Cuba is pressing ahead with plans to revamp its economy and fine tune its one party political system, but it will take time, Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura said Tuesday in a nationally televised address.
His remarks came on one of the biggest days of Cuba's political calendar. The communist-ruled island was marking the anniversary of the 1953 attack led by Mr. Fidel Castro on the Moncada army barracks in the city of Santiago de Cuba that started the Cuban Revolution.
Mr. Machado's speech was the first by a top Cuban leader since April, when a Communist Party Congress approved a comprehensive plan to move the Soviet-style economic system in a more market-oriented direction and allow Cubans more personal freedoms.
The plan would create a large "non-state" sector in agriculture, retail services, construction and transportation in a land where the government has monopolized all economic activity.
The Cuban state would also move from subsidizing just about everything to targeted welfare and loosen its grip on state companies.
President Raul Castro announced at the April Congress plans to establish term limits and in other ways try to improve the political system.
"You can be sure we are going forward without haste or pause, working systematically and in an co-ordinated fashion," Mr. Machado said in the central province of Ciego de Avila, where festivities for "The Day of the Rebel" were held.
Cubans are pressing for quick adoption of measures allowing them to buy and sell homes and cars for the first time in 50 years and improving food production and distribution, but not others that would eliminate gratuities such as a food ration and cut the state labour force by 20 per cent.
But Mr. Machado urged patience due to the long-term implications of reform.
"We are not taking half measures nor improvising, but looking for definitive solutions to old problems," he said.
Mr. Machado, 81, repeatedly called on Cubans to work harder and in a more organized manner to overcome the economic crisis gripping the country.
He also urged workers and administrators to eliminate "labour and social indiscipline, deficient accounting, poor use of resources and bureaucratic attitudes," among other ills affecting economic activity.
"The mentality of doing nothing, of waiting for something to come down from above, has to be definitively broken," he said, apparently referring to the bureaucratic malaise affecting the country.
For a second consecutive year, President Raul Castro, 80, dressed in a white Guayabera – a style popular in Latin America – and dark slacks, and with a straw hat atop his brow, did not speak at the event.
Mr. Castro is expected to deliver a major speech to the National Assembly next week.
The July 26, 1953, assault on the Moncada barracks failed and many young rebels were killed. But it marked the beginning of the end for the government of U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, who fled the country on Jan. 1, 1959.
Fidel Castro choose July 26 as the annual date to deliver what amounted to a State of the Union speech, emphasizing the revolution and role of the Communist Party.
He was hospitalized after delivering two long speeches on the anniversary in 2006 and ceded power to his brother Raul a dew days later.