Ismael Francisco/Prensa Latina/AP
Cuba's President Raul Castro speaks during the closing ceremony of the Communist Party Conference in Havana, Cuba, Saturday, Jan. 29. Cuba's Communist leaders vowed not to cede any ground to "the enemy," even as they pledged to fight corruption and continue overhauling the island's listing Marxist economy with an injection of free market reform.

Bash America? The Castros play to their base in Cuba

Cuba's Raul Castro attacked imperialism at last weekend's Communist Party conference, while Fidel Castro earlier criticized US Republican candidates.

There is no shortage when it comes to critics of US policy on Cuba, with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro sounding the loudest reproach.

Last week in the state-run press he denounced the Republican Party's contest for a nominee, calling it a race of “idiocy and ignorance.”

“The selection of a Republican candidate for president of that globalized and encompassing empire is - I say this seriously - the greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance that has ever been heard,” he wrote.

Many Americans agree that the candidates are out of touch with reality in Cuba. As guest blogger Anya Landau French wrote in The Havana Note last week, after debates in Tampa, the candidates were “all singing the same broken record,” many taking a hard-line approach to appeal to exiles in Florida.  

Newt Gingrich said he would try "aggressively to overthrow the [Castro] regime" with covert actions.

Only one candidate, Ms. Landau French notes, sounded something different: “We're living in the dark ages when we can't even talk to the Cuban people,” said Ron Paul.

But across the Straights of Florida, many could accuse Cuba of being in its own time warp, despite dramatic changes on the economic front in the past few years.

During a two-day Communist Party conference last weekend, Raul Castro, who has led Cuba since his brother Fidel Castro fell ill in 2006, defended the nation’s one-party system as a defense against the “imperialist” style of living in the north.

“To renounce the principle of a one-party system would be the equivalent of legalizing a party, or parties, of imperialism on our soil,” he said in his closing speech, criticizing the US system of democracy as a way to keep the wealthy in power.

The Castros have ruled Cuba since overtaking the country in a Communist revolution in 1959. Raul Castro, more reform-minded than his brother, has undertaken several economic reforms, including allowing Cubans to sell their homes and open private businesses, and giving out loans.

He has disappointed many Cubans on the political front. He reaffirmed plans to limit how long officials can govern, and spoke of a less corrupt system. But many Cubans have said they are eager for new and younger leadership at the highest ranks of the party, which has not happened quickly enough for critics.

"There has been no shortage of criticism and exhortations by those who have confused their intimate desires with reality, deluding themselves that this conference would consecrate the beginning of the dismantling of the political and social system the revolution has fought for more than half a century," Raul Castro noted during the conference.

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