Millions of Cubans celebrated the 50th anniversary of the start of the Cuban Revolution with carnivals, dancing, street festivals, parades, meetings and rallies. July 26 is the anniversary of the attack on the Moncada Barracks, which sparked the revolution.
In Santiago, at the site of the Moncada barracks, Cuban President Fidel Castro spoke of the social problems that affected Cuba 50 years ago and led to his organizing and leading the rebellion. He said that in 1953, there were 600,000 unemployed Cubans while another “400,000 farm workers labored only four months a year and were hungry the rest of the year … More than half of the best lands were in foreign hands.” In 1953, only 22.3 percent of the population was literate, the Cuban president recalled.
Immediately after the triumph of the Revolution, the government recruited and sent people into all parts of this Caribbean country to teach people to read and write in the most massive educational campaign of its type in history.
Citing figures on health, education, jobs, and other areas, the Cuban president contrasted Cuban life 50 years ago and today. Today, “85 percent of the population owns their own homes. They pay no taxes. The remaining 15 percent pay a small rent, which is merely symbolic.” He said the gains of the Cuban Revolution shows that the revolutionaries’ “program has been fulfilled and over-fulfilled. For a while, we have been following higher and unimaginable dreams.”
Even though the attack on the Moncada barracks was not successful and Castro and the other rebels were captured, Cubans regard the attack as the start of the Cuban Revolution, which culminated in the revolutionaries driving out the dictatorial regime of Fulgencio Batista on January 1, 1959. The rebels who did not die in the battle were captured, tried and sent to prison.
Castro recalled his defense speech during his trial. In the speech, which ends with the prophetic statement, “History will absolve me,” he said, “The future of the nation and the solutions to its problems cannot go on depending on the egotistical interests of a dozen financiers.” He said he considered this to be the most important part of his defense. That speech was secretly printed and distributed throughout the country while Castro was in jail.
Reflecting on the current struggle to sustain the Cuban revolution, Castro criticized the action of Cuba’s biggest trading partner – the European Union (EU) – for reducing “to the minimum, what they call ‘humanitarian aid’ to Cuba.” The EU took a number of measures against the socialist country after the Cuban courts found a number of “dissidents” guilty of treason. The “dissidents” received funding through the U.S. Interest Section in Havana to actively oppose the Cuban government.
Castro said that neither the Cuban government nor its people would accept being pressured. “Cuba, a small country, besieged and blockaded, has not only been able to survive, but to help other countries of the Third World, which have been exploited by colonizing European countries.”
He said the European governments were working more in the interest of the U.S. than of Europe. “Neither Europe nor the U.S. will have the final word on the fate of humanity,” he said while calling on the EU to act in a way which is not “arrogant.”
Supporters of the Cuban Revolution and of normalized relations with Cuba held activities celebrating the Moncada anniversary throughout Europe, the U.S., as well as in Latin America and the rest of the world.
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