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Last Updated: Friday, 25 July, 2003, 21:15 GMT 22:15 UK
Cuba revolution hits 50 years
Castro's birthplace opens to visitors on the 50th anniversary of the revolution
Cubans are wondering what will happen when Castro dies

Cuba celebrates the 50th anniversary of the start of Fidel Castro's revolution - with internal discontent over social hardship and rising outside pressure on human rights issues.

On 26 July 1953, Communist rebels attacked the important Moncada army barracks. The mission failed but launched the revolution that brought Castro to power.

Still leading his people, President Castro - recently rumoured to be ill - is due to speak at a ceremony at the Santiago barracks, attended by the surviving rebels.

The anniversary has prompted commentators to once again focus on the country's problems and question its political future.


Despite the boom in tourism - which followed the economic crisis of the mid-1990s - life for ordinary Cubans continues to be hard.

Monthly food rations last two weeks, power and water supplies are patchy and the wages paid by the state simply do not go far enough.

President Castro sparked international condemnation when he jailed 75 dissidents in April - following increased support by the US administration of his opponents.

He was unrepentant.

"Who deals with the problems suffered in those selfish, capitalist, alienated and alienating societies?" he said.

Revolution dead?

The 400,000 Cuban-Americans in Florida - a sought-after destination for those attempting to leave Cuba - are unlikely to be celebrating on Saturday.

Under the headline An Anniversary Of Tyranny, the Miami Herald said in its editorial that Castro's legacy was "very little to boast about".

BBC News Online looks back at the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power

"Half a century after the 26-year-old firebrand burst onto the world stage by leading a failed assault on the Moncada barracks, his revolution is dead in the water," it said.

As President Castro nears his 77th birthday in August Cubans are also beginning to wonder how much longer he will remain in power, and what may happen when he dies.

Longest serving

"There is a sense of resigned expectation on the island, because no one really knows how Cuba is going to get out of this hole," Cuban-born Washington-based professor Eusebio Mujal-Leon told Reuters news agency.

The political face of Cuba changed forever on the night Castro led rebels on the assault of the second most important military base of corrupt right-wing dictator President Fulgencio Batista.

At the time government forces appeared to crush the rebellion - the rebels were tracked down and shot and Castro and his brother were jailed.

Six years later, in 1959, Fidel Castro and the revolution succeeded in toppling Batista.

He has remained in power ever since, earning him the title of the world's longest serving current political leader.

The BBC's Matt Frei
"Behind the revolutionary fury there's simmering discontent"

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