the worst.

          As to my numerical comparison, I meant it solely as a middle finger directed at trumped-up American exceptionalism and militarism and not an endorsement of the Castro regime. I didn’t know libertarians like you get so bitchy when you start questioning the wisdom of the militaty-industrial complex.

          For you… The Castro regime is an unremarkably bad dictatorship in a region of the world that has been run by dictators. He worse than some, but certainly no better than other dictators in south and Central America– some of whom were enthusiastically supported by right-wing Cold Warriors that you guys are now telling us are the best libertarians in the history of liberty.

          1. tl;dr

            Did you think someone was talking to you?

    3. the Bush Presidency is compared to the ~60 years in which the Castros have been around. 50:1?

      Well, let’s see – worst case scenario puts the deaths in Iraq from Bush the Younger’s little adventure at 500,000.

      So I can imagine that, yes, Castro did kill 50 times as many people as Bush over the last 60 years.

      1. What are the parameters here? If Bush is responsible for Iraqis (and other Arabs) killing Iraqis, is Castro responsible for Pinochet’s body count? It came as a response to his foreign policy, too. Likewise, FARC? He supported those fuckers at the start.

        1. Personally, I’m going by the numbers (for the US) from the PLOS Medicine Survey which seems to be in the ballpark for the worst case scenarios (and 3-5 times higher than most other source put them).

          And, I assume does not discriminate between direct and collateral deaths from not just deaths caused by the US military but by all the militaries involved – including enemy ones – but does not include enemy combatant deaths.

          Most other sources put those deaths at around 110,000.

          Castro’s regime, in Cuba alone, has easily been responsible for as many deaths as the total dead in the Iraq war (either), including directly purge/(murder/imprisonment under harsh conditions) and indirectly (policies that retard economic and technological growth, reduce availability of medical care, food, destruction of social institutions, deaths of refugees escaping Cuba – both those killed by Cuban border enforcers and those who succumb on the seas).

          1. And of course, the results of Cuban MILITARY IMPERIALISM need to be taken in to account.

            Congo Crisis
            Bolivian Insurgency
            Eritrean War
            Yom Kippur War
            South African Border War
            Invasion of Grenada
            Salvadoran Civil War
            Nicaraguan Civil War

            Its not like Castro hasn’t had a go at imperialism.

    4. AmSoc gets it all wrong again.

    5. Re: American Self-Stultified,

      We all know the Castros are like the worst thing ever, but I’m kind of interested in mathematics and thus wonder what the ratio of people killed by the Bush Presidency is compared to the ~60 years in which the Castros have been around. 50:1?

      “My evil dictator is less murderous than your evil… president!”

    6. I’m kind of interested in mathematics and thus wonder what the ratio of people killed by the Bush Presidency is compared to the ~60 years in which the Castros have been around. 50:1?

      Considering Cuban military intervention in Angola (regime casualties = ~1/2 million), Ethiopia/Etrirean war of Independence (230,000 casualties), the Ogaden War (~12,500 casualties) and various other brush wars I won’t bother to count… Cuba takes the cake, at the very least doubling the Bush admin’s record for military violence (and probably coming closer to a ratio of 10:1).

      1. Look, everybody who died in Iraq from the start of the war until the present day is Bush’s fault. And that’s like eleventy million innocent brown babies whose blood Bush bathes in. Stalin might have killed somebody by accident once, but that guy was a Kulak who wrecked everything great about communism.

      2. See, that the sort of shit I was looking for. Thanks!
        Let’s add all the victims of Colombian civil war (Castro supported FARC), victims of Chile civil war (likewise), Uruguay urban terrorism, and why not, Peru’s Shining Path and its predecessors. Easy as pie!

    7. Cuba supported the Derg in Ethiopia during the Ethiopian civil war. Castro had 17,000 troops in Ethiopia in 1977.

      The Derg’s socialist land reforms moved their enemies out into the desert. Those folks mostly starved in various famines in the late 70s and throughout the 80s.

      Under the Derg, Ethiopia became the Soviet bloc’s closest ally in Africa, and became among the best armed nations of the region as a result of massive military aid, chiefly from the Soviet Union, East Germany, Cuba and North Korea. [wikipedia]

      There’s a very famous rant by Sam Kinison about that famine, where he’s screaming at the starving Ethiopians to move out of the desert, because there’s no food there. The socialist Derg put them in that desert, and kept them there with Cuban and Soviet troops and weapons.

      1. ethiopian humor quickly became a means for the american public to express their foreign policy insights & deep empathy for the victims of ethiopian genocide. eg: ” what do u call an ethiopian w/ a yeast infection? a quarter pounder w/ cheese”

  4. But here’s the thing, Castronamus clearly predicted the French Revolution and the rise of Hitler.

  5. Reagan defeated a sitting president. The first time since FDR knocked off Hoover. LBJ might have been even worse but he went down with the bat on his shoulder.

    1. Reagan defeated a sitting president. The first time since FDR knocked off Hoover.

      You misspelled “since Carter knocked off Ford.”

      1. The caveat that Ford was not elected President or Vice President and Carter’s win was not reversing a previous election. If you want to get into that kind of technicality.

      2. I’m not sure I would count Ford in this – he was a sitting president only because his immediate predecessor fled office to avoid prosecution.

        1. Nixon leaving office was a far better choice than dragging the country through the rigmarole of impeachment. Also, it was Ford’s pardon, which I don’t think Nixon expected, that stopped him from being prosecuted.

          1. That may be – still, Ford took office not through his own efforts but because his predecessor fled to avoid prosecution.

            It would, IMO, have been a major upset if he had *won*.

  6. Magical realism is to blame for crappy journalism….

    Yeah sure I believe that.

    Also by Reason’s own standards this makes you a Nativist Racist Jesse.

    1. Antipsychotics may be helpful in treating paranoid and persecutory delusions. Maybe you should look into them?

  7. Soudns like a very solid plan to me dude. Wow.

  8. Here is a tedious and evil little potato-eater. Enjoy.

    Freedom is about securing the democratic rights of each individual. Freedom is also about opportunities in life. For social democrats, the community, and the possibilities and options the community provides us, is the only way to secure each individual the freedom to pursue its dreams and exploit its full potential. Community is not the contrast to freedom, but the condition for freedom.


    Equality, for social democrats, is a socially just distribution of goods. There has to be equal opportunities and equal access for everyone, regardless of sex, ethnicity, or social class. Equality is furthermore about respecting the right of our fellow human beings, to live a life different from our own.


    Solidarity means that we are there for each other and that we secure the vulnerable in the society, for instance the elderly, the sick, or the unemployed. But solidarity is also about each of us contributing to, and taking responsibility for, the community. The old saying, that the broadest shoulders must carry the heaviest burden, is still valid today.

    Solidarity is the will to improve the cohesiveness ? also when it comes to rendering assistance to the poor and vulnerable ? international as well as national ? regardless of race and belief. Solidarity is also about dissociating oneself from racism and xenophobia.

    1. You know who else was a potato-eater?

      1. While I like HM’s answer, I was thinking of Che Guevara:

        Ernesto Guevara was born to Ernesto Guevara Lynch and his wife, Celia de la Serna y Llosa, on June 14, 1928[1] in Rosario, Argentina, the eldest of five children in an Argentine family of Basque and Irish descent.

    2. The old saying, that the broadest shoulders must carry the heaviest burden, is still valid today.

      How’d that work out for Boxer the horse?

      1. He was taken to a vet, wasn’t he? After which he retired? I remember something like that happening, so happy ending.

    3. Nowhere along the path to those idealistic goals is a person allowed choice.

      The Nazis dreamed up some utopian shit that was different than this guy’s utopian shit and forced everyone to throw in with them. I will bet that Danny Boy here is completely unaware of his similarity to them simply because he has different utopian shit as his goal.

      The unreachable goal may be different, but the very real road to each is identical.

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