HAVANA – The huge military parade and march of the “fighting people” to commemorate the 58th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution got under way in Havana on Monday with this year’s event dedicated to former leader Fidel Castro, who died in November, and presided over by his brother, President Raul Castro.
Thousands of Cubans gathered starting about 7 a.m. on the central Plaza of the Revolution, with the country’s youth as the key element in a massive demonstration seeking to defend the Revolution and give evidence of its vitality 58 years after its triumph.
Top leaders of the regime and representatives of the main entities within civil society, as well as the diplomatic corps accredited to the communist nation, assembled for the parade, where Dalia Soto del Valle, Castro’s widow, and some of his children were also on hand.
Among the invited guests on the main stage to view the event were the commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, Rodrigo Londoño, alias “Timochenko,” and the rebel group’s No. 2 figure and the main negotiator at the peace process with the Colombian government hosted by Havana over the past four years, Luciano Marin, alias “Ivan Marquez.”
The military review opened with a 21-gun artillery salute and the first group to head out along the parade route was a contingent of 128 horse riders representing a cavalry company from the island’s wars for independence.
After that, surrounded by 3,000 children, came a replica of the yacht Granma, on which Fidel Castro and 82 companions sailed from Mexico to Cuba to begin the armed revolutionary struggle in the Sierra Maestra mountains against the regime of Fulgencio Batista.
Members of different companies of the island’s Revolutionary Armed Forces, the navy, the Interior Ministry, the militias and military academies all passed through the huge plaza before the reviewing stand.
The last portion of the march was comprised of members of the university militias, students and workers in key economic sectors such as construction and tourism, among others.
After the assorted institutional contingents had paraded, it was the turn of the “fighting people” – thousands of citizens carrying Cuban flags, photographs of Fidel Castro and other revolutionary leaders and signs with messages such as “I am Fidel.”
The parade initially had been scheduled for Dec. 2 – Armed Forces Day in Cuba – but it was postponed because of Castro’s death on Nov. 25, after which the government decreed nine days of official mourning.