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Posted November 20, 2006 by publisher in Cuban Culture

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More than 300 000 people will take part in a military parade marking President Fidel Castro’s 80th birthday, as well as the 50th anniversary of the start of the Cuban revolution, according to press reports.

The weekly newspaper Tribuna de La Habana reported that the massive December 2 display would feature tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft weapons and other military hardware parading through Revolution Square.

The December 2 date was picked because it marks the 50th anniversary of the day Castro and 81 bearded rebels - including brother Raul and Argentine-born revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara - returned from exile in Mexico aboard a yacht named Granma, launching a military campaign that would topple US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.


An influential program on state-run Cuban television on Thursday described plans for ailing Fidel Castro’s 80th birthday celebration but did not mention whether he would attend and said his ideas were more important than his presence.

The nightly “Mesa Redonda” show, often used by the government to disclose news, was devoted entirely to the December 2 event, but its participants stayed away from the topic of Castro’s health.

Moderator Randy Alonso said in a closing statement that “more than the physical presence, the ideas of Fidel, the ideas of the revolution” were important to the celebration.

Castro had intestinal surgery for an undisclosed illness and temporarily turned over leadership to brother Raul on July 31.

He has not been in public since, but an October 28 video showed him to be gaunt and frail, raising questions about whether he would recover enough to return to power.

Many in Cuba view the December 2 event, which also marks the 50th anniversary of the revolution that put him in power in 1959, as an important milestone for Castro.

Government officials have said he is recovering but that his attendance for the celebration is uncertain.

His 80th birthday was August 13, but he was unable to celebrate in public and suggested it be marked on December 2.

The highlight of the celebration will be Havana’s first military parade in a decade, with art, music and literary events leading up to it.

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