Cuban President Fidel Castro, on the 52nd anniversary of the start of his revolution, sternly warned his opponents on the island to simmer down or else.
BY RENATO PEREZ AND NANCY SAN MARTIN
In the darkest, bluntest warning to Cuban dissidents yet, Fidel Castro said Tuesday that ‘‘acts of treason’’ would not be tolerated and warned that attempts to destabilize would be confronted by the population “whenever traitors and mercenaries go one millimeter beyond what the revolutionary people . . . are willing to permit.’‘
Castro’s strong words on the 52nd anniversary of the start of his revolution came on the heels of a new roundup of more than 50 dissidents who tried to participate in two separate protests this month.
Most of the would-be protesters were released after clashes with government supporters, but as many as 16 remain behind bars, including six charged with “public disorder.’‘
Castro, whose speech was broadcast on Cuban television and radio, specifically named the Assembly to Promote Civil Society. That group’s leader, Martha Beatriz Roque, who was released from custody over the weekend, has publicly stated that dissidents across the island were ready to take to the streets to bring international attention to their plight.
Castro again accused government opponents of being paid U.S. mercenaries playing a dangerous “game.’‘
‘‘The much-publicized dissidence, or alleged opposition in Cuba, exists only in the fevered minds of the Cuban-American mafia and the bureaucrats in the White House,’’ Castro said to resounding applause.
He added that foreign news reports have falsely portrayed “an image of crisis and chaos.’‘
‘‘You would think that the revolution only had a few hours left,’’ Castro sarcastically told an audience of government officials, military personnel and other loyal followers gathered at the Karl Marx Theater in Havana.
The audience, including hundreds of Americans who arrived this week with an aid shipment, gave Castro a standing ovation.
But even as Castro tried to minimize the relevance of dissidents, the 78-year-old ruler acknowledged that a lengthy drought, a crippling energy crunch and devastation from Hurricane Dennis has made life more difficult on the island, and he asked the Cubans to be patient.
The population has grown increasingly weary from blackouts that last for hours, spoiling already depleted food supplies. Small, sporadic antigovernment acts have been reported across the island.
Tuesday’s gathering was to commemorate the July 26, 1953, assault led by Castro in a failed attempt to seize the Cuban army’s Moncada Barracks in the eastern city of Santiago. The annual celebration has traditionally been a large public affair but was scaled back this year.