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Fidel Castro says he was misinterpreted on Cuban economy

Fidel Castro said he was not misquoted by Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, but in fact he meant 'exactly the opposite.'

By Will WeissertAssociated Press / September 10, 2010

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro speaks during a meeting with students at Havana's University on Sept. 3.

Desmond Boylan/Reuters

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HAVANA

Fidel Castro said Friday that his comments about Cuba's communist economic model no longer working were misinterpreted by a visiting American journalist — taking back an admission that had caused a stir around the globe.

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The 84-year-old ex-president said he was not misquoted by Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, but in fact he meant "exactly the opposite."

Goldberg wrote Wednesday that he asked Castro over lunch and wine if Cuba's communist system was still worth exporting to other countries. He quoted Castro as replying: "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."

Castro read from the blog during an event at the University of Havana, before saying that he intended the remark to be ironic and Goldberg didn't pick up on the subtlety. His tone was not angry — more baffled and even a bit bemused.

"I continue to think that Goldberg is a great journalist. He doesn't invent phrases, he transmits them and interprets them," Castro said.

Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations who accompanied Goldberg on the trip, had confirmed Castro's comment.

She told The Associated Press this week it seemed to be in line with calls by Raul Castro, Fidel's brother and successor, for gradual but widespread reform on the island.

Goldberg also missed the intended irony in another statement, Castro said, when he wrote Tuesday that the former Cuban leader questioned his own actions during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis — including a recommendation to Soviet leaders that they use nuclear weapons against the United States.

Castro said what he meant was that he would have acted differently if he knew then that Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev was such a heavy drinker who was privately negotiating with the administration of President John F. Kennedy.

Castro had invited Goldberg to Cuba to discuss Iran — not domestic island politics — and he apparently did not elaborate on his comment on the economy, making it difficult to decipher his exact meaning.

Still, it made headlines the world over: London's The Guardian newspaper called it "an aside heard around the world."