Saturday, December 29, 2007

Raul Castro suggests liberalisation as Fidel hints at retirement

Raul Castro suggests liberalisation as Fidel hints at retirement
Saturday December 29, 05:11 PM

Havana, Dec 29 (DPA) Cuba's interim leader Raul Castro has suggested
that economic changes - though within a socialist system - could be on
the way, while his brother and long-time leader Fidel has again hinted
that he may soon leave office for good.

In a final session Friday of Cuba's National Assembly before
re-elections in January, Raul Castro said that 'excessive' government
intervention and prohibitions had led to some difficulties that would
have to be overcome.

Fidel Castro, in a letter read out to the assembly, said he was no
longer a 'person who clings to power', as he may have been in his
younger days. Last week he said he had no plans to block younger Cuban
leaders from taking over.

'My fundamental duty is not to cling on to office, and much less to
block the path of younger people,' he said in a letter read out on Cuban
television last week.

Castro fell ill and temporarily handed over power to his 76-year-old
brother Raul in the summer of 2006. He has not been seen in public
since, but has released videos and a number of statements and newspaper
articles commenting on policy.

Raul Castro, in a speech before the assembly, for the first time
suggested that some means of production could be opened up to those that
could operate them most efficiently, and highlighted the high prices of
basic foods as an issue that needed urgent attention.

He said that 'excessive prohibitions' had at times led to
'illegalities', but he insisted socialism remained the only system
'capable of overcoming the difficulties'.

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