Monday, July 27, 2015

Cuba tones down anti-U.S. rhetoric on revolution's main holiday

Cuba tones down anti-U.S. rhetoric on revolution's main holiday
By Jaime Hamre

SANTIAGO, Cuba (Reuters) - Cuban leaders pledged to keep socialism alive
but toned down the anti-U.S. rhetoric at Cuba's first national holiday
since re-establishing diplomatic relations with the United States on
July 20.

Sunday marked the 62nd anniversary of the first offensive by Fidel
Castro's guerrillas against the army of U.S.-backed leader Fulgencio
Batista in 1953, starting a rebellion that brought down Batista more
than five years later.

The most important holiday on Cuba's revolutionary calendar, Sunday's
celebration featured artistic performances and patriotic speeches.

Missing were the blistering, anti-imperialist tirades that Fidel Castro,
now 88 and retired as president, once made a staple of July 26, the date
of the attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago, a city on the eastern
end of Cuba some 500 miles (800 km) from Havana.

Current Cuban President Raul Castro has generally softened his critique
since reaching detente with U.S. President Barack Obama last December.
Obama has chosen to engage Cuba, departing from past presidents who
mostly sought to punish Cuba for its one-party system and record of
jailing and harassing dissidents.

Sunday's keynote speaker, Vice-President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura,
called the re-establishment of diplomatic relations the culmination of a
first step that began in December.

He also mentioned the two main grievances Cuba still has with the United
States: Washington's economic embargo against the island and the U.S.
naval base at Guantanamo Bay in eastern Cuba, territory that Cuba wants

"Now begins a long and complex road toward normalization of bilateral
relations that includes among other aspects the end of the blockade and
the return of the Guantanamo naval base," Machado Ventura, 84, told
6,000 Cubans gathered at the Moncada barracks.

Obama has asked Congress to begin lifting the embargo but faces
opposition from the Republican majority. Senior U.S. officials have
repeatedly said Guantanamo is not up for discussion.

Although Raul Castro personally absolved Obama for past U.S. aggression
against Cuba, some Cubans remain circumspect.

"I don't trust imperialism, not even a little," said Ernesto Gonzalez,
84, one of the rebels who attacked the barracks in 1953. "They have been
cheating us since we first became a republic in 1902. They have taken
all the riches from our country. We aren't going to let ourselves get
cheated again by imperialism. Fidel will never be vanquished."

(Reporting by Jaime Hamre; Editing by Daniel Trotta, Larry King)

Source: Cuba tones down anti-U.S. rhetoric on revolution's main holiday
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