Fidel Castro on Sunday strongly denied rumors that he is the leader of a faction of hardline Communists disgruntled about reforms introduced in Cuba since his brother Raul took over as president.
“I am not now, nor will I ever be at the head of any group or faction. Therefore, it can’t follow that there is infighting in the party,” Castro said in commentary appearing on the official Cubadebate Web site.
While the ailing 81-year-old former president did not explain what prompted his comment, which he expressly requested not be published in newspapers, it followed his scathing attack on Friday on the EU’s decision a day earlier to lift its sanctions on Cuba.
Fidel branded the EU’s decision “a great hypocrisy” because it is conditional on human rights progress and democratic reforms in Cuba, and also in view of the “brutal” immigration law it passed a few days earlier that made illegal immigration a crime.
Raul Castro, who officially took office on Feb. 24, has been de facto ruler since late July 2006 when Fidel was sidelined with serious health problems.
Dissident and opposition groups see discrepancies between Fidel Castro’s writings and the government’s recent reforms, although any official will insist the Castro brothers, while different, toe the same political line.
“I write because I’m still in the struggle, and I do so to uphold the beliefs I’ve defended all my life,” Fidel Castro wrote in Cubadebate under the headline “Reflections from comrade Fidel.”
Since February Raul Castro, 77, has allowed Cubans to buy computers, own mobile telephones, rent cars and spend nights in hotels previously only accessible to foreigners — if they can afford such luxuries.
In the latest reform move, Raul Castro announced his month that the government was scrapping salary caps long meant to underscore egalitarianism but which his administration says hurt productivity.
Raul Castro also has implemented reforms that give farmers better pay and more flexibility to buy farming equipment, a move designed to lessen the impact of the world food crisis.
The younger Castro brother also has commuted 30 death sentences, released some political prisoners and signed human rights accords. Television has fewer taboos and Granma, the venerable Communist Party mouthpiece, even has taken to publishing grievances from residents.
Fidel has not been seen in public, albeit in photographs and videoclips, since he underwent gastrointestinal surgery in July 2006. However, he has written his musings every week in official newspapers and Web sites. Raul Castro, for his part, has said he consults his brother Fidel “on all special, transcendental decisions” for the country.
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