Cuba’s top military chief warned Saturday in an annual Revolution Day speech that the United States may try to destroy Cuba, but will never be able to conquer the communist state.
President Fidel Castro, who usually gives the speech, turned over the podium to his younger brother, Gen.
Raul Castro, Cuba’s vice president and chief of the armed forces, for the harsh attack on Washington.
The younger Castro lashed out at U.S. economic sanctions, including the controversial Helms-Burton Law - which seeks to punish some non-U.S. companies investing in Cuba.
With his brother watching, Raul Castro called the Helms-Burton Law a “monstrous plan” because of what he described as its vile intent to make Cubans surrender to hunger and need.
“This plan has been repudiated by the entire world,” Castro said, addressing tens of thousands of communist party stalwarts, who traveled by bus, train and plane to Las Tunas, 400 miles southeast of Havana.
Raul Castro also harshly criticized a visit in mid-June by the U.S. State Department Cuban affairs coordinator.
During a weeklong stay in Cuba, Michael Ranneberger met with businessmen, diplomats and church, government and opposition leaders. Ranneberger said at the time that the United States wanted peaceful change that would help spur a democratic transition of Cuba’s one-party state.
But Raul Castro, in comments carried by the Cuban government news agency Prensa Latina, declared statements made by Ranneberger as “inadmissible and interventionist.”
Tens of thousands of Communist Party faithful converged on this southeastern city Saturday to hear the Cuba’s annual Revolution Day speech.
The government has used the annual celebration of Cuba’s revolution in the past to update Cubans on the state of their economy - especially the all-important sugar harvest that is their main source of hard currency.
But as in past years, the address was used more to rally Cubans behind the government by blasting U.S. efforts to pressure the island nation with a tightened economic embargo.
The evening speech also seemed intent on addressing Cuban officials’ fears about what they believe are growing American efforts to sabotage their government. Cuba has blamed people in the United States for recent attacks on two luxury hotels in Havana. The U.S. government denies involvement.
“Firm, united, secure,” declared the Communist party daily Granma on the eve of the 44th anniversary of the attack that started the battle that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959.
The Revolution Day celebration began Friday night with live music and a carnival in the center of this rural community. In surrounding neighborhoods, open fires were built in the middle of the streets to cook big pots of “caldosa,” a thick pork stew.
To attract more hard currency, Cuba has been promoting tourism in recent years with inexpensive package tours and foreign businesses have been investing heavily in luxury hotels on the island.
During his 1996 speech, Castro cited economic figures that showed Cuba’s gross domestic product grew 9.6 percent in the first half of the year - faster than than at any time since the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Despite the slowdown, the government on Monday projected that tourism would increase by more than 18 percent this year. The island saw a more than 15 percent increase in visits during the first half of this year, Tourism Vice Minister Eduardo Rodriguez said.
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