Castro: Cubans should prepare for 'realistic' brand of communism
Posted 1d 11h ago
HAVANA (AP) — President Raul Castro warned Cubans on Friday to prepare
for a "realistic" brand of communism that is economically viable and
does away with excessive state subsidies designed to promote equality on
Addressing Cuba's parliament in its first session since lawmakers
selected him to succeed his older brother Fidel in February, Raul Castro
announced no major reforms, but suggested that global economic
turbulence could lead to further belt-tightening on the island.
"Socialism means social justice and equality, but equality of rights, of
opportunities, not of income," the 77-year-old president said in a
speech that was taped and later aired on national television. "Equality
is not egalitarianism."
That sentiment marks a break with his brother, who spent decades saying
Cuba was building an egalitarian society. But the new president
nevertheless ended by proclaiming he had "learned everything" from
Fidel, drawing a standing ovation.
Since succeeding his brother, Raul Castro has authorized Cubans to
legally purchase computers, stay in luxury hotels and obtain cellphones
in their own names. His government has raised some salaries and done
away with wage limits, allowing state workers to earn more for better
Cuba's rubber-stamp parliament convenes for only for a few hours twice a
year and rumors were rampant that Friday's session would see an easing
of restrictions on travel abroad or a strengthening of wages by
increasing the value of the peso, worth about 21-1 against the U.S. dollar.
The government controls well over 90% of the economy and the average
salary is just 408 pesos per month, US$19.50, though most Cubans get
free housing, health care, education and ration cards that cover basic
Castro said that in "the matter of salaries, we'd all like to go faster,
but it's necessary for us to act with realism."
"The situation could even get worse," he said of the global economy. "We
will continue to do what's within our reach so that a series of
adversities have less effect on our people, but some impact is
inevitable in certain products and sectors."
Economy Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez said this week that skyrocketing
global food and oil prices would cause "inevitable adjustments and
restrictions" for Cuba's economy.
Castro said he supported a proposal to gradually push back the
retirement age five years, to 65 for men and 60 for women. The move,
which parliament plans to vote on in December, is part of an effort to
soften the blow of a disproportionately elderly work force.
Castro acknowledged shortages that plague Cubans, but said "we have to
be conscious that each increase in salary that is approved or price that
is subsidized adhere to economic reality."
He also shot back at U.S. officials who have dismissed the small changes
he has overseen in Cuba as meaningless.
"Faced with the measures adopted lately in our country, some official in
the United States comes out immediately, from a spokesman to the
president, to brand them 'insufficient' or 'cosmetic,"' Castro said.
"Although no one here asked their opinion, I reiterate that we will
never make any decision, not even the smallest one, as a result of
pressure or blackmail."
For the fourth straight parliamentary session, Raul Castro sat next to
an empty chair set aside for his ailing brother.
The elder Castro, who turns 82 next month, has not been seen in public
since undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006.