Friday, April 18, 2008

Fidel: I don't like recent reforms

Miami Herald
[links to Cuban papers in original article]

Posted on Thu, Apr. 17, 2008
Fidel: I don't like recent reforms
Not even two months into his brother Raúl Castro's reign in Cuba, Fidel Castro has openly expressed displeasure with supporters of economic and societal reforms. Fidel Castro formally gave up power Feb. 24 after more than a year and a half in his sick bed, but continues to write newspaper editorials. His latest missive is a direct attack on a column published in one of Cuba's state run newspapers, which suggested that the lastest series of reforms launched by Raúl Castro are a step toward progress.

Although Castro has written slight barbs at his brother's policies before, it was the first reference to a recent string of reforms recently enacted that reversed years of Castro regulations.

In a column published Wednesday in Granma, the Communist Party daily, the former Cuban leader chided those who seek changes to avoid a repetition of the ''special period'' of retrenchment in Cuba that followed the demise of the socialist bloc.

In the article, titled ''Do not make concessions to enemy ideology,'' Castro wrote that ``People must be very careful with everything they say, so as not to play the game of enemy ideology. They cannot blame the Special Period for the system that imperialism has imposed upon the world. [...] The Special Period was the inevitable consequence of the disappearance of the USSR, which lost the ideological battle and led us to a stage of heroic resistance from which we still have not wholly emerged.''

Cuba's ''special period'' was the term given to the period of widespread shortages that came after the fall of the Soviet Union. Reforms like allowing the U.S. dollar and some private business also followed to help address the economic crisis.

Since Raúl Castro took over Feb. 24, he has launched a series of new minor but symbolically important reforms such as allowing Cubans to stay in hotels, buy cellular phones and computers.

Last week, the government announced it would allow longtime tenants of government housing to obtain property titles and pass them on to heirs.

In what may have been veiled advice to reformers, Castro wrote: ``Meditate hard on what you say, what you affirm, so you don't make shameful concessions.''

The article, Castro said, was written ``after listening to a public comment disseminated by one of the Revolution's mass media, which I shall not mention specifically.''

He appears to be taking a direct jab at an article published Friday in the Havana daily Rebel Youth, written by senior columnist Luis Sexto.

Titled Going in reverse is not going forward, it refers to the concessions -- the adjustments -- Cuba had to make after it lost the economic backing of the Soviet Union.

Concessions are not necessarily bad, Sexto implied. The word should be redefined.

''For example, if the experience accumulated in our deteriorating circumstances indicates that big agricultural companies are not recommended and that [...] family or individual labor be cooperatized or encouraged, why should we insist on that which does not prosper or that which needs an excess of resources for completion?'' Sexto wrote.

'Is a 'concession' a step backward?'' he wrote. ``...Of course, the man who is accustomed to issue dictates from his office or from his Jeep -- what to sow, how to harvest -- may be distressed to see producers gaining autonomy, gaining the ability to make their own decisions.''

A ''step backward,'' he said, is often ''promotes movement'' and can be considered progress.

Miami Herald correspondent Frances Robles contributed to this report.

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