[Marxism] Raul Castro urges students to debate 'fearlessly'

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Dec 22 07:14:38 MST 2006


Raul Castro Urges Students to Debate 'Fearlessly'

By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, December 22, 2006; A21

MEXICO CITY, Dec. 21 -- Raul Castro has set a surprising new tone for Cuban 
politics, telling university students in Havana that they should debate 
"fearlessly" and bring their concerns directly to him.

Castro's remarks, published Thursday by the Communist Party newspaper, 
Granma, are the clearest indication yet of how he might reshape Cuba after 
the death of his ailing brother, Fidel Castro. Raul Castro told the 
students that his brother is "irreplaceable."

"Fidel cannot be replaced unless all of us replace him together, each in 
his or her own place, carrying out his or her concrete task," Raul Castro 
was quoted as saying. "Only the Communist Party of Cuba can replace Fidel."

Raul Castro, who is Cuba's defense minister, tempered his remarks by 
telling the students that a "unified command" is a key military principle, 
but "that doesn't mean that discussions can't happen."

The notion of freewheeling political debate is almost unheard-of in Cuba, 
where many residents fear repercussions if they criticize the government. 
But it is not without precedent. At one time, Raul Castro encouraged open 
debate, including criticism of the government, at Cuba's military college. 
Such debate has been reined in over recent years, but some experts say they 
think Raul Castro could one day introduce a similar system of free speech 
in Cuban society.

"It's true that Raul Castro has tried over the years to open spaces for 
conversation," Jorge Dom?nguez, a Mexican political analyst who has written 
extensively about Cuba, said in an interview from Harvard University, where 
he is teaching this winter.

Granma articles are often used as propaganda vehicles by the Cuban 
government. Analysts said the article featuring Raul Castro's remarks 
appeared to address the perception that he is cold and uncharismatic, 
noting that he delivered his remarks with "customary joviality" and "shared 
anecdotes" about his childhood.

"That's important," Dom?nguez said. "He doesn't speak well, and he doesn't 
look good on television, but Raul Castro is a very likable person in small 
groups."

Raul Castro, who has been Cuba's acting president since his brother's July 
31 intestinal surgery, also seemed to be defining himself and, more 
important, distinguishing himself from his brother. Granma reported that he 
told the students he would not follow his brother's example and deliver an 
extensive speech at a convention of the University Student Federation.

Although Fidel Castro appointed his brother interim president, Raul Castro 
still seems reluctant to seize the official mantle of power while his 
brother is alive. The Granma article refers to him as the leader of Cuba's 
military, the second secretary of the Communist Party and the first vice 
president of the state council. But it never calls him president.

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