Sunday, February 24, 2008

Same Regime, New Face

  • Raúl Castro Named Cuba’s New President

  • Published: February 24, 2008
  • HAVANA — Raúl Castro, who has labored in the shadow of his brother Fidel since the days of the Cuban revolution, became the new president of the Communist island on Sunday, ending his brother’s 49-year rule, as well as speculation that a younger generation would take power.

Umm, just curious, how "young" is Raúl?
  • In his first words as president, Mr. Castro made it clear that any changes would be limited, promising to continue to consult his brother on every important decision. He said his brother was still alive and alert, and the time had yet to come when the leaders of the revolution in the 1950s had to pass the baton to a new generation.
  • “Fidel is Fidel, you know that well,” he said to the National Assembly shortly after it voted him president. “He is irreplaceable and the people will continue his work even though he is not physically here.”
  • Raúl Castro said the government needed to change to survive in the new era. He proposed putting more power in the hands of provincial governments and streamlining the bureaucracy in Havana. “Today a more compact structure is required,” he said.
A good change would be giving more power to the people.
  • Carlos Lage, a 56-year-old physician close to the elder Castro who engineered the economy after Soviet aid dried up in the 1990s, remains in the same role he had before, one of five vice presidents.
How many vice presidents do they need? Sounds like too many chiefs and not enough indians.
  • The ballot before the Assembly contained 31 names for the top positions in the country, among them president, minister of interior and minister of the armed forces. The delegates have no choice, since there is only one name for each position. The candidates were not immediately made public.
  • Perhaps the most important challenge facing the new president is the struggling economy. During his stint as acting president since 2006, Raúl Castro raised expectations among Cubans that he might act to make it easier to earn a decent salary within the state-run system.
  • He has criticized the miserly state salaries as insufficient, and encouraged more public debate about the country’s problems. He has called for more productive farms and spoken of “structural changes” that he said were needed to revitalize the economy. So far, however, he has not followed these promises with actions.
  • The National Assembly was chosen last month in elections completely controlled by the Communist party, the only political organization permitted on this island of 11 million people. [more here]
Emphasis mine.

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