Fidel Castro denies split in Cuban government
Posted: 23 June 2008 1539 hrs
HAVANA: Fidel Castro has strongly denied rumours that he is the leader
of a faction of hardline Communists disgruntled about reforms introduced
in Cuba since his brother Raul took over as president.
"I am not now, nor will I ever be at the head of any group or faction.
Therefore, it can't follow that there is infighting in the party,"
Castro said in commentary appearing on the official Cubadebate website.
While the ailing 81-year-old former president did not explain what
prompted his comment, which he expressly requested not be published in
newspapers, it followed his scathing attack on Friday on the European
Union's decision a day earlier to lift its sanctions on Cuba.
Fidel branded the EU's decision "a great hypocrisy" because it is
conditioned on human rights progress and democratic reforms in Cuba, and
also in view of the "brutal" immigration law it passed a few days
earlier that made illegal immigration a crime.
Raul Castro, who officially took office on February 24, has been de
facto ruler since late July 2006 when Fidel was sidelined with serious
Dissident and opposition groups see discrepancies between Fidel Castro's
writings and the government's recent reforms, although any official will
insist the Castro brothers, while different, toe the same political line.
"I write because I'm still in the struggle, and I do so to uphold the
beliefs I've defended all my life," Fidel Castro wrote in Cubadebate
under the headline, "Reflections from comrade Fidel."
Since February Raul Castro, 77, has allowed Cubans to buy computers, own
mobile telephones, rent cars and spend nights in hotels previously only
accessible to foreigners – if they can afford such luxuries.
In the latest reform move, Raul Castro announced this month that the
government was scrapping salary caps long meant to underscore
egalitarianism but which his administration says hurt productivity.
Raul Castro also has implemented reforms that give farmers better pay
and more flexibility to buy farming equipment, a move designed to lessen
the impact of the world food crisis.
The younger Castro brother also has commuted 30 death sentences,
released some political prisoners, and signed human rights accords.
Television has fewer taboos and Granma, the venerable Communist Party
mouthpiece, even has taken to publishing grievances from residents.
Fidel has not been seen in public, albeit in photographs and videoclips,
since he underwent gastrointestinal surgery in July 2006. However, he
has written his musings every week in official newspapers and websites.
Raul Castro, for his part, has said he consults his brother Fidel "on
all special, transcendental decisions" for the country.