Cuba will stay socialist, insists Raul Castro
President says softened US stance will not lead to radical change
theguardian.com, Sunday 2 August 2009 11.50 BST
Raul Castro yesterday acknowledged that the US has softened its rhetoric
towards Cuba under Barack Obama but insisted that the island would
remain a socialist country even after the death of its revolutionary
The former defence minister, who succeeded his ailing brother Fidel as
president last year, repeated his willingness to discuss all issues with
the US but vowed that Cuba would not see fundamental change even after
he and his older brother were gone.
“I was elected to defend, maintain and continue perfecting socialism,
not destroy it. We are ready to talk about everything, but … not to
negotiate our political and social system,” Castro told the Cuban
national assembly to a long standing ovation.
As for those who thought that Cuba’s political system would crumble
after “the death of Fidel and all of us”, Castro said: “If that’s how
they think, they are doomed to failure.”
Obama has said he wants to improve relations with Cuba – as with Iran.
He has relaxed the 47-year-old US embargo by allowing Cuban-Americans to
travel and send money freely to the island 90 miles from Key West,
Florida, and has reopened immigration talks with the Cuban government
that were suspended by his predecessor, George Bush.
In another conciliatory gesture, the US recently turned off a news
ticker on the US interests section in Havana that Cuba viewed as a
But Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, have said further
improvements depend on Cuba making progress on human rights.
In much of yesterday’s speech, Castro gave a bleak overview of the
economy, saying the government had cut its budget for the second time
this year because of the country’s worst financial crisis since the
1990s. Conditions are so bad that the authorities on Friday postponed a
Communist party congress that would have been the first of its kind in
Castro said the economy, hit by the global financial crisis and three
hurricanes last year, grew just 0.8% in the first half of 2009. He said
growth of 1.7% was expected for the full year.
As combined economic shocks reduced income from exports and boosted
spending on imports of food and other items, Castro held out the
prospect of cuts in Cuba’s admired healthcare system. Healthcare, along
with free education through university, subsidised housing and food
provided on a monthly ration system, forms the basis of Cuba’s socialist
Castro’s biggest reform has been the decentralisation of decision-making
in agriculture and putting more land in the hands of private farmers to
increase food production. He has also pushed for Cubans to be paid based
on their production, to create incentives for them to work harder.
In the fight against corruption which he says is choking the Cuban
economy, Castro has created a comptroller general’s office, with powers
to audit and control all government and economic activities.
Source: “Cuba will stay socialist, insists Raul Castro | World news |