Raul Castro calls for more policy debate in Cuba
By Anthony Boadle
HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba's interim leader Raul Castro, signaling a different style of government from his ailing brother Fidel Castro, on Wednesday called for greater debate on public policies in the communist-run country.
The Communist Party newspaper Granma said Castro told about 800 university leaders they should ``fearlessly'' engage in public debate and analysis - expressing a different leadership style than that of his 80-year-old brother.
"Sometimes people fear the word disagree, but I say the more debate and the more disagreement you have, the better the decisions will be," he told students in Havana.
Raul Castro said he was delegating more responsibilities and making fewer speeches than his famously verbose brother, and running the country of 11 million in a more collegial way.
"Fidel is irreplaceable, unless we all replace him together," he said, repeating a statement he made in June that Fidel Castro's only possible heir is Cuba's Communist Party.
"Fidel is irreplaceable and I don't intend to imitate him. Those who imitate fail," Raul said in the short speech to a conference of Cuba's Federation of University Students.
The younger Castro had the 800 delegates in stitches with humorous stories about his childhood, including one about getting thrown off a horse the day he tried to copy a peasant and ride bareback.
Looking relaxed even though he was dressed in his army uniform, Raul said Cuba was at an "historic" moment.
"I say historic because, like it or not, we are finishing the fulfillment of our duty and we have to give way to new generations," he said.
(Foreign Minister) Perez Roque (gave the final address and) announced increases in grants and reductions in bus fares for the students.