Saturday 24 March 2018

Castro scolds Cubans behaving badly

Cuba's President Raul Castro delivers his speech at the National Assembly in Havana, Cuba (AP/Ismael Francisco, Cubadebate)
Cuba's President Raul Castro delivers his speech at the National Assembly in Havana, Cuba (AP/Ismael Francisco, Cubadebate)

Raul Castro spent the lion's share of a prominent speech scolding his countrymen for all kinds of bad behaviour, from corruption and theft to urinating in public and raising pigs in cities.

Speaking before legislators at one of parliament's twice-annual sessions, the Cuban president railed against decaying morals, a deteriorating sense of civic responsibility and vanishing values such as honour, decency and decorum.

Castro aired a laundry list of complaints about illegal activities that he said did the country harm: unauthorised home building, illicit logging and slaughter of livestock and the acceptance of bribes, to name a few.

He also fulminated against baser examples of "social indiscipline" - shouting and swearing in the streets, public drinking and drink-driving, dumping rubbish on the roadside and even people who relieve themselves in parks.

At times, the 82-year-old's speech sounded like a generational broadside against disrespectful youth who do as they please, a diatribe that could have crossed the lips of many a grandfather.

"When I meditate on these regrettable displays, it makes me think that despite the undeniable educational achievements made by the Revolution ... we have taken a step back in citizens' culture and public spirit," Castro said. "I have the bitter sensation that we are a society ever more educated, but not necessarily more enlightened."

"All this takes place right in front of our noses without inciting public condemnation and confrontation," Castro said. It is not acceptable to equate vulgarity with modernity, sloppiness and negligence with progress. Living in society entails, in the first place, accepting rules that preserve respect for decency and the rights of others."

The Cuban leader also spoke of the corrosive effects of official corruption, quoting his elder brother Fidel as saying such activity posed a greater risk to the Cuban Revolution's success than any outside forces.

Castro's bi-annual speech to parliament has sometimes been a moment to announce new initiatives, but Saturday's was short on specifics. Perhaps his most notable comment was a reiteration of the importance of doing away with Cuba's unique dual currency system. Most citizens get paid in Cuban pesos, while a second currency, the dollar-pegged convertible peso, is used in tourism and to purchase most imported goods. Castro told legislators that the Cuban economy was advancing "positively" even if those gains have yet to be felt by the average Cuban family.

On Saturday, economy minister Adel Yzquierdo reported to the body that GDP growth for the year would probably be between 2.5 and 3%, short of a previous forecast of 3.5%.

Press Association

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