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Castro says Cuba revolution faces years of struggle
Thu Jan 1, 2009 10:22pm EST
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By Jeff Franks
SANTIAGO DE CUBA, Cuba (Reuters) - Cuba's revolution is stronger than ever but faces "incessant struggle" against the threat of the United States, President Raul Castro said on Thursday in a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the uprising that its leader, Fidel Castro, was too ill to attend.
Raul Castro spoke proudly of the 1959 revolution that transformed the Caribbean island into a communist state 90 miles from U.S. shores, but he warned the country must not let down its guard.
"The enemy will never cease to be aggressive, treacherous and dominant," he said. "It is time to reflect on the future, on the next 50 years when we shall continue to struggle incessantly ... I'm not trying to scare anyone, this is the truth."
The revolution's landmark anniversary comes at a time when the era of Fidel Castro, now 82 and in poor health, is winding down and uncertainty hangs over the future of the Cuba he built into an improbable world player admired for its social gains but criticized for its human rights record.
Raul Castro, who replaced his older brother as president in February, spoke from below the same balcony in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba where Fidel Castro declared victory after U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista fled Cuba on January 1, 1959.
About 3,000 people looked on in the tree-shaded square where 50 years before Fidel Castro told jubilant supporters he would not lead the new revolutionary government.
"Personally, I am not interested in power nor do I envisage assuming it at any time," he said, before ruling Cuba for 49 years.
Raul Castro, 77, praised his brother as "indispensable" and quoted passages from several past speeches.
"Viva Fidel, viva the revolution, viva free Cuba," he shouted as the crowd erupted in applause.
Fidel Castro has not been seen in public since undergoing intestinal surgery in mid-2006. In a brief message published on Thursday in Communist Party newspaper Granma, he congratulated "our heroic people" for 50 years of revolution.
Celebrations have been subdued with Cuba mired in economic problems and divided on what the revolution has achieved.
The island was buffeted in 2008 by three hurricanes that caused $10 billion in damages and by the global financial crisis.
As it has for decades, the government also blames its woes on the United States' 46-year-old trade embargo against Cuba, which it says has cost the island $92 billion over time.
Although widely condemned by governments around the world, the embargo is the cornerstone of U.S. policy that has sought the overthrow of the Castro government almost since the revolution's birth. Continued...
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