By Ray Sanchez | Sun-Sentinel.com Havana Correspondent
3:53 PM EDT, July 26, 2007
CAMAGUEY, Cuba -- - With a billboard image of Fidel Castro watching over
a packed square, interim President Raul Castro said Thursday that Cuba
had survived the blow of his brother's illness without the chaos
predicted by the United States.
"These have truly been very difficult months, although with a
diametrically different impact to that expected by our enemies, who were
wishing for chaos to take hold and for Cuban socialism to collapse," the
world's longest-serving defense minister told tens of thousands of
loyalists celebrating the Revolution Day anniversary.
Raul Castro, 76, considered the more pragmatic of the revolutionary
brothers, also used the occasion of the communist island's top holiday
to signal the need for unspecified "structural changes" to an economy
that fails to meet the needs of working people.
"No one country can afford to spend more than what they have," he said.
"To have more, we have to begin by producing more, with a sense of
rationality and efficiency," Raul Castro said in a speech peppered with
praise for his convalescing brother.
The one-hour speech came on a holiday traditionally dominated by Fidel
Castro. It came exactly a year after his older brother's last public
appearances, when Fidel Castro gave speeches in the eastern cities of
Bayamo and Holguin in the days before ceding his government, Communist
Party and military responsibilities to Raul.
"We could hardly suspect what a blow was awaiting us," Raul Castro said
in a speech peppered with praise for the brother who governed Cuba for
more than 47 years.
About 100,000 loyalist waving small Cuban flags and screaming "Viva
Fidel! Viva Raul!" packed the plaza for ceremonies marking the Castro
brothers' launch of the Cuban revolution. Raul Castro, Cuba's only
four-star general, stood before the throng in military uniform with his
government's top officials.
Before his speech, an animated Raul Castro smiled and waved a miniature
flag in the air, occasionally chatting with members of his government.
There were musical and poetic tributes to Fidel Castro, who likely
watched the festivities from his convalescent headquarters in Havana.