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Fidel Castro praises brother Raul's leadership

By Shasta Darlington, CNN
Fidel Castro -- pictured in Havana during September -- has commented for the first time on domestic politics.
Fidel Castro -- pictured in Havana during September -- has commented for the first time on domestic politics.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Castro said he was "pleased, because the country is working, despite all of the challenges"
  • Until now, he has avoided mention of domestic affairs
  • Illness forced Fidel Castro to turn over power to his brother Raul
RELATED TOPICS
  • Fidel Castro
  • Raul Castro
  • Cuba

Havana, Cuba(CNN) -- Fidel Castro threw his support behind his younger brother and successor, President Raul Castro, in some of his most explicit comments yet about the state of affairs in Cuba.

In a meeting with students, Castro said he was "pleased, because the country is working, despite all of the challenges," according to state-run website Cubadebate.

Raul Castro has begun a radical shakeup of the Soviet-style economic model, announcing the elimination of 1 million state jobs and the expansion of private business.

He called for a meeting of the Communist Party next April, the first Congress in almost 14 years to decide how to "modernize" the economy without giving up on socialism.

Fidel Castro has studiously avoided all mention of domestic affairs since illness forced him to step down in 2006.

He re-appeared on the public stage in July, but has focused on international issues, fueling speculation that he was at odds with his brother over the economic changes.

Fidel met with students on Wednesday, but the question and answer session was only made public on Thursday.

One of the students asked him about the planned Communist Party Congress, referring to his capacity as the first secretary of the party, the only official title that he still holds.

Fidel responded that he was not involved as the first secretary, but as "a soldier of ideas," according to Cubadebate.

He said: "I got sick and did what I had to: I delegated my duties. I can't do something if I'm not in the condition to dedicate myself to it all of the time. Not even I knew if I would make it out of that."

It was not clear if that means he will step down as first secretary.