Raul Castro tackles Cuba's shortcomings
Sat Dec 23, 2006 12:41 PM ET
By Anthony Boadle
HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba's interim leader Raul Castro urged greater
honesty in dealing with chronic shortages of housing and public
transport, the biggest complaints in the communist state, Cuban state
media reported on Saturday.
"Tell it as it is," he told the first session of the National Assembly
since brother Fidel Castro ceded power to him in July after undergoing
"Tell the truth, without justifications, because we are tired of
justifications in this revolution," the newspaper Juventud Rebelde
reported Defense Minister Raul Castro as saying on Friday.
Raul Castro, who is considered more of a practical administrator than
his more ideological brother, said he encouraged a series of recent
newspaper articles criticizing bureaucracy and corruption in the food
The one-day session discussed high food prices and deficiencies in
housing and public transport, the three main complaints among Cubans.
Cubans stand for hours waiting for packed buses, some of them wagons
pulled by trucks, and many live in dilapidated houses, often crowded
with more than one family.
Raul Castro said it was "inexplicable" how bureaucratic hurdles had held
up payments to peasant cooperatives that produce 65 percent of Cuba's food.
The younger Castro has criticized state inefficiencies in the past, but
now he is effectively running the country. He is said to favor reforms
easing state controls over the economy.
Raul Castro said his brother was continuing to recover from an
Fidel Castro, in power since a 1959 revolution, has not been seen in
public since July 26. His prolonged absence has fueled speculation that
he is dying and uncertainty about Cuba's future.
The low-key Raul Castro, who has spent most of his life in the shadow of
his larger-than-life brother, said he will govern in a more collegiate way.
Last week, in an address to university student leaders, he stressed the
need for debate and disagreement to improve decision-making.
There is also a difference in style between the two men.
The low-key Raul Castro's practical approach to Cuba's economic problems
contrasted with that of his more famous brother, who ran Cuba with
hours-long meandering speeches that focused less on solving domestic
problems and more on attacking his ideological enemy the United States
and defending the rights of Third World countries.
Raul Castro also called for more debate and self-criticism to deal with
the many problems facing the country and said the state-run press had an
important role to play, the ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma
Cuba posted a record 12.5 percent growth rate for the year, using a
unique method of calculation that adds free education, medical care and
other social services provided by the state.
But officials said the island nation of 11 million has still not
recovered fully from the severe crisis it suffered since the collapse of
its benefactor the Soviet Union in 1991.
© Reuters 2006.