STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
NPR's Jason Beaubien was in the home province Raul and his brother Fidel, and has this report.
(SOUNDBITE OF MAN SINGING)
BEAUBIEN: Raul Castro told the crowd that rebuilding Cuba's agricultural system is a matter of national security. In an effort to break the island's dependence on food imports, Raul launched a program last year to redistribute unused state- owned farmland to private farmers and small cooperatives. He told the crowd here in Holguin that half of Cuba's arable farmland is either fallow or underutilized.
RAUL CASTRO: (Spanish spoken)
BEAUBIEN: Raul, who officially became president last year, only bashed the administration in Washington briefly, complaining about the ongoing embargo and five Cuban intelligence officers who are in U.S. jails. The speech focused on Cuba and how Cubans can pull the country out of its economic woes.
(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE TALKING)
BEAUBIEN: After the speech, Jose Luis Hidalgo and his wife Daisy were selling peanuts in small white cones of paper.
JOSE LUIS HIDALDO: (Spanish Spoken) Here everything is possible...
BEAUBIEN: Away from the plaza, some other Cubans said the plan is window dressing on a failing communist system. Cuban imported almost a billion dollars worth of goods from the U.S. last year, much of it food as the island's state-run farms falter.
DAISY HIDALDO: (Spanish Spoken)
BEAUBIEN: Hidalgo's wife, Daisy says there are always some Cubans who complain. She says they don't see the positive side of things. We are free she says. If we get sick at any time we can go to the hospital without worrying about getting assaulted on the way there. Our kids are safe at school. Despite crushing food and transportation shortages, she says Cubans have a good life.
BEAUBIEN: Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Holguin, Cuba.
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