Cuba Celebrates 40 Years of Revolutionary Socialism
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Tue Apr 17 07:44:35 MDT 2001
Castro brandishes rifle at rally as Cuba celebrates 40 years of Communism
HAVANA, April 16 (AFP) -
'El Comandante' Fidel Castro himself brandished a rifle as he led thousands
in a rally Monday marking the 40th anniversary of his defiant declaration
that the Cuban Revolution was headed down a "Socialist" path.
The crowd included droves of militia members who wore olive uniforms and
waved their rifles, chanting "Socialism or death, Fatherland or death, we
For five years there had been no mass rallies on the island -- outside of
the traditional May 1 Labor Day parade -- until 15 months ago, when Cubans
met to express their outrage against the United States in
government-organized marches during the Elian Gonzalez standoff. But even at
the height of the controversy Cubans never took weapons to the anti-US
The six-year-old boy was at the heart of a fierce international custody
battle after his mother died trying to take him to Florida in November 1999.
He returned to Cuba with his father in June 2000, and now lives with his
father in Cardenas, some 150 kilometers (93 miles) east of Havana.
Among the militia members Monday was Elian's father Juan Miguel Gonzalez.
At the rally Castro read a speech in which he reminded the nation that 40
years ago Cuba successfully fought off a US-supported invasion of
anti-Communist Cuban exiles.
He then went on to describe the revolution's successes, including raising
education standards and advances in medicine.
Castro delivered the speech from a spot at the corner of 23rd and 12th
streets in Havana's bustling Vedado district where, 40 years ago, he rose at
a podium and officially charted a "Socialist" course and sped up the move to
a constitution in which the Communist Party is the lone political voice.
The outdoor ceremony came just one day after Chinese President Jiang Zemin
wrapped up an official visit here, underscoring Beijing's economic and
political support for Havana, with "sincere wishes for you (the Cuban
people) to achieve ceaselessly new successes on the Socialist path."
On April 16, 1961, thousands of Cubans filed in a funeral procession to a
Havana cemetery to lay to rest seven men who were killed the day before at
anti-Castro bombings of three Cuban airports, ahead of the Bay of Pigs
invasion by US-trained Cuban exiles which began on April 17 of that year.
A block from the cemetery in Vedado, Castro rose and declared: "Comrade
workers and farm laborers, this is the Socialist and democratic revolution
of the poor, with the poor and for the poor."
Several political organizations that worked against the government of ousted
US-backed Fulgencio Batista, who led Cuba from 1952 to 1958, were at first
grouped into the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations (ORI), foreshadowing
In 1963, the United Party of the Socialist Revolution of Cuba was created,
which on October 3, 1965 became the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), complete
with its first Central Committee.
Years later, to pay homage to the historic days of 1961, the PCC adopted
April 16 as its founding date, as did Granma, the party's official
Unlike Eastern European countries -- which, after the collapse of the Berlin
Wall, moved quickly to dismantle the symbols and structures of their decades
of Communist rule -- Castro's Cuba has kept its statues, symbols and
ideological tack nearly unchanged.
It has, however, begun to give increased attention to the political work of
Cuban independence hero and poet Jose Marti, who is also considered a hero
by Castro's staunchest foes within the United States' Cuban-American
But Havana's premier theater is still the Karl Marx, its top amusement park
is named after Vladimir Lenin, and its biggest publishing operation is
dubbed Federico Engels.
Faced with the devastating economic fallout of the collapse of the Soviet
bloc, in the 1990s the Cuban government introduced some limited,
market-oriented economic reforms and allowed foreign capital into joint
ventures with official Cuban firms.
But more than 70 percent of the national economy is still in state hands.
With the only Communist government in the Americas, Cuba was kicked out of
the Washington-based Organization of American States in 1963.
Now, four decades later and just days before the Summit of the Americas to
be held in Quebec City, Canada -- at which 34 countries are due to work on
the Free Trade Area of the Americas -- Cuba is still defiantly underscoring
its ideological differences.
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