Cuban leader Fidel Castro established the first communist state in the western hemisphere in 1959 and ruled Cuba for almost fifty years. As he is laid to rest today, we decided to dig through the 60 Minutes archives to see what his half-century rule looked like through our lenses.
One of the things we found was a 1985 interview between Dan Rather and the Strongman, in which Castro put a positive, defiant spin on the dire state of his country’s economy. Rather pointed out that Cuba relied on the Soviet Union for its very survival and asked, simply, if Marxism was worth it.
“What country, at present, depends less on the United States than us?” Fidel Castro
“We are the most independent country of the world,” Castro responded through a translator, “because we do not depend, not even the slightest, on the United States -- and what country, at present, depends less on the United States than us?”
This was a very different Fidel Castro than the one CBS News viewers saw years earlier when Castro gave a 1959 interview -- in broken English -- to Edward R. Murrow.
In a display of political theater, Castro took Rather and the 60 Minutes crew on a personal tour of Havana, excerpted in the video clip above. Castro walked the city freely, speaking to the Cuban people with a relaxed confidence and without the barriers of security teams.
At the time, Cuba’s economy relied heavily on infusions of Soviet cash — despite Castro’s perceived independence — and few private cars could be seen on the streets. Castro’s Havana of 31 years ago seemed as frozen in time as it does today.