Story by the Associated Press; curated by Dave Urbanski
HAVANA (AP) — President Raul Castro issued a stern warning to entrepreneurs pushing the boundaries of Cuba’s economic reform, telling parliament on Saturday that “those pressuring us to move faster are moving us toward failure.”
Castro has legalized small-scale private business in nearly 200 fields since 2010 but has issued tighter regulations on businesses seeing as going too far or competing excessively with state enterprises. In recent months the government has banned the resale of imported hardware and clothes and cracked down on unlicensed private videogame and movie salons.
Castro threw his full weight behind such measures in an address to the biannual meeting of the communist legislature, saying “every step we take must be accompanied by the establishment of a sense of order.”
“Inadequate controls by government institutions in the face of illegal activities by private businesspeople weren’t resolved in a timely fashion, creating an environment of impunity and stimulating the accelerated growth of activities that were never authorized for certain occupations,” Castro said.
He told lawmakers that Cuba wanted better relations with the U.S. but would never give in to demands for changes in Cuba’s government and economy, saying “we don’t demand that the U.S. change its political or social system and we don’t accept negotiations over ours.”
“If we really want to move our bilateral relations forward, we’ll have to learn to respect our differences,” Castro said. “If not, we’re ready to take another 55 years in the same situation.”
President Barack Obama shook hands with Castro at the memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, which caused quite a stir.