Trade fair opened
Cuban President Fidel Castro inaugurated Havana's 16th International Trade Fair on November 1, calling on the International Monetary Fund to adjust its economic policies toward the Third World. The Cuban leader said the IMF must allow countries to develop according to their possibilities and not based on policies imposed upon them.
During his speech, Castro urged foreign companies to invest on the island. He pointed out that Cuba offers secure investments, without the corruption found in many other countries.
Talk with US editors
On October 24, Fidel Castro chatted with a group of 32 editors from the American Association of Newspaper Editors, representing the major US press.
The exchange, which lasted over five hours, dealt with many national and international issues. Part of the discussion focused on the new tax system. Some of the editors considered taxes to be very high.
Fidel responded that Cuba is a country with few resources but a very developed sense of equality. The tax system was an attempt to remedy the situation where Cubans in small businesses earn almost 300 times as much as a teacher or a nurse.
Fidel said that Cuba could not afford to pay its teachers or nurses more money, so to redress the obvious inequalities, a high tax was imposed. He added, "You may be sure that the taxes that we implement are less than a worker in Sweden would pay".
Some of the editors responded that they would reduce these taxes to encourage the development of small private enterprise, to which Castro replied that Cuba would prefer to give more help to a hospital or a school.
Responding to accusations of corruption within the government, Fidel responded that the accusations come mainly from the US media. "I can safely say", Fidel added, "that no judge in the world will find that in the 40 years of our revolution a single minister or important bureaucrat has ever misappropriated a single dollar".
Finally, Fidel was asked why the city of Havana is in a state of disrepair when luxury hotel construction is going on in the beach resort of Varadero.
He replied, "Buying paint costs money. The money comes from hamburgers sold to tourists, and if we don't build hotels, how are we to attract the tourists? The state of our buildings, especially those along the Malecon that are in very bad condition, make me very sad.
"We had begun to work on this when the socialist camp collapsed in Eastern Europe. In spite of the blockade, we had managed to create the conditions to build 100,000 new homes a year, but we are now left without even the material to paint them ...
"We are renewing buildings and doing the best we can. But we are missing housing, we are missing paint for the houses, and we are missing gas and water for the houses because we have to modernize the supply systems in Havana. We are trying to provide such things, along with food and medicines, clothing and footwear, schooling and transport. All things that the government provides to the population. For all this we need money."