The nationally broadcast speech was billed as the highlight of three days celebration of Castro’s bold attack on the Moncada army barracks on July 26, 1953. We speak with professor Lillian Guerra and go to Cuba to hear from exiled activist Nehanda Abiodun.
Cuban President Fidel Castro delivered a 70-minute speech on Saturday on the spot where he launched the Cuban Revolution 50 years ago.
The nationally broadcast speech was billed as the highlight of three days celebration of his bold attack on the Moncada army barracks on July 26, 1953.
Moncada was the second most important military base of corrupt U.S.-backed right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista.
The band of 130 rebels was defeated, but prison and exile did not stop Castro. His guerrilla insurgency triumphed five years later and he has remained in power ever since.
In his speech, Castro did not criticize Washington, his traditional target, but focused on Europe.
Castro said, “The Cuban government, out of a basic feeling of dignity, rejects any humanitarian aid, or remaining aid, that may be offered by the governments of the European Union.”
The rejection was in reaction to the EU’s changed tone toward Cuba following Havana’s recent crackdown on dissidents.
With the Bush administration stepping up support for his opponents, Castro launched a crackdown in March. 75 dissidents were imprisoned and three men were who tried to hijack a ferry to the United States were executed.
The unprecedented repression heightened Cuba’s international isolation and the EU condemned the crackdown and reduced political contacts.
While the United States has maintained an economic embargo on Cuba for over 40 years, Europe is Cuba’s main investor providing nearly half of the 1.7 million foreign visitors last year.
- Lillian Guerra, professor of Latin American and Caribbean History at Bates College:. She researches the political development of nationalism and imperialism in Cuba.
- Nehanda Abiodun, U.S. activist living in political exile in Cuba.