26
The World Traveler

THE PRIME MINISTER SPOKE with reporters at José Martí Airport as he prepared to board the new Il-62. Only a week earlier, in late April 1972, the Soviets had turned over the plane to Cubana airlines. The latest, and largest, in a series of four-motor jets, it would give the Cubans nonstop capabilities with up to 150 passengers to Prague and Madrid. Castro decided, however, to postpone its use for regularly scheduled flights to take a group of officials to Africa and then on to Eastern Europe. He wanted to try out and show off his new toy. Other Cubans could wait a few weeks for the improved service. How do you feel? a reporter asked. "Simply tops," he replied. "No chills. No grippe. No nothing." He was packed and on the move once again. How long would he be away? He shook his head. "Not even I know that." But for some time, he added—five, six, or seven days at least in each country. He had promised to arrive in the Soviet Union before the end of June. It would be a long work trip, he said, and very tiring. As tiring as his stay in Chile. He explained that he had an extensive—but flexible—itinerary. "There are always some places to be added on at the last minute." He planned to visit factories, agricultural centers, and historic sites and to talk with the leaders in each country. He looked forward especially to his stopover in Guinea—"a pillar of the revolution" in Africa. "In short, the countries we visit always have much larger programs than can really be carried out." It was not a vacation or a pleasure trip, he insisted. In Chile, he recalled, "we put in a lot of hours working. And I don't want to let anyone down.... I don't usually go around objecting to the itineraries that are presented to me. The one that's offered, that's it." He should be back by July 26 for the Moncada celebrations. But "even that isn't guaranteed."

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