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Castro defends communist system during rare national congress in Cuba

The Cuban leader has said his country will not go off course simply because of renewed ties with the United States. He also warned Cubans to be "alert" to the influence of their neighbors to the north.

In a rare twice-a-decade national congress on Saturday, President Raul Castro railed against neoliberalism and warned Cubans of the potential dangers of the country moving too close to the US, even as Havana pursues warmer relations with Washington.

"We must be alert, today more than ever," Castro said, according to the Reuters news agency.

The president, the brother of former revolutionary and Cuban leader Fidel Castro, said his government wouldn't resort to so-called neoliberal "shock therapy" and reiterated his commitment to the socialist cause.

Castro also didn't relent when it came to his portrayal of the US's intentions, insisting that President Barack Obama's efforts to end sanctions against Cuba were simply a change in method - and that the US still posed a threat to the island nation.

The leader did acknowledge some of the failures of his government over the past decade, noting for example that economic reforms should be implemented faster.

blc/cmk (AFP, Reuters)

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