HAVANA – Cuba celebrated National Rebellion Day on Wednesday by demanding that the world respect the sovereignty of Havana’s main regional ally, leftist-led Venezuela, currently in the grip of a major political crisis.
The holiday celebrates the first armed action led by Fidel Castro (1926-2016) against the Fulgencio Batista regime, the failed July 26, 1953, attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba.
Though the rebels were all either killed or captured, the date is officially regarded as the beginning of the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power on Jan. 1, 1959.
The 2017 observance of National Rebellion Day is set to be the last under President Raul Castro, Fidel’s younger brother, who has announced plans to step down next February.
Speaking at Wednesday’s main rally, held in the western city of Pinar del Rio, Communist Party No. 2 Jose Ramon Machado Ventura blasted “insinuations” by an “influential newspaper” about Cuba’s role in international efforts to mediate between the Venezuelan government and opposition.
The reference was to an article in Britain’s Financial Times suggesting that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos sought to recruit Castro for the mediation effort during his visit to Havana last week.
The aim of the initiative, purportedly backed by Mexico and Argentina, would be to persuade Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to call off July 30 elections to a constitutional convention that is bitterly opposed by his political foes.
Venezuela is confronted by “unconventional war” in the form of US President Donald Trump’s threat to impose economic sanctions on Caracas if Maduro insists on holding the convention, Machado Ventura said.
Since April 1, more than 100 Venezuelans – including both opponents and supporters of the Maduro government – have died in the course of protests and disturbances.
“Those who, from outside, try to lecture on democracy and human rights while they sponsor coup-minded violence and terrorism should take their hands off (Venezuela),” Machado Ventura told a crowd of some 10,000 people, including Raul Castro, who did not speak.