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Despite Problems, Castro Still a Favorite Among Some Americans

July 28, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The meeting room a few blocks from the White House had a 1960s flavor: the images of Che Guevara, Karl Marx pamphlets and condemnations of American imperialism.

And with words and songs and generous helpings of traditional Cuban food, about 60 partisans from the thinning ranks of the American left helped celebrate Tuesday night the 40th anniversary of Fidel Castro’s debut as a guerrilla fighter.

With socialism in retreat almost everywhere, even in such improbable places as China and Vietnam, the far left has little to cheer about these days. But this gathering was comforted by Castro’s dogged ability to survive the most daunting difficulties even after more than a third of a century of struggle.

It was 40 years ago on Monday that Castro and a band of revolutionary sympathizers attacked a military barracks, signaling the start of an uprising that ousted a discredited military regime five years later.

The message from the speakers Tuesday night was one of pride in past achievements and hope that the revolution will once again ascend, rebounding from the precipitous economic decline triggered by the collapse of Soviet and European communism.

The revolution ″will never, ever be destroyed,″ said Leonor Fraga, daughter of Castro’s chief envoy to Washington, Alfonso Fraga. For all of Cuba’s difficulties, she said the country was able to register a decline in infant mortality last year of 10.2 deaths per thousand compared with 10.7 the year before.

The U.S. embargo against Cuba, not unexpectedly, came under sharp criticism from speakers but there was no mention at all of the ideological concessions forced on Castro recently, including the legalization of dollars and the open- arms welcome he is giving to foreign investors eager for that once-despised capitalist icon: profit.

Most of those in attendance were not even born at the time of Castro’s act of defiance 40 years ago, including Brian Adams, coordinator of the sponsoring organization, the D.C. ″Hands off Cuba″ Coalition.

Adams, a graduate of George Mason University, said he and his allies became involved in support of Cuba after the country’s foreign trade dried up with the demise of European communism four years ago and with the leftist electoral defeat in Nicaragua in 1990.

″Cuba certainly remains the example for another path towards development,″ said Adams, who works in a suburban food co-op. ″There is some other way to go forward beyond what the World Bank and International Monetary Fund prescribe. We want this example to stay alive.″

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