HAVANA, (Reuters) – Cuban President Raul Castro has sounded increasingly impatient in recent months with the slow implementation of his economic reforms, which he publicly blames mostly on bureaucratic sloth and resistance to change.
In public statements, he has accused government cadres of laziness, corruption, neglect and ideological rigidity and has repeatedly urged them to reject old revolutionary dogma and embrace new ways of thinking.
“Let us clean our heads of foolishness of all kinds. Don’t forget that the first decade of the 21st century has already passed, and it’s time,” he sternly told the National Assembly on Aug. 1.
His more than 300 reforms, some already in place, but most still pending, will liberalize Cuba’s struggling, Soviet-style economy by emphasizing greater private initiative, reducing subsidies, decentralizing government and slashing a million people from government payrolls.
The goal is to assure the future of Cuban communism after he and his elderly leadership team are gone.
While he has counseled patience in implementing the changes, he told the National Assembly that global economic problems required faster improvements.
“The biggest obstacle we confront … is the psychological barrier formed by inertia, inflexibility, pretense or double standards, indifference and insensibility,” Castro said.
He has spoken about those topics since soon after his rise to power when older brother Fidel Castro fell ill in July 2006, but his complaints have taken on added bite over time.
Last December, Castro spoke bluntly to the National Assembly about dishonesty among the ranks.
“We must struggle to eradicate once and for all lies and deceit from the cadres’ behavior at all levels,” he said.
DO NOT LIE, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT
He cited the three basic principles of the Inca civilization — do not lie, do not steal and do not be lazy — and said: “Those are correct principles aren’t they? Let us try to bear them in mind.”
At a Communist Party congress in April, Castro said the preservation of Cuban communism “requires a change of mentality … that is, to do away with the resistance to change based on empty dogma and slogans.”
In his Aug. 1 speech, he used some of his strongest language yet to tell recalcitrant and corrupt officials they better get on board with the new ways or a price would be paid.
“I warn that all bureaucratic resistance to strict compliance (with the reforms) will be useless,” he said.
“I have never been in favour of pressuring or of abrupt changes … but faced with violations of the constitution … there is no alternative but to resort to prosecutors and the courts, as we have already begun to do,” Castro said.
But who exactly is Castro railing against? His campaign against corruption has flushed out top-level officials in aviation, the cigar business and telecommunications, a number of whom are now behind bars.