Saturday, December 29, 2007

Cuba's Castro says no longer 'clings' to powe

Cuba's Castro says no longer 'clings' to power
By Reuters
Saturday December 29, 07:05 AM

HAVANA (Reuters) - Convalescing Cuban leader Fidel Castro sent a written
message to the National Assembly on Friday saying he had "clung" to
power in his younger days, but that life had taught him to change his

Castro, who handed over governance to his brother Raul after surgery in
July 2006, hinted last week he may give up his formal leadership in a
letter describing his duty as "not to hold to positions and less to
obstruct the path of younger people."

Cuba's National Assembly could formalize Castro's retirement as head of
state when it approves the members of the executive Council of State at
its new session in March.

Since falling ill, the 81-year-old Castro has only appeared in official
photographs and pre-taped videos and it is unclear whether he will
resume office. If he is too ill, the assembly may formally appoint Raul
Castro or someone else as successor.

"What the foreign press in Cuba have most reported in recent days has
been the phrase where I expressed ... that I am not a person who clings
to power. I could add that I was once, for the excesses of youth and
lack of conscience," Castro said in a statement read out at the assembly
session, where the younger Castro, 76, sat next to his brother's empty seat.

"What changed me, life itself, through the deepening of the thoughts of
(Cuban hero Jose) Marti and the classics of socialism," he wrote.

Castro has been nominated to run again for the assembly and his brother
says he is now well enough that party delegates back his running again
for an assembly seat, a requirement for holding the presidency.

He holds the posts of president of the Council of State and Council of
Ministers, and first secretary of the ruling Communist Party.

Cuba watchers say there has been a smooth transition of power under Raul
Castro. Some analysts say he is a more practical administrator who has
begun talking about a more open approach to handling the island's
economic problems.

In a landmark speech in July this year, Raul Castro, encouraged more
debate on the country's main problems and promised "structural changes"
in agriculture to ensure Cubans have more food as import costs rise.

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