Fidel Castro hints he may resign as party chief

"I got sick and did what I had to do -- delegate my powers. I cannot do something that I am not capable of dedicating full time to," Castro told a group of students on Wednesday, state-run press said yesterday.

Castro said he was not speaking to them as first secretary of the ruling communist party but rather as a "soldier of ideas."

"I did not hesitate even a second to put aside my responsibilities," said the 84-year-old, who has kept busy writing and participating in academic meetings in recent years.

After ruling Cuba for nearly half a century, Castro provisionally ceded power to his younger brother, Raul Castro, in July 2006 following intestinal surgery, and officially resigned the presidency in February 2008.

For now, Castro officially remains head of Cuba's only legal political party, which will meet in April to discuss future economic policies for the Caribbean nation. He has held the post since 1965 after seizing power during the 1959 communist revolution.

Castro also praised his 79-year-old brother and successor, saying he was "pleased, because the country is working, despite of all the challenges." He also pointed to communist China, which has steadily grown in recent years, as a model for development.
Raul Castro has said Cuba's economic model, which has survived two decades since the Soviet Union dissolved, must be "updated" without copying patterns from other countries.

His proposed raft of economic reforms is up for debate at the Cuban Communist Party Congress, the first since 1997.

The reforms, which including cutting more than a million government jobs, represent a major management shakeup for the communist island.

They provide for an influx of foreign capital, an opening for private enterprise  and reduced government role in the market -- all steps away from the Soviet-style communist system currently in force that gave an overarching role to the state.

The proposals make efficiency a vital part of economic management, aim to do away with state subsidies, including food rations, and foresee starting a tax system.

Following up on his pledge on subsidies, president Castro is eliminating subsidies on materials to build and repair homes, with all such products due to be sold at higher prices free of government intervention from January.

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