Reuters

Cubans have a new vehicle to express their opinions: letters to the editor of the ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma.

Letters for and against reforms under consideration by Cuba’s new President Raul Castro were published by Granma on Friday.

One writer called for the elimination of the dual currency system, a major source of complaint among Cubans, who are paid in Cuban pesos but must buy many consumer goods in Cuba’s hard currency Convertible pesos worth 24 times more.

Publication of the letter was a novelty in a country where the press is controlled by a one-party state that allows no independent media and has a record of suppressing dissent.

It follows a new trend of stimulating public debate started by Raul Castro since he took over running the government when his brother Fidel Castro fell ill in mid-2006. The older Castro has not appeared in public again and his brother was installed last month as Cuba’s first new leader in half a century.

Raul Castro has encouraged Cubans to speak out on the problems that need fixing in the inefficient economy he inherited from his brother.

The letters to the editor section began to appear last Friday in a larger edition of Granma with 16 pages instead of the usual eight.

“The idea is to show the public what people think. It is the people that will write the letter,” said a journalist at the newspaper, who asked not to be named.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Bill Trott)