, Cuba, Jul 27 – Fidel Castro made an appearance marking the start of Cuba\’s communist revolution, in the latest in a series of public events for the country\’s longtime leader.
Fidel Castro, who ceded power to his younger brother Raul Castro in 2006, laid a wreath at a monument to Cuban national hero Jose Marti in the event marking the 57th anniversary of the raid of the Moncada barracks, the opening salvo in the revolution.
Wearing his traditional olive green shirt, Fidel Castro was seen in television images at the ceremony and later speaking with people including religious leaders and members of the US-based group Pastors for Peace.
The outing was the seventh public appearance for the former Cuban leader in three weeks after a long period of reclusion, but he did not attend the main event and speeches marking the national holiday.
Fidel Castro, who turns 84 in August, has made only sporadic television or public appearances since he withdrew from power in July 2006 and ceded power to his brother Raul, 79, to recover from a stomach ailment.
But after a long absence Fidel is back in the public eye.
Many believed that Fidel was set to deliver the main speech at Monday\’s event, especially since the guest of honor was Hugo Chavez, the leftist president of Venezuela.
Chavez, however, canceled the visit Sunday, alleging that Venezuela faced a high risk of "armed aggression" from Colombia, whose US-backed government has accused Caracas of harboring Colombian guerrilla leaders.
Though no longer president, Fidel Castro still holds on to the powerful position of first secretary of the Communist Party.
President Raul Castro meanwhile refrained from speaking at the celebrations, dashing expectations he would announce a loosening of controls on the island\’s economy.
Vice President Jose Ramon Machado told a crowd of some 90,000 that Cuba\’s leaders "will act without populist, demagogic or deceitful solutions" as they strive to improve the economy.
"We will move forward with a sense of responsibility, step by step, at a pace that we will determine, without improvisations or haste in order to not make mistakes and to definitely leave behind mistakes or measures that do reconcile with actual conditions," Machado said.
At the same anniversary event in 2007, Raul Castro said he accepted the need for "structural changes" in the economy. More recently he has spoken of an urgent need to "update the model" of Cuba\’s economic growth.
Comments favoring changes in the economy, such as increasing privately owned small businesses, have even appeared recently in the state-run media, fueling public speculation that such movement was afoot.
But Machado said that Cuba\’s leaders "will continue the study, analysis and decision making that would lead to improving our efficiency" across the board, and emphasized that the island\’s leaders will not accept "pressure" from anyone.