WASHINGTON — Cuban revolutionary icon Fidel Castro has joked that the "Cuban model doesn't even work for us any more," the Atlantic magazine reported Wednesday.
Meeting with a reporter from the US magazine, the 84-year-old former Cuban president who remains head of the ruling Communist Party, appeared well on the mend after his near-fatal gastrointestinal crisis in 2006, the report said.
Since then, under President Raul Castro, 79, Cuba's feeble economy has been propped up by subsidized oil from ally Venezuela. The government has launched minor reforms but no major structural change in an economy overwhelmingly controlled by the state.
Castro lunched on "small amounts of fish and salad, and quite a bit of bread dipped in olive oil, as well as a glass of red wine," the report said.
When asked if he believed Cuba's model was something worth exporting, Castro left his reporter guest slackjawed, the report said.
"The Cuban model doesn't even work for us any more," Fidel Castro was quoted as saying in the report.
Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Council on Foreign Relations who was present at the meeting was quoted as saying Castro "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."
In the same interview, the former Cuban president criticized Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust and said Tehran should acknowledge Israel's fears for its own survival.
Castro, who was at the center of the 1962 missile crisis pitting the Soviet Union against the United States, warned, however, that US sanctions and Israeli threats would not cause Iran to change course.
"This problem is not going to get resolved, because the Iranians are not going to back down in the face of threats. That's my opinion," he said, observing that religious leaders were less apt to compromise.
"The Iranian capacity to inflict damage is not appreciated," he said. "Men think they can control themselves but (US President Barack) Obama could overreact and a gradual escalation could become a nuclear war."