Cuba Honors Fidel, Observes Latin America
Cuban President Fidel Castro reached 80 on August 13th but due to his intestinal surgery in late July, celebrations honoring him were postponed for the week ending December 2nd.
The festivities got underway on Tuesday with the dedication of a new university campus in Old Havana, a cultural gala at the Karl Marx Theater, and the opening of an exhibition of works by the acclaimed Ecuadorian artist Oswaldo Guayasamin (1919-1999), a great admirer of Cuba and Fidel.
The date was chosen by the Cuban leader himself to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the landing of the Granma, the vessel that sailed from Mexico to eastern Cuba with an 82-strong expeditionary force in 1956.
The group led by Fidel Castro included revolutionary heroes Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos and his brother Raul Castro and was destined to put an end to the Batista dictatorship and give Cuba its real independence 25 months after coming ashore.
The Granma, a piece of history frozen in time, now sits visible in a glass enclosure on a wide avenue in Old Havana alongside the Museum of the Revolution, a must stop for visitors to the Cuban capital.
As Fidel continues to recuperate from his operation, a slow process as he has described it, the festivities honoring him include a colloquium titled “Memory and Future: Cuba and Fidel” and the “Todas las Voces, Todas” (All the voices together) concert to take place Thursday evening at the Jose Marti Anti-imperialist Plaza facing the US Interests Section. A host of famous Latin American singer-songwriters will participate alongside Cuban artists.
The celebration occurs just before one of the island’s most important annual cultural events, The 28th New Latin American Cinema Festival (December 5-15) and simultaneous to the Havana Jazz Festival slated for November 30 to December 3.
The final day of the birthday celebration and commemoration of the Granma landing on Saturday includes a military parade to show off some of Cuba’s defense capability and let the Bush administration know that any attempt to annex the island would prove even more costly than the Iraq fiasco.
The date also occurs sandwiched between two major political events for Latin America being closely followed in Cuba and throughout the continent.
On Friday December 1, Felipe Calderon, of the governing National Action Party (PAN), will try to take office as Mexico’s next president, after he “won” a razor thin victory over Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (PRD) on July 2.
Alleging widespread fraud in the vote count, Lopez Obrador’s supporters proclaimed him the “legitimate president” in a massive rally on November 20, and PRD legislators may impede Calderon’s swearing in ceremony at the Mexican Congress.
Then on Sunday December 3, Venezuelan voters go to the polls for presidential elections where Hugo Chavez seeks re-election for a 6-year term. Polls show the charismatic leader and close friend of Cuba and Fidel Castro as a shoo-in to defeat the US candidate, Manuel Rosales.
A Chavez victory will further boost the Latin American integration initiatives being spearheaded by the Cuban and Venezuelan leaders and Bolivian President Evo Morales.