Ciego de Avila – President Raul Castro headed the main event marking the 58th anniversary of older brother Fidel's quixotic attack on an army post, but did not give a speech at the iconic revolutionary celebration again overshadowed by the challenge of "updating" the socialist model.
Gen. Castro was present at the Plaza Maximo Gomez in the eastern city of Ciego de Avila wearing a white guayabera shirt and ready to present diplomas to provinces that have made outstanding economic achievements, but, as in 2010, he delegated the speechmaking to Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura.
The president's silence appeared to establish a new tradition in the commemoration of Fidel Castro's failed 1953 attack on the Moncada army barracks, a defeat the Communist regime venerates as the start of the revolution that brought it to power in 1959.
Though he did not speak, the principal elements of the president's policies were heard in the speeches given by Machado and local Communist Party chief Jorge Luis Tapia to the thousands gathered in the square.
Both emphasized the need to press the "economic battle" with "order, discipline and strictness," but made no important announcements and scarcely mentioned the 49-year-old U.S. economic embargo, normally an essential topic on such ceremonial occasions.
Machado said the economic guidelines approved at April's Communist Party congress are the "compass" for modernizing the economy. He called for Cubans to break "the mentality of inertia" and said that the reforms will be implemented "without hurrying but without stopping."
The reform program includes expanding the scope for self-employment and small business and plans to eliminate 500,000 jobs at state-run enterprises.
"We're not patching things over nor improvising - rather we're looking for lasting solutions for old problems, with feet on the ground and ears to the ground, listening closely to people's opinions, ready to make corrections as we go, pacing ourselves and taking new decisions," he said.
He spent part of his speech recalling that in January the Communist Party will hold a national conference that will deal with the "many changes" in the party's ways of working.
Participants at the conference will also analyze the party's role in the "systematic direction and control of the modernization process" of the Cuban model, including "leaving behind prejudices against the non-state sector of the economy."