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Cuba celebrates 50 years of Communism

world Updated: Jan 01, 2009 11:52 IST

Cuba on Wednesday celebrates the 50th anniversary of its revolution with its iconic leader Fidel Castro withdrawn from power, still at odds with the United States and facing new economic challenges.

Fifty year festivities, led by President Raul Castro, 77, who officially took over from his older brother in February, were due to centre on Santiago de Cuba -- the southeastern city from where the revolution began.

It was unclear how 82-year-old Fidel, who has not appeared in public since undergoing major surgery almost two and a half years ago, would participate.

Leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales has pulled out of the party and it was also unclear whether Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who considers himself Fidel Castro's "spiritual son," would attend.

"Celebrations won't be as grandiose as we had wished due to the economic situation," a Cuban official told AFP, requesting anonymity.

A 32-year-old Fidel Castro announced the start of the revolution in the island's second city after the victory of a 25-month guerrilla war over dictator Fulgencio Batista.

The communist revolution -- also led by legendary Argentine guerrilla Ernesto "Che" Guevara -- took on Marxist overtones in May 1961, one month after the attempted invasion of the Bay of Pigs by CIA-backed Cuban exiles.

Former US president John F Kennedy declared an embargo in February 1962, before the Soviet missile crisis, which almost set off nuclear war.

US president-elect Barack Obama, due to take power on January 20, has, however, promised to soften the 46-year-old embargo, and Raul Castro has said he is ready for talks without "carrot or stick" with Obama.