Cuba celebrates 50 years of Communism

Havana – On 1 January, Cuba celebrates the 50th anniversary of its Communist revolution, which ushered in decades of enmity with the United States, fueling one of the world’s most enduring and defining geopolitical dramas.

One of the world’s last communists strongholds, Cuba faces uncertain “structural reforms” promised by President Raul Castro, 77, after he officially took over in February from his ailing older brother and revolutionary icon Fidel Castro, 82.

After defying no less than 10 US presidents, Fidel Castro has now become a role model for a new generation of leftist leaders in Latin America, including Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales, both of whom may attend the celebrations in southeastern Santiago de Cuba, heart of the Castro insurrection.

Fidel Castro became Cuba’s larger-than-life president after ousting dictator Fulgencio Batista in a long, hard-fought rebellion.

Together with a band of bedraggled revolutionaries including late Argentine icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Castro emerged from Cuba’s rugged jungle on 1 January, 1959, to seize control of the island.

An event is planned for the evening of 1 January in Cespedes Park to commemorate Castro’s speech there 50 years ago that launched the revolution.

One month after the failed CIA-backed invasion of the Bay of Pigs, Castro’s revolution took on Marxist overtones in May 1961.

With his ubiquitous cigar and trademark straggly beard, Castro became a symbol of resistance to US imperialism.

The “Comandante” successfully thumbed his nose at ten US presidents for five decades during which Washington made several covert attempts on his life.

“It would be supremely naive to believe that the good intentions of an intelligent person can change what has been created through centuries of interests and greed,” Castro wrote in a letter to the Group of 20 major economic powers after the 4 November US election that brought the first African-American, Barack Obama, to the white House.

Cubans are hoping for a thaw in US-Cuban relations after Democrat Obama is sworn into office on 20 January, and better ties with the Cuban expatriate community.

Ernesto Caballo, who lives in the expatriate bastion of Miami, Florida, echoed some of the disappointment many Cuban exiles feel about their homeland.

“Things have changed here and we have not seen anything new in Cuba in 50 years of revolution,” he said.

Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, who fell out with Fidel Castro and fled to the United States after serving 22 years in a Cuban jail, said the Cuban leader still believed in the revolution.

“But in order to believe in this revolution, I had to spend my youth in prison!” said Menoyo, who returned to Cuba in 2003 to join the opposition.

He plans to attend the 50th anniversary celebrations.

Branded US puppets by Havana, Cuban dissidents, divided and without a leader, say there are 219 “political prisoners” on the island.

During his tenure, Fidel Castro expropriated foreign companies, jailed his political enemies and drove some two million Cubans into exile.

But he also introduced historic reforms, including major education and health advancements that raised the island nation to the level of leading western countries.

Over five decades, Cuba’s 11 million inhabitants have endured a roller coaster ride, from a grinding four-and-a half-decade US economic embargo, the island’s economic collapse after the Soviet Union demise, and more recently Fidel Castro’s “retirement” after he fell seriously ill in July 2006.

The island was battered by three hurricanes in 2008, causing 10 billion dollars in damage – equivalent to 20 percent of Cuba’s gross national product.

One of a handful of remaining Communist nations in the world, Cuba has reached a time of uncertainty and change.

Raul Castro, has promised “structural reforms” – a departure from his older brother and leading member of the communist old guard.

But the changes have taken a back seat to the global economic crisis, as Raul Castro signaled in July, when he announced greater government control of revenues and tighter management of agriculture.

“It’s my duty to speak frankly, because it would be unethical to create false expectations,” he said after telling Cubans to expect tough economic times from spiraling international fuel and food prices.

On Saturday, the president called for new government spending cuts, but assured Cubans the economic and social reforms he had promised “have not been shelved”.

On the political front, however, Raul Castro has struck out on his own as a world leader, completing a Latin American tour in December and meeting with the presidents of Russia and China.

The island is abuzz with speculation on whether Fidel Castro will appear at the anniversary of the revolution he led 50 years ago.

He has not been seen in public view since he underwent gastrointestinal surgery in July 2006. – AFP


About Particular Cuba
Particular Cuba organizes travel to Cuba. Hotel booking, car rental, package tours, excursions, flights to Cuba.

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