Raul Castro said he will delegate more and speak less than his “irreplaceable” brother Fidel and, in comments published today, may be a signal that a new leadership style might include more openness to divergent opinions.
The Communist Party newspaper Granma said Raul Castro, who took over as Cuba’s provisional president almost five months ago after his brother underwent emergency surgery, told about 800 university leaders they should “fearlessly” engage in public debate and analysis – expressing a different leadership style than that of his 80-year-old brother.
The elder Castro, who underwent emergency intestinal surgery in July, was Cuba’s “Maximum Leader” for almost five decades, characterized by meandering, hours-long speeches, unquestioned decisions and micro-management of government programs and policies.
The younger Castro said that as Cuba’s long-serving defense minister he had learned to listen to and discuss differing ideas.
Raul Castro is largely seen as a pragmatist more likely to embrace limited free enterprise than his brother, and in the past has expressed interest in China’s model of capitalist reform with one-party political control.
“The first principle in constructing any armed forces is the sole command. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot discuss,” he said. “That way we reach decisions, and I’m talking about big decisions.”
Raul Castro also echoed his earlier insistence that neither he nor any individual could replace his brother. Although some Cuban officials have insisted Fidel Castro will return to power, they privately acknowledge that it is unlikely he will come back in the same all-powerful role.
“Fidel is irreplaceable, save that we all replace him together, each one in his place,” Granma quoted Raul Castro as telling the closing session of Cuba’s University Student Federation annual congress. “The only substitute for Fidel can be the Communist Party of Cuba.”
The 75-year-old Raul Castro also spoke of the need to promote younger people to start taking over for Cuba’s aging leaders, many of whom are now in their 70s.
“We are finishing up the fulfillment of our duties and there has to be a slow opening up to the new generations,” he said.
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