Cuba puts on show of strength as Trump inauguration nears
By Marc Frank | HAVANA
Cuba on Monday paraded troops and hundreds of thousands of citizens
through its emblematic Revolution Square in a traditional show of
nationalist fighting spirit as it faces a tough political and economic year.
A replica of the yacht Granma, which brought the Castro brothers,
Ernesto "Che" Guevara and others from Mexico to Cuba to start the
revolution in 1959, surrounded by schoolchildren in red and white young
pioneer uniforms, led off the five-yearly event.
Troops wielding automatic rifles followed, marching in lock step, then a
sea of banner- and flag-waving Cubans, many bussed in and organized
through their workplaces and neighborhoods.
The head of the University Students Federation, Jennifer Bello Martinez,
opened the march with a fiery speech as President Raul Castro and other
leaders watched and waved from the base of a huge monument to
independence hero Jose Marti.
"Cuba will not abandon a single one of its principles ... not its
independence and not its sovereignty," she said.
The military parade and march normally takes place every five years on
Dec. 2 to mark armed forces day and commemorate the Granma landing but
it was postponed a month due to the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro
in late November.
The event, first announced last April, has taken on added significance
since the Nov. 8 U.S. election.
President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, has
threatened to rip up a detente with Cuba begun by President Barack Obama
two years ago unless he gets a "better deal" and has resorted to the
hostile rhetoric of the past when referring to the Communist-run
"We are braced for conflict with the USA, we always have been, but I
hope Trump will instead follow the path of Obama towards normalization,"
said 70-year-old Marcial Garcia, who still does logistical work for the
army, as he watched the parade.
The threat to the gradual and still fragile warming trend could not come
at a worse time for Cuba, which was plunged back into recession last
year for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union a quarter
century ago, as its strategic ally Venezuela floundered.
A tourism boom that brought 4 million visitors in 2016, in part sparked
by detente and looser travel restrictions on Americans, was not enough
to overcome dwindling oil shipments from the South American country on
beneficial terms, and less cash for Cuban doctors and other
professionals working overseas.
(Reporting by Marc Frank; Additional reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing
by James Dalgleish)
Source: Cuba puts on show of strength as Trump inauguration nears |