CIEGO DE AVILA, Cuba (AP) — Cuba marked the 58th anniversary of Fidel Castro's failed attack on the Moncada army barracks Tuesday without a speech from President Raul Castro. Instead, Cubans heard from the president's second in comand, who offered few new details while hitting standard themes such as organization, discipline and economic reform.
The main speaker was 80-year-old Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, who said the country will move forward with economic reforms "without haste, but without pause."
"We must forever break the mentality of inertia," he said, before imploring the crowd and his countrymen to work harder and more efficiently. He repeated that the country was not abandoning socialism even as it embraced limited free market reforms.
The ceremony got under way just after sunrise Tuesday at a central plaza in the central city of Ciego de Avila, where heavy rains the previous night left muddy puddles. Raul Castro arrived in a white guayabera shirt and dark slacks and greeted other leaders before taking a seat and watching the action.
In 1953, Fidel and Raul Castro and some 130 rebels attacked the Moncada barracks but were repelled. The Castros were captured but returned to Cuba some six years later to overthrow strongman Fulgencio Batista.
On Tuesday, a master of ceremonies read a congratulatory message from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who days earlier left Cuba after undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
"Honor and glory to the martyrs of Moncada!" it read.
Associated Press writer Paul Haven in Havana contributed to this report.