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Castro Blasts 'Yankee' Plans

Fidel Castro led tens of thousands of Communist Party faithful in celebrating Cuba's Revolution Day on Wednesday, telling a large crowd that his revolution's social achievements exceed anything a U.S.-backed replacement could accomplish.

Returning to his roots in eastern Cuba, Castro also praised Granma province, named for the yacht that carried him back to Cuba in 1956 to launch the battles that led him to triumph three years later.

"Granma (province) doesn't need any Yankee transition plan to vaccinate and teach our people to read and write," Castro said, drawing loud applause from the crowd in this provincial capital. "They should tell Mr. Bush ... to come to Granma to see a development plan."

The plan recently presented by a U.S. presidential commission envisions a post-Castro Cuba with multiparty elections and free markets, led by a democratic transition government that would be encouraged to request aid and other support from the United States.

Cuban leaders say there will be no transition after the death of Castro, who turns 80 on Aug. 13, but rather a succession within the existing system. The leader's 75-year-old brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro, is to assume the presidency.

Cuba's top communist leadership began arriving earlier this week for the annual celebration of Castro's nearly suicidal barracks assault in the eastern city of Santiago that launched the Cuban Revolution.

Castro was just 26 when he led a ragtag band on July 26, 1953, in the assault on the Moncada barracks.


Organizers estimated that more than 100,000 people showed up for the early morning event in this city about 500 miles east of Havana. Virtually all wore bright red commemorative T-shirts and waved small red, white and blue Cuban flags distributed by local party officials.

Castro's attendance was not confirmed until he appeared onstage in his trademark olive green uniform, sending up a huge cheer from the crowd.

Addressing the assembly for more than two hours, Castro focused largely on regional matters, saying Granma province's social and economic achievements "fill us with admiration and astonishment."

Now 47 years in power, making him the world's longest-ruling head of government, Castro was born and raised in eastern Cuba. It was in this region, once known as Oriente Province, that he launched and fought the revolution that triumphed on Jan. 1, 1959, when dictator Fulgencio Batista fled the country.

A huge plaza was built in Bayamo for Wednesday's event, featuring a bronze and marble monument at the front carved with the faces of Cuban independence heroes such as Jose Marti. Also carved on the side was a rendering of the yacht Granma — named after someone's grandmother — that landed on the coast near here almost 50 years ago, carrying Castro and a small band of men from Mexico.

Although the barracks attack failed, with many of the assailants killed and the rest — including Castro and his younger brother Raul — imprisoned, it is considered the official start of the revolution.

The Castro brothers and the other surviving assailants were released early under an amnesty and traveled to Mexico, where they planned the guerrilla war and boarded the yacht.

Bayamo, the capital of Granma province, was also the site of numerous key battles in Cuba's independence wars against Spain and the revolution Castro led to overthrow Batista's government.

It was also where Cuba's national anthem was written in 1868 as the island struggled to free itself from Spanish rule. "Run to battle, people of Bayamo," the anthem says, "For our country overlooks you with pride. Fear not a glorious death. For to die for your country is to live."