Raul Castro urges transport plan
By Stephen Gibbs
BBC News, Havana
Cuba's acting President Raul Castro has said Cuba's transportation
system is practically on the point of collapse.
Speaking to members of the National Assembly, he also said there was "no
excuse" for many of the problems the communist-led island faces.
The comments, excerpts of which have been published in the Cuban state
media, are being seen as a marked change of style from his brother Fidel.
The veteran leader has not been seen in public since having surgery in July.
He did not attend the closed-door National Assembly meeting, amid
continued speculation over the state of his health.
"Tell it as it is," is what Raul Castro is reported to have urged
assembly members to do.
Almost five months into his acting presidency, the head of the Cuban
army is stamping his own style on the way this country is run.
The assembly meeting, which in the past has been dominated by lengthy,
sometimes meandering speeches by Fidel Castro, wrapped up in a single day.
Raul Castro said the revolution was tired of justifications. He said it
was "inexplicable" how bureaucracy was delaying payments to farmers, and
warned that simply buying thousands of new buses was no solution to
Cuba's transportation problems.
The younger Castro is also reported to have urged more debate and self
criticism in the media, which is entirely state run and has tended to
take a congratulatory tone.
Raul Castro is believed to be more open to the idea of economic reform
than his elder brother, but it is not yet clear whether he might be
heading down that path.
Nor is it known what is the current prognosis for Fidel Castro, who is
suffering from an unspecified gastric illness, and has been out of
public view for almost five months.
A Barcelona based newspaper, El Periodico, is reporting that a leading
Spanish surgeon, Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido, flew to Havana on Thursday to
treat the president. The paper says he brought with him medical
equipment not available in Cuba.
The Cuban government, which says Fidel Castro's health is a state
secret, has not commented on the report.
Mr Garcia Sabrido is believed to have been in Cuba last November, to
attend a conference on surgery. The programme for that conference lists
him delivering two lectures. One was one peritoneal cancer, the other
was on colonic cancer.
Unnamed US officials have been quoted in the US media saying they
believe President Castro is suffering from cancer. US Intelligence head
John Negroponte recently said it was his understanding that Mr Castro
had months, not years to live.
But the Cuban government last week told a group of 10 visiting
congressmen and women that the 80-year-old leader is not suffering from
cancer, or any other terminal illness, and that they are optimistic he
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/12/24 20:16:27 GMT