Yet another ass kissing article from AP Anita Snow
Posted: 17 September 2007 08:38 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Wow. I feel dirty reading this article and feel bad for Ms. Snow now that she has finished her training at the Granma school of journalism.

Raśl Castro focuses on small steps
Quality of Cubans’ lives tops agenda

By Anita Snow, Associated Press |  September 16, 2007

HAVANA - With Raśl Castro in charge, Cuba has raised payments to milk and meat producers, is paying off its debts to farmers, and has stopped blocking the import of parts needed to keep vintage cars rumbling along.
Travelers can even bring in DVD players and game consoles, highly coveted by Cubans starved for high-tech entertainment.

Raśl’s ailing brother, Fidel, is still showing leadership behind the scenes, and as provisional president, he has only taken small steps. But he’s already giving clues to how he might govern once he takes full control - paying special attention to quality-of-life problems, publicly scolding state managers, and acknowledging that salaries don’t cover basic needs.

The new Chinese buses on intercity routes are evidence of the Raśl effect. They were in the planning before Fidel got sick, but they have become much more visible since Raśl said in a speech last year that he was sick of hearing bureaucrats’ excuses and he wanted results.

To boost food production, lawmakers agreed in June to pay producers 2.5 times more for milk and meat included in the island’s heavily subsidized ration program and in meals provided at similarly low-cost workplace cafeterias, schools, hospitals, and community centers. The prices consumers pay will remain the same.

At the same gathering National Assembly members were told that the state had just paid off debts worth $23 million to the small farmers and cooperatives that grow two-thirds of the island’s fruits and vegetables, and renegotiated $35 million in other debts.

The change is evident in style, too. Where a Fidel speech could devote hours to communism, his brother’s oratory is much more short and direct, and Cubans love his public attacks on government failures.

But 76-year-old Raśl is only a caretaker president, and officials insist that 81-year-old Fidel will be back. And as long as Fidel is alive, no one thinks Raśl will dare to make big moves that could annoy the older brother he has loved and admired since they were boys.

Thomas Fingar, the US deputy director of national intelligence, told the US Congress in June that while the Cuban public has high expectations of improvement, “Significant, positive political change is unlikely immediately.”

As caretaker president, Raśl has “very limited running room,” said Cuba analyst Phil Peters of the Lexington Institute, a prodemocracy think tank outside Washington. “He seems to be looking for small practical things that can make Cubans’ lives easier.”

Cuban exiles in Miami are consumed with rumors that Fidel is dying or dead. But Cubans on the island rarely mention him nowadays - they’re already more focused on what Raśl will do.

They were pleased to hear him confirm on television that state salaries fail to cover basic necessities, and some even cheered when Raśl delivered a slap at inefficient state managers by commenting sardonically about government farms infested with a fast-growing, thorny bush called marabu.

They nodded knowingly as Raśl publicly questioned why all Cubans aren’t guaranteed milk in their monthly food rations, not just children under 7. They also noticed that the milk comment was dropped from the official transcript of the televised speech.

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