Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Castro recycles '60 speech

Castro recycles '60 speech
Severance packages outlined by paper, not leaders
By Combined dispatches
7:58 p.m., Tuesday, September 28, 2010

HAVANA | Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro accused the U.S. of
warmongering and capitalistic excesses on Tuesday, using rhetoric from a
50-year-old speech, as the island nation's communist government provided
details about severance packages for state workers facing massive
layoffs over the next six months.

Speaking before a crowd of 20,000 in front of Cuba's former presidential
palace, Mr. Castro, 84, marked the 50th anniversary of the creation of
his country's neighborhood vigilance system by quoting extensively from
a speech he delivered at the same location on Sept. 28, 1960.

The ailing orator spoke of Cuba's moral superiority and U.S. cowardice
using the same words from his 1960 speech, then warned of an apocalyptic
future of nuclear war and environmental destruction with capitalism and
its chief proponent, the United States, as the primary culprits.

"The world has to know — if you see the theories they have, the plans
they have and the military doctrines they have, it would make your blood
run cold," said Mr. Castro, who reappeared in July after a four-year
absence because of a serious illness that forced him to hand power to
his brother Raul.

Meanwhile, the Cuban government was trying to reassure a jittery public
that nobody will be left defenseless amid the country's historic
economic reboot, which entails laying off 500,000 state workers.

Under a severance plan revealed Tuesday, many of those who are fired
will receive an offer of alternative work, and can appeal to labor
authorities if they are not happy with it.

For those who cannot find work immediately, the state will pay severance
of 60 percent of their salary for up to three months, depending on their
seniority, according to an article in the Communist Party newspaper Granma.

"Cuba will leave no one defenseless," reads the red-letter headline
above the article.

The newspaper has been the preferred conduit of information on the most
sweeping economic changes in Cuba since the early 1990s. No senior Cuban
official, including President Raul Castro, has spoken publicly about the
layoffs since they were announced on Sept. 14.

It was not clear what will happen to workers after the three-month
severance period has ended. Many outside economists and Cuba analysts
have expressed doubts that the private sector will be able to absorb so
many workers — one-tenth of the island's labor force — in such a short time.

Mixed among his anti-U.S. comments, Fidel Castro alluded at one point to
Cuba's economic problems, referring to "errors committed in every
revolution" that have led to declines in productivity.

Raul Castro, who took office officially in 2008, earlier this year
unveiled plans to get 500,000 workers off state payrolls and triple the
size of Cuba's small private sector to stimulate the economy.

When it first announced the layoffs, Cuba said it also was reforming the
economy to allow for more private enterprise. Since then, the government
has said it would encourage a wide range of small businesses, allow
islanders to hire employees not related to them and give credit to new

The changes have been welcomed by many, but there is also fear that they
will cause upheaval in a nation where people are not accustomed to
fending for themselves.

Cuba's communist government employs about 84 percent of the work force.
It pays workers about $20 a month in return for free education and
health care, and nearly free housing, transportation and basic food.

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