Former Cuban president Fidel Castro has said his country will remain socialist and rejected calls by Western experts to speed up the reform process in the wake of the global financial crisis, the EFE news agency reported Monday.
In a commentary published on Sunday, the leftist leader also criticised capitalist countries, especially the US, for the ongoing world financial crisis.
"We are not a developed capitalist country in crisis, whose leaders are going crazy today looking for solutions amid depression, inflation, the lack of markets and unemployment; we are and should remain socialists," the 82-year-old former president said.
"The production and distribution of food and construction materials, I reiterate, have an absolute priority at this time," Castro said, referring to the recent damage that the island sustained from two hurricanes.
Cuba said it suffered $5 billion in damage to crops, homes and infrastructure from two recent hurricanes. Hurricane Ike affected nearly all of Cuba's territory Sep 7-9, 10 days after Hurricane Gustav battered the western part of the island.
Fidel Castro's latest commentary, like other recent commentaries he has written, focussed on the economic situation in Cuba, which is suffering from shortages of food, fuel and other essential products.
Recently some Western diplomats and experts had said that the global financial crisis was another blow to communist Cuba, already reeling from two powerful hurricanes and soaring import prices, and it could force the government to speed up reforms.
According to them, the crisis has made credit tighter and softened demand for nickel, the island's key export. It could also slow tourism revenues and financial support from family members living abroad.
"Cuba has a serious deficit of diesel," Castro said, adding that "too much is being used" and it is "essential to reduce the allocations being demanded".
Cuba's former head of state has been convalescing from a serious intestinal illness and has not appeared in public since July 2006.
In February, Fidel's younger brother, Raul, officially took over the island's presidency.
Since taking over from Fidel, Raul Castro has made more idle state land available to private farmers, legalised cell phone use by ordinary Cubans, granted Cubans access to tourist hotels and allowed some workers to seek legal title to their homes.