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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 August 2005, 22:36 GMT 23:36 UK
Cuba marks Castro's 79th birthday
Children with a cake to mark President Fidel Castro's 79th birthday
The president's birthday was marked with cake and tributes
Cuba's President Fidel Castro, the world's longest serving leader, has been celebrating his 79th birthday.

Dozens of Cuban children danced and presented a huge cake, while state-run newspapers and documentary films paid tribute to his 46 years in charge.

A letter in the Communist daily Granma to the "dearly loved Fidel" praised his "guerrilla spirit of just ideals".

Mr Castro, who has held on to power in defiance of the US and dissidents, has so far shown no interest in retiring.

The president appears to have made a steady recovery from a fall last October that left him with a fractured right arm and broken left knee.

Venezuelan alliance

He has already given 38 televised speeches this year, compared to about 15 for the whole of 2004. His addresses can stretch to six or seven hours.

A documentary shown in an Old Havana theatre charted some of Mr Castro's most famous public speeches, from his assumption of power in 1959 to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

His government has recently been buoyed by a strengthened alliance with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.

Cuban President Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro has shown no interest in retiring after 46 years in power

The election of left-leaning leaders in Brazil, Uruguay and Ecuador has also allowed Cuba's leader to feel less isolated against the might of the US.

Last month, the US announced the creation of a new post to help "accelerate the demise" of the Castro regime, the only communist state in the Americas.

The president's long-standing position is that Cuban dissidents are mercenaries in the pay of the US, rather than representative of public opinion.

A rare demonstration by dissidents in July led to the biggest police crackdown on opponents of the government since 2003, with some 20 people arrested. About 15 remain in jail.

Mr Castro won a useful publicity coup last week, when a US appeal court decided to retry five Cubans convicted of spying on the grounds the original trial was unfair.

The men, hailed as heroes in Cuba, were sentenced four years ago to at least 15 years in jail.

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