ReutersBy Nelson Acosta | Reuters
CIEGO DE AVILA, Cuba (Reuters) - Cuba is pressing ahead with plans to
revamp its economy and fine tune its one party political system, but it
will take time, Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura said on
Tuesday in a nationally televised address.
His remarks came on one of the biggest days of Cuba's political
calendar. The communist-ruled island was marking the anniversary of the
1953 attack led by Fidel Castro on the Moncada army barracks in the city
of Santiago de Cuba that started the Cuban Revolution.
Machado's speech was the first by a top Cuban leader since April, when a
Communist Party Congress approved a comprehensive plan to move the
Soviet-style economic system in a more market-oriented direction and
allow Cubans more personal freedoms.
The plan would create a large "non-state" sector in agriculture, retail
services, construction and transportation in a land where the government
has monopolized all economic activity.
The Cuban state would also move from subsidizing just about everything
to targeted welfare and loosen its grip on state companies.
President Raul Castro announced at the April Congress plans to establish
term limits and in other ways try to improve the political system.
"You can be sure we are going forward without haste or pause, working
systematically and in an coordinated fashion," Machado said in the
central province of Ciego de Avila, where festivities for "The Day of
the Rebel" were held.
Cubans are pressing for quick adoption of measures allowing them to buy
and sell homes and cars for the first time in 50 years and improving
food production and distribution, but not others that would eliminate
gratuities such as a food ration and cut the state labor force by 20
"SOLUTIONS TO OLD PROBLEMS"
But Machado urged patience due to the long-term implications of reform.
"We are not taking half measures nor improvising, but looking for
definitive solutions to old problems," he said.
Machado, 81, repeatedly called on Cubans to work harder and in a more
organized manner to overcome the economic crisis gripping the country.
He also urged workers and administrators to eliminate "labor and social
indiscipline, deficient accounting, poor use of resources and
bureaucratic attitudes," among other ills affecting economic activity.
"The mentality of doing nothing, of waiting for something to come down
from above, has to be definitively broken," he said, apparently
referring to the bureaucratic malaise affecting the country.
For a second consecutive year, President Raul Castro, 80, dressed in a
white Guayabera and dark slacks, and with a straw hat atop his brow, did
not speak at the event.
Castro is expected to deliver a major speech to the National Assembly
The July 26, 1953, assault on the Moncada barracks failed and many young
rebels were killed. But it marked the beginning of the end for the
government of U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, who fled the
country on January 1, 1959.
Fidel Castro choose July 26 as the annual date to deliver what amounted
to a State of the Union speech, emphasizing the revolution and role of
the Communist Party.
He was hospitalized after delivering two long speeches on the
anniversary in 2006 and ceded power to his brother Raul a few days later.
(Additional reporting by Rosa Tania Valdes; Writing by Marc Frank;
Editing by Tom Brown and Philip Barbara)