Sunday, July 27, 2008

Raul Castro warns Cubans to prepare for economic downturn

Raul Castro warns Cubans to prepare for economic downturn

Cubans have been warned to prepare for tough times ahead as the island
becomes the latest victim of the global economic downturn.
By Fiona Govan
Last Updated: 3:06PM BST 27 Jul 2008

President Raul Castro on Saturday used a speech to mark the 55th
anniversary of the communist uprising to warn that rising fuel and food
prices would take their toll on the nation.

"We must bear in mind that we are living in the midst of a true world
crisis which is not only economic but also related to climate change,
the irrational use of energy and a great number of other problems," he said.

Mr Castro, 77, who officially took over from his ailing older brother,
Fidel, in February, had been expected to use the speech on Cuba's
national holiday to announce changes to economic policy but instead
chose to prepare his people for difficulties ahead.

"Regardless of our great wishes to solve every problem, we cannot spend
in excess of what we have," he told a ten thousand strong crowd in the
Caribbean island's second city Santiago de Cuba.

But he said the country would continue to build its defences against any
threatened invasion by the US.

"Preparations to defend the country are going well," said Mr Castro, who
is the nation's top ranking general and was minister of the armed forces
for nearly 50 years.

"We shall continue paying special attention to defence, regardless of
the results of the next presidential elections in the United States," he

The Rebellion Day celebrations two years ago were the last public event
at which Fidel Castro, 81, was seen before he underwent emergency
intestinal surgery from which he has never fully recovered.

Since taking over, the younger Castro has eased restrictions and vowed
to change the egalitarian wage system, but opponents to the regime
dismiss the reforms as "cosmetic".

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