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Fidel latest to say Cuba's communism doesn't work

Posted on Wednesday, 09.08.10
Fidel latest to say Cuba's communism doesn't work
Associated Press Writer

HAVANA — Cuba's communist economic model has come in for criticism from
an unlikely source: .

The revolutionary leader told a visiting American journalist and a
U.S.-Cuba policy expert that the island's state-dominated system is in
need of change, a rare comment on domestic affairs from a man who has
taken pains to steer clear of local issues since illness forced him to
step down as president four years ago.

The fact that things are not working efficiently on this cash-strapped
Caribbean island is hardly news. Fidel's brother Raul, the country's
president, has said the same thing repeatedly. But the blunt assessment
by the father of Cuba's 1959 revolution is sure to raise eyebrows.

Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine,
asked Castro if Cuba's economic system was still worth exporting to
other countries, and Castro replied: "The Cuban model doesn't even work
for us anymore," Goldberg wrote Wednesday in a post on his Atlantic blog.

The Cuban government had no immediate comment on Goldberg's account.

Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Washington-based Council on Foreign
Relations who accompanied Goldberg on the trip, confirmed the Cuban
leader's comment, which he made at a private lunch last week.

She told The Associated Press she took the remark to be in line with
's call for gradual but widespread reform.

"It sounded consistent with the general consensus in the country now, up
to and including his brother's position," Sweig said.

In general, she said she found the 84-year-old Castro to be "relaxed,
witty, conversational and quite accessible."

"He has a new lease on life, and he is taking advantage of it," Sweig said.

Castro stepped down temporarily in July 2006 due to a serious illness
that nearly killed him.

He resigned permanently two years later, but remains head of the
Communist Party. After staying almost entirely out of the spotlight for
four years, he re-emerged in July and now speaks frequently about
international affairs. He has been warning for weeks of the threat of a
nuclear war over Iran.

But the ex-president has said very little about Cuba and its politics,
perhaps to limit the perception he is stepping on his brother's toes.

Goldberg, who traveled to Cuba at Castro's invitation last week to
discuss a recent Atlantic article he wrote about Iran's nuclear program,
also reported on Tuesday that Castro questioned his own actions during
the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, including his recommendation to Soviet
leaders that they use nuclear weapons against the United States.

Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba has clung to its communist

The state controls well over 90 percent of the economy, paying workers
salaries of about $20 a month in return for free health care and
education, and nearly free transportation and housing. At least a
portion of every citizen's food needs are sold to them through ration
books at heavily subsidized prices.

Cuba says much of its suffering is caused by the 48-year-old U.S. trade
. The economy has also been slammed by the global economic
downturn, a drop in nickel prices and the fallout from three devastating
hurricanes that hit in quick succession in 2008. Corruption and
inefficiency have exacerbated problems.

As president, Raul Castro has instituted a series of limited economic
reforms, and has warned Cubans that they need to start working harder
and expecting less from the government. But the president has also made
it clear he has no desire to depart from Cuba's socialist system or
embrace capitalism.

Fidel Castro's interview with Goldberg is the only one he has given to
an American journalist since he left office.


Goldberg blog:

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