Raul Castro Speaks About Cuba Food Woes
Acting Leader Raul Castro Sees No Excuse for Cuba's Transportation and
By ANITA SNOW
The Associated Press
HAVANA – Acting president Raul Castro complained to lawmakers about
inefficiencies in the island's economy, telling them in comments made
public Saturday that there is no excuse for the transportation and food
production problems that anger many Cubans.
"In this Revolution we are tired of excuses," he said, giving the
strongest sense yet of the frank and demanding leadership style he will
likely adopt if his ailing older brother Fidel Castro does not return as
After almost five months in power, it has become clear that the
75-year-old Raul Castro will call officials to account for their actions
and demand they produce real results, rather than offer mere political
He also has shown a willingness to criticize aspects of the communist
system that are not working.
"The Revolution cannot lie," he said in comments published by the
Communist Party newspaper Granma. "This isn't saying that there have
been comrades who have lied, but the imprecision, inexact data,
consciously or unconsciously masked, can no longer continue."
Castro spoke Friday afternoon during a year-end meeting of the National
Assembly. He did not address the two-hour session that international
journalists were allowed to attend in the morning.
Excerpts of his comments aired later on state television showed him
looking gruff and almost angry as spoke in a strong, controlled tone
about problems affecting average Cubans.
It was unknown how long he spoke, but Castro tends toward short speeches
with concrete messages on local matters a sharp contrast to his older
brother's extemporaneous discourses that often ran many hours while
ranging over philosophical thoughts on world and Cuban affairs.
Lacking the charisma of his more famous brother, Castro will need to
make changes that improve the lives of Cubans to gain the popular
support necessary to govern over the long run.
Public transportation problems top the list of Cubans' many complaints
about the system, a litany that includes crumbling housing, insufficient
food for their families and government paychecks that don't cover basic
Castro's willingness to publicly criticize the system's failings is a
switch from the past policy under his brother of extolling the virtues
of the revolution while blaming a handful of corrupt individuals for
But it is too early to know whether his frankness could evolve into a
more generalized kind of Cuban glasnost, the policy of openness in
public discussions that was promoted by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
in the late 1980s.
Fidel Castro, 80, temporarily ceded his powers to his brother July 31
when it was announced he had undergone emergency surgery for intestinal
bleeding. He has not appeared in public since, and looked thin and frail
in a government video released in late October.
Fidel's medical condition is a state secret, but Cuban authorities deny
he suffers from terminal cancer as U.S. intelligence officials say. Yet
officials also have stopped insisting he will return to power, making it
more probable that Raul, his constitutionally designated successor, will
eventually assume a permanent role.
Unlike Fidel, who in recent year rolled back modest economic reforms
adopted in the 1990s, Raul is believed to favor a limited opening up of
Raul, who also is defense minister, has long railed against government
During Friday's parliamentary session, he criticized the "bureaucratic
red tape" preventing the government from completing payments to the
individual farmers and cooperatives producing 65 percent of the island's
In excerpts of his comments aired Friday night on state television,
Castro also criticized efforts to improve Cuba's dilapidated public
transportation, saying it is "practically on the point of collapse."
Phil Peters, an analyst at the Lexington Institute, a think tank in
suburban Washington, said the willingness to blame systemic problems
rather than the moral failings of individuals was underscored in October
in a newspaper series on petty corruption.
The Communist youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde told of a state cafeteria
where patrons who paid for one-third of a liter of beer got one-fourth
instead, letting employees skim the difference from the cash register. A
government-employed cobbler charged three times the official rate
because he had to buy his own supplies.
The articles told Cubans the government recognizes "that law enforcement
alone is not the solution to the problem," Peters wrote in a recent
"The article did not say what Cuba's interim president believes would
inspire allegiance to the revolutionary project if old war stories do
not suffice; that question was left hanging," Peters concluded. "The
coming year will tell us if economic policy change is his answer."