Fidel Castro says Cuba's economy is broken

Over a glass of red wine and a few bites of fish, Cuban strongman Fidel Castro coughed up what most have known for decades: The island's economic model is broken.

During a lunchtime interview in Havana last week, Jeffrey Goldberg, a correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, asked the ailing leader if Cuba's economic system was still worth exporting to other nations.

According to Goldberg's blog, Castro replied, "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."

Goldberg didn't pry into Castro's surprising statement, but said he believes it was clear what the aging leader meant.

"He said it in an off-hand way, but not jokingly," Goldberg wrote The Miami Herald in an e-mail Wednesday. "I think this was an honest recognition on his part that his brother must re-order Cuban's economic system in order to keep the country afloat."

That Cuba's economy is flailing is no state secret. Fidel's brother, Cuban President Raul Castro, has repeatedly said that the communist economic model is badly frayed and in need of reform.

He has told Cubans to work harder and expect less from the state, which controls more than 90 percent of the economy. But the Castros have also insisted they have no desire to embrace capitalism.

Still, Fidel's candor caught many by surprise.

"He is either crazy or senile. This certainly does not sound like something Castro would say," said Jaime Suchlicki, a long-time Castro observer and head of the University of Miami's Research Institute for Cuban Studies. "But if he was quoted accurately, then I guess he's come to the realization, like everyone else, that Marxist-Leninist governments do not function. So the real question is, what is he going to do about it now? Is he going to bring about change in Cuba since the Cuba model doesn't work?"

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