Posted on Sat, Jul. 26, 2008
By WILL WEISSERT
Associated Press Writer
SANTIAGO, Cuba --
President Raul Castro returned to his native eastern Cuba on Saturday to
mark the day 55 years ago that he and his brother Fidel led a ragtag
band of rebels in an audacious armed attack that launched a revolution.
Official media said Raul Castro would address the nation live on state
television and radio from Santiago's Moncada military barracks to mark
this year's Revolution Day celebration.
The president's speech was sure to be scrutinized for signs of more of
the modest reforms he has promoted since taking office five months ago.
He has opened more unused state land to private farmers, legalized cell
phones for ordinary citizens and allowed some workers to seek legal
title to their homes.
But Castro's Saturday night address could be more about making a
personal connection with the audience than political pronouncements.
While both Castro brothers were born in Cuba's east, Raul, who at 77 is
five years younger that Fidel, seems happiest here and many locals
consider him more down-home than Fidel.
"Raul is a man of the people and Santiago is full of his people," said
Elizabeth Trumpeta, a 42-year-old administrator at a government shoe
repair shop. "He can go to Havana, live and work there, but he has
Santiago in his heart."
Santiago, located 535 miles (860 kilometers) southeast of Havana, is
Cuba's second city and the de-facto capital of the island's eastern half.
Silhouetted by the jagged peaks of the Sierra Maestra mountains in the
distance, Moncada is where Raul Castro, Fidel and a small band of
revolutionaries launched an attack 55 years ago, hoping to foment
The attack was a disaster, with many assailants killed and most of the
rest captured. But it planted the seeds for a movement that brought
Fidel Castro to power on Jan. 1, 1959, when President Fulgencio Batista
fled the country.
Two years ago Saturday was the last time Fidel Castro was seen in
public. He underwent emergency intestinal surgery five days later and
has only appeared in official videos and photographs since. Raul
succeeded him as president in February.