HAVANA — Cuba today commemorated the 60th anniversary of Fidel Castro’s failed attack on a military army barracks that is considered the beginning of the Cuban Revolution.
Thousands were in the audience as President Raul Castro spoke in the eastern city of Santiago at a square outside the Moncada barracks, still visibly pockmarked with bullet holes from the doomed assault.
A giant banner hung from the building with an image of Fidel Castro raising a triumphant fist.
The July 26 holiday is sometimes used to make major announcements.
Raul Castro, Fidel’s younger brother, took up the reins of the country in 2006 and is pushing a series of social and economic reforms, including relaxed restrictions on foreign travel and a limited opening for small private businesses and cooperatives.
Several heads of state from friendly nations attended the anniversary including Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Uruguay’s Jose Mujica and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega.
There was no sign of Fidel Castro, who was forced from office seven years ago by a near-fatal intestinal ailment and rarely appears in public these days.
In speeches, the leaders vowed solidarity with Cuba, railed against U.S. “imperialism” and Washington’s 51-year-old economic embargo, eulogized the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and said the Cuban Revolution inspired armed and political uprisings in their own nations.
“The banners of rebellion from Moncada are still relevant,” said Maduro, whose nation provides billions of dollars a year in greatly subsidized oil to Cuba.
“Cuba, Fidel, Raul, the Cuban Revolution, inspiring the peoples of our Americas and in the world, lighting the inextinguishable flame of revolution,” Ortega said.
Fidel and Raul Castro and more than 100 rebels attacked the Moncada barracks on July 26, 1953, but were overwhelmed by the forces of strongman Fulgencio Batista.
The brothers were imprisoned and later released. After a time in exile in Mexico, they returned and resumed the rebellion that ultimately resulted in Batista’s ouster in 1959.