Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Raul Castro: Fidel is stronger, should be parliament candidate

Raul Castro: Fidel is stronger, should be parliament candidate
Posted on Tue, Dec. 25, 2007
Associated Press Writer

Fidel Castro remains on the mend, gaining weight, exercising twice a day
and continuing to help make the Cuban government's top decisions, his
brother Raul Castro says.

The island's acting president gave the first clues about his brother's
health in weeks, saying during a Monday speech that he has a "healthier
mentality, full use of his mental faculties with some small physical

At 76, Raul is five years younger than his ailing brother, who has not
been seen in public since announcing he had undergone emergency
intestinal surgery and was stepping down in favor of a provisional
government in July 2006.

But the younger Castro said his brother remains a key voice in
government and that Communist Party leaders support his re-election to
Cuba's parliament, the National Assembly - a move that could allow Fidel
Castro to keep his post as president of the Council of State.

"We consult him on principal matters, that is why we the leaders of the
party defend his right to run again as deputy of the National Assembly
as a first step," Raul Castro said.

Though Fidel Castro's condition and even his exact illness are state
secrets, he has officially retained his post atop Cuba's supreme
governing body, the Council of State. Parliamentary elections take place
Jan. 20.

Last week, the older Castro suggested he would not cling to power
forever, nor stand in the way of a younger generations of leaders. It
was the first time he hinted at his political future since falling ill,
though Raul's comments Monday could indicate his brother has no
intention of retiring permanently.

Through daily exercise, Fidel "has recovered a lot of weight and muscle
mass," he said, speaking to voters in Fidel's voting district in
Santiago, an eastern city where the brothers spent part of their youth.
He said Fidel asked him to visit voters and trump up support for him
because he was unable to personally.

In afternoon remarks that were carried nationwide on Cuban state
television Monday evening, Raul said his brother "has more time, he's
reading more than ever. He's meditating more than ever and writing
almost more than ever."

Speaking of Cuba's electoral system, Raul Castro noted that U.S.
democracy pits two identical parties against one another, and joked that
a choice between a Republican and Democrat is like choosing between
himself and his brother Fidel.

"We could say in Cuba we have two parties: one led by Fidel and one led
by Raul, what would be the difference?" he asked. "That's the same thing
that happens in the United States ... both are the same. Fidel is a
little taller than me, he has a beard and I don't."

Raul scoffed at the notion Cuba needs to be more like the U.S. But he
also acknowledged that the island's communist government has its flaws,
saying "our system has to become more democratized."

But he did not elaborate on what a more democratic Cuba might look like.

"I want to say this: If we only have one party that represents the
interests of the people, where we can have differences, we should have
them," he said. "Not class clashes, but it's good to have differences."

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