HAVANA — In his first state reception as Cuba’s president, Raúl Castro met Tuesday not with leftist Latin American leaders like Hugo Chávez and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, nor with Chinese officials, but with the secretary of state of the Vatican, a traditional enemy of Communism and a critic of Cuba’s record on human rights.
Mr. Castro’s decision to begin his tenure by meeting the Vatican’s top diplomat, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a possible go-between with the United States and Europe, reflects his practical, no-nonsense style as well as his greater willingness to put ideology aside to achieve his goals than his brother often showed.
Mr. Castro, who is 76 years old, is hardly a fresh face to Cubans, having served as the defense minister for the past half century. Many people doubt that he intends to upend his brother’s legacy. Yet he does seem inclined to govern more pragmatically than his more doctrinaire and romantic brother, who ran this country for 49 years as if it were his own business, signing off on almost every government decision.
Raúl Castro has said the government needs to shrink and become more compact. He has promised “structural changes” and “big decisions.” “We have to make our government’s management more efficient,” he said Sunday, adding, “We have to plan well, and we cannot spend more than we have.”
Since he became acting president after Fidel Castro fell ill and disappeared from public view in July 2006, Raúl Castro has sought to improve public transportation and shake up the state-controlled dairy monopoly. He also shocked people when he acknowledged that the average salary of about $19 a month was too little to live on. As he took office Sunday, he raised the possibility of revaluing the Cuban peso to give salary-earners greater buying power. Raúl Castro’s decision on Sunday to put his closest friends and loyalists in the major positions of vice president and defense minister also suggests that he has control of the government, even though he has promised to consult Fidel Castro on important matters.
The Times really makes a big deal out of the Peso revaluation, it is mentioned 3 or 4 times, is that a good indicator of changes to come?
I don't know.
Here is what I do know - Cuba is tropical and it has some smokin' hot women. That equals smokin hot women in bikinis so I want relations normalized.