Fidel Castro is pushing back against an Atlantic report this week that quoted the 84-year-old ex-president as saying that "the Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."
Castro said Friday at the University of Havana that he meant "exactly the opposite" of that quote, according to the Associated Press.
But the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg stands by his report.
"I quoted him accurately," Goldberg told The Upshot on Friday.
Goldberg received significant access to Castro, and wrote two blog posts on the experience this week, with a more comprehensive article to come later for the magazine's print edition.
In the second post, Goldberg wrote of being struck by "Castro's level of self-reflection" and his surprise when the former president commented about the Cuban model not working for the country anymore.
"This struck me as the mother of all Emily Litella moments," Goldberg wrote. "Did the leader of the Revolution just say, in essence, 'Never mind'?"
Goldberg wasn't alone for the sit-down. He brought along Julia Sweig, a Latin America scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations. And after Castro's comment, Goldberg writes that he asked Sweig to interpret.
Sweig said the following, according to Goldberg's account: "He wasn't rejecting the ideas of the Revolution. I took it to be an acknowledgment that under 'the Cuban model' the state has much too big a role in the economic life of the country."
According to Goldberg, Sweig also thought that one effect of such a sentiment would be to allow for his brother, Raul Castro, who is now president, to push forward on economic reforms.
Reached Friday, Sweig stands by Goldberg's account.
"I don't feel he was misinterpreted," Sweig told The Upshot by phone Friday, adding that "the way Goldberg quoted him is exactly as he said."
(Photo: AP/ Franklin Reyes)