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Cuba's Leader Fidel Castro Used His 90th Birthday To Slam Obama

Thousands of Cubans danced in the streets to celebrate the former leader’s birthday.

14/08/2016 6:09 AM AEST | Updated 03/01/2017 9:52 AM AEDT
ADALBERTO ROQUE via Getty Images
HAVANA, CUBA: Cuban President Fidel Castro attends a ceremony to inaugurate remodelled schools in Havana 13 August, 2002, his 76th birthday. The US labeled Castro a 'dinosaur' as he turned 76, and issued him a birthday challenge to renounce communism and embrace reform for the benefit of the Cuban people. 'I knew there was a reason I wore my tie with dinosaurs,' deputy State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said when asked about any birthday wishes Washington might have for its Cuban nemesis. He then suggested that Castro take a close look at US President George W. Bush's initiatives for Cuba which promise an easing of sanctions against the island in exchange for broad democratic and market reforms. AFP PHOTO/Adalberto ROQUE (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)

HAVANA (Reuters) - Fidel Castro thanked Cubans for their tributes to mark his 90th birthday on Saturday in a meandering column carried by state-run media in which the iconic leftist revolutionary also lambasted old foe United States.

Cuba went into overdrive this month honoring the retired “El Comandante” who spearheaded its 1959 revolution and built a Communist-run state on the doorstep of the United States, surviving what it says were hundreds of assassination attempts along the way.

Thousands danced to Latin beats along Havana’s curving seafront Malecon boulevard throughout the night from Friday to Saturday. It was a giant street party in his honor, with a live band playing “Happy Birthday” on the stroke of midnight and fireworks exploding on the other side of the bay.

“I want to express my most profound gratitude for the shows of respect, the greetings and gifts I have received the days, which give me the strength to reciprocate through ideas,” Castro wrote in the opinion piece.

Castro, who handed power to his younger brother Raul in 2008 due to poor health, went on to reminisce about his youth as a child on the family plantation in the eastern village of Biran, in particular about his father who died before the revolution.

“He suffered quite a bit,” Castro wrote. “Of his three male children, the second and third were absent and distant, both fulfilling their duty in revolutionary activities.”

Even back then, Fidel wrote, he knew Raul should replace him if anything should happen to him, in particular if the United States succeeded in its attempts to kill him.

“I almost laughed about the Machiavellian plans of the U.S. presidents,” he wrote.

True to form, Castro went on to lambast Barack Obama, this time for the U.S. president’s speech in May when he visited Hiroshima, site of the world’s first atomic bombing at the end of World War Two.

“He lacked the words to ask for forgiveness for the killings of hundreds of thousands of people,” Castro wrote.

In his last opinion piece, in March, the “Historic Leader” accused Obama of sweet-talking the Cuban people during his visit to the island - the first by a U.S. leader in 88 years - and of ignoring the accomplishments of Communist rule.

Many Cubans feel Fidel is no longer in step with the times. Raul’s most broadly feted accomplishment since taking power has been implementing a detente with the United States after a half century of frozen confrontation.

Considered more pragmatic, the younger Castro also introduced market-style reforms to invigorate the state-dominated economy and increased personal freedoms, such as the right to travel abroad. Fidel has lent these policies only lukewarm support in public.

Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters
Thousands of Cubans danced to Latin beats to celebrate Castro's 90th birthday on Saturday.

Still, that didn’t stop tributes to Fidel flooding in on the occasion of his birthday, ranging from the conventional, such as photo exhibits about his life, to the outlandish, with one cigar maker rolling the longest smoke in the world, measuring 90 meters (295 feet), in Fidel’s honor.

Indeed, regardless of the present, many Cubans continue to revere Fidel for having freed Cuba from U.S. domination and introduced universal, free healthcare and education.

Fidel is the best thing that happened to our country,” said Aldo Zamora, 40, selling candy-colored balloon animals at the street party along the Malecon, as a tropical electric storm lit up the night sky.

(Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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