50 years ago today Cuba faced a new change and Castro took over. You remember from The Godfather II or the Buena Vista Social Club... or Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights.. It was a crazy time and here we are 50 years later celebrating the festive years under a socialist dictatorship!
HAVANA (AFP) — Cuba on Thursday celebrates the 50th anniversary of its revolution with its iconic leader Fidel Castro withdrawn from power, still at odds with the United States and facing new economic challenges.Cuba had Latin America's best life expectancy and infant mortality in 1959 and one of the highest literacy rates. Caloric consumption is significantly lower on average today than it was back then. The Cuban "revolution" was a joke. They overthrew the old rulers but had no idea of how to resist the U.S. by taking an independent path (like Albania did with a far smaller population) so they subordinated themselves and became a Soviet Neocolony. Their economy was organized around exporting agricultural products with horrible terms of trade.
Fifty year festivities, led by President Raul Castro, 77, who officially took over from his older brother in February, were due to center on Santiago de Cuba -- the southeastern city from where the revolution began.
It was unclear how 82-year-old Fidel, who has not appeared in public since undergoing major surgery almost two and a half years ago, would participate.
Leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales has pulled out of the party and it was also unclear whether Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who considers himself Fidel Castro's "spiritual son," would attend.
"Celebrations won't be as grandiose as we had wished due to the economic situation," a Cuban official told AFP, requesting anonymity.
A 32-year-old Fidel Castro announced the start of the revolution in the island's second city after the victory of a 25-month guerilla war over dictator Fulgencio Batista.
The communist revolution -- also led by legendary Argentine guerilla Ernesto "Che" Guevara -- took on Marxist overtones in May 1961, one month after the attempted invasion of the Bay of Pigs by CIA-backed Cuban exiles.
Former US president John F. Kennedy declared an embargo in February 1962, before the Soviet missile crisis, which almost set off nuclear war.
US president-elect Barack Obama, due to take power on January 20, has, however, promised to soften the 46-year-old embargo, and Raul Castro has said he is ready for talks without "carrot or stick" with Obama.
The Cuban president has also promised "structural reforms" -- a departure from his older brother and leading members of the communist old guard.
The Cuban Communist Party is split between backers of the status quo who, like Fidel, refuse to loosen the regime's tight controls, and pragmatists pushing for a Chinese-style, controlled opening up of the economy.
But Raul's promised changes have taken a back seat to the global economic crisis as the president signaled in July, when he announced greater government control of revenues and tighter management of agriculture.
"It's my duty to speak frankly, because it would be unethical to create false expectations," he said after telling Cubans to expect tough economic times from spiraling international fuel and food prices.
On Saturday, the president called for new government spending cuts, but assured Cubans the economic and social reforms he had promised "have not been shelved."
The Caribbean island, also battered by three hurricanes in 2008, causing 10 billion dollars in damage -- equivalent to 20 percent of Cuba's gross national product -- no longer manages to meet its debt repayments.
It is still officially in the Special Period in Peacetime, an extended period of economic crisis that began in 1991 after the collapse of its main backer, the Soviet Union.
Although the island of 11.2 million people has since found new partners, particularly oil-rich Venezuela, life remains difficult for most Cubans who earn an average of 20 dollars per month and survive due to a parallel economy.
Branded US puppets by Havana, Cuban dissidents, divided and without a leader, say there are 219 "political prisoners" on the island.
During his decades in power, Fidel Castro expropriated foreign companies, jailed his political enemies and drove some two million Cubans into exile.
But he also introduced historic reforms, including major education and health advancements that raised the island nation to the level of leading western countries.
Even though Americas embargo has been around for this long, I doubt it's as crippling as many would believe. If 50 years of supposed revolutionary socialism can't break free of dependency on rich nations, then they mustn't have been trying very hard. But hey... let's forget about all that cause it's PARTY TIME!!! I wonder if they'll have some Red Velvet Cake for the celebration. It's a shame that they can't trade with America as I've seen plenty of red party cups for them to use.
Then again, it's going to be like Weekend at Bernies. Imagine Castro's two year old dead body being draped around like a puppet. I suppose the celebration could be titled Cuba: At least it's not Haiti.
So hey, Cuba. Happy 50 years under some very strange times. I would come to visit, I really would. Your food is delicious and your music is very interesting. But I don't have a duo citizenship with any place that doesn't hate you. I would buy you a gift but.. yeah, that wouldn't be following that whole communism thing you seem to like. I suppose the closest I can get to you is in the Keys.