RAUL CASTRO PRESIDES UNDER SHADOW OF FIDEL
By James C. McKinley Jr.
New York Times
Article Launched: 07/27/2007 01:29:48 AM PDT
CAMAGUEY, Cuba - For the first time, Raul Castro, the acting president,
gave the traditional revolutionary speech during Cuba's most important
national holiday Thursday, deepening the widespread feeling that his
brother Fidel has slipped into semi-retirement and is unlikely to return.
Yet Cuba continues to live in a kind of limbo, with neither brother
fully in control of the one-party socialist state.
Last year, Fidel Castro, the once all-powerful leader, led thousands of
Cuba's Communist Party faithful in enthusiastic cheers to celebrate the
guerrilla attacks on army barracks that sparked his revolution a half
century ago. It was the last time he was seen in public.
That night, after two long speeches, the gaunt 80-year-old leader
suffered an acute infection and bleeding in his colon from which he has
yet to recover. Five days later, he handed over power to his brother and
a small group of Cabinet officials on a temporary basis.
Since then, Cubans have lived under two masters - the elder Castro,
ailing but still very much alive, and his younger brother, the longtime
defense minister, who is not free to make significant changes.
"The question is why hasn't there been more dramatic changes," said
Manuel Cuesta Morua, a moderate opposition leader. "The answer is Fidel
Castro continues to govern."
Since the Communist Party has not officially replaced Fidel Castro as
the head of state, his presence in the wings and his
towering history here continue to exert a strong influence in Cuban
politics. That has made it difficult for Raul to shake up the island's
centralized Soviet-style economy, experts on Cuban politics said, though
Raul's public remarks Thursday made it clear he would like to.
He scolded the nation for having to import food when it possesses an
abundance of rich land and vowed to boost agricultural production. He
also said Cuba was seeking ways to secure more foreign investment in
industries, without abandoning socialism.
"No one, no individual or country, can afford to spend more than what
they have," he said. "It seems elementary, but we do not always think
and act in accordance with this inescapable reality. To have more, we
have to begin producing more."
Castro spoke before a subdued crowd of about 100,000 people, most
dressed in red T-shirts and waving tiny Cuban flags. The celebration is
Cuba's most important national holiday, commemorating the July 26, 1953,
attack by both Castros and a ragtag group of guerrillas on the Moncada
army barracks in the eastern city of Santiago. The attack ended in
disaster but marked the birth of the rebellion that eventually ousted
Fulgencio Batista in January 1959.
Raul Castro's hourlong speech was studded with references to his
charismatic brother's sayings. He ended the talk with one of Fidel
Castro's famous quotes about the nature of a socialist revolution, a
passage the crowd mumbled along with him, like a prayer.