Latin America

Raul Castro Urges Students to Fearlessly Debate Problems of Their Revolution

By Maria Julia Mayoral and Katia Siberia Garcia

“This congress will make history if we are able to follow through and fulfill the agreements we have reached,” said Cuban First Vice President Raul Castro summing up the Seventh Congress of the Cuban Federation of University Students (FEU), which concluded Friday in Havana.

Raul Castro called the congress the best ever in terms of content and depth of debates, and given the significant moment in which it was held.

“The timing is historic because we (the generation that fought for the triumph of the Revolution) are finishing up our duty and we have to continue to gradually open up the doors for the newer generations.” He added that the congress’s discussions were based on Fidel Castro’s November 17, 2005 address at the University of Havana in which he warned of the dangers facing the Revolution in today’s unpredictable and complex world.

The Cuban vice president called upon university students to fearlessly engage in debate and analysis, and to put forth differences of opinions, noting that timely discussions at the right place and in the proper fashion always yield the best decisions.

Raul Castro, who is also minister of Defense, said that based on his personal experience this is the best kind of attitude to foster. He pointed out that building an armed force is based on the principal of having one person in command; “however, this does not mean that there is no space for discussion. I always say discuss everything as in-depth as possible and then bring me the discrepancies. That’s how our decisions take shape, and I am talking about major decisions,” he said.

With his customary cheerfulness, Raul reminisced about his childhood and growing up with his brothers Fidel and Ramon. He joked about not making a long speech as those made by his brother, Commander Fidel Castro, adding that “Fidel is irreplaceable, unless we all replace him together, each one in our place, carrying out our specific tasks. Fidel’s substitute can only be the Communist Party of Cuba.”

During the closing day of the FEU Congress, the new national steering committee of the organization was announced. Carlos Lage Codorniu, who was ratified as its president, read the Final Declaration.

The university students also decided to send a message to their peers in the United States, requesting their support in the fight for the release of the Cuban Five, held in U.S. prisons for trying to prevent terrorist acts against the island.

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque delivered the closing remarks at the event. He said the congress had a special significance because the FEU has more social responsibilities today than ever before.

Perez Roque explained that the Communist Party leadership and the government have listened carefully to the statements made by the students through the nine month process prior to the congress. Taking into consideration proposals made by the FEU and the Young Communist League of Cuba (UJC), he said it was decided to immediately respond to some of the most common requests made by participants.

Perez Roque announced that salaries for students enrolled in regular university courses will be increased as well as those for students majoring in special education and preschool education at the pedagogical institutes. Students will also receive a 50 percent reduction in the cost of inter-provincial transportation fares, and students living in dorms will annually receive two free roundtrip bus tickets to their hometowns.

On hand for the closing of the FEU Congress were members of the Communist Party Political Bureau and Secretariat, and numerous government officials.

Granma (Cuba), December 21, 2006