HAVANA TIMES (dpa) — Cuban President Raul Castro said on Friday that economic reforms on the island are proceeding “steadily” and that these will begin to “delve into issues of broader scope, complexity and depth.”
In his closing speech before the Cuban Parliament, 81-year-old Raul Castro gave a positive assessment of the progress that has been made in applying the new economic reform “guidelines.”
In recent years Raul Castro’s government has carried out a gradual reform process to “update” the island’s economic system by including market elements.
In recent years, measures have included the partial liberalization of sales of real estate and automobiles, after decades of restrictions, and the authorizations of several types of private businesses.
“We value the fact that the updating the Cuban economic model — after the initial steps of removing restrictions and other obstacles to the development of productive forces — is marching steadily forward and is beginning to delve into issues of broader scope, complexity and depth,” cited Cuba’s Prensa Latina news agency during Castro’s speech.
The president also announced that next year there will be experiments applying “modern management techniques” at government-owned enterprises. In addition to the authorization of some private enterprises, the younger Castro has called for more efficient management of the Cuban state economy since he took power.
He also assured that his government was “continuing its analysis” of mechanisms to end the island’s dual currency, a system that has been in existence since the 1990s.
Along with the devalued Cuban “national peso,” there exists the “convertible peso” (CUC), which is the official currency and roughly equivalent to the US dollar. Government sector wages are paid in Cuban pesos, which are of 24 times less value when exchanged for convertible pesos.
In his speech, the Cuban leader mentioned publically for the first time that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is being treated on the island for cancer and that the Colombian peace process is taking place in Havana.
“In this crucial hour for Venezuela and for ‘Our America’, we will — as always— stand by President Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution,” Castro said.
On Tuesday in Havana, Chavez underwent his fourth cancer operation in 18 months amid growing fears about the severity of his disease.
At the same time, the Cuban president said his country will continue to support the peace talks taking place between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
“In a prudent and discreet manner, we will continue to provide full support for the peace process in Colombia,” said Castro. This past October 19, the peace delegations of the Juan Manuel Santos government and FARC permanently moved their negotiating table to Havana.
Speaking before his country’s parliament, the Cuban leader also reiterated his willingness to sit down with the Barack Obama administration “without preconditions or prerequisite gestures.”
Cuba and the United States broke off diplomatic relations shortly after the triumph of Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959. Washington refuses to talk to Havana as long as there is no change in the system of one-party rule that has governed the island since then.