Cubans Mark 50th Anniversary of Failed Bay of Pigs Invasion

Country celebrates 50 years of staying power and standing up to America.

ByABC News
April 16, 2011, 6:14 PM

HAVANA, Cuba, April 16, 2011— -- The eyes of the world may be focused on the fight against dictators from Libya to Egypt to Syria, but today that familiar country just 90 miles from Florida is celebrated 50 years of staying power and standing up to America.

Marking the anniversary of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion -- a kind of Fourth of July in Cuba -- fighter jets streakes overhead, gleaming tanks rumbled down streets, and hundreds of thousands of Cubans marched -- the anti-government fervor sweeping the Middle East nowhere to be seen.

"I'm against imperialists. I'm against the capitalists. Cuba is a good country. And it's strong," Annabel, a 23-year-old attorney told ABC News in near perfect English.

But, she quickly insisted on switching to Spanish: "You are in Cuba -- here we speak Spanish."

It's no accident that the Cuban government is celebrating what many Cubans still see as their greatest victory over America, the failed invasion at the Bay of Pigs. At the same time, the government is using all this revolutionary fanfare to kick off a party congress that will bring economic changes painful and disorienting for many Cubans.

The message is clear: If Cuba can overcome the United States, it can overcome its worst economic crisis in decades.

The government's answer is one that may sound oddly familiar to Americans -- cuts in health and food benefits, and an assault on government employees -- meaning the end of 1 million government jobs in a country where 80 percent of people work for the state.

At the parade today in the storied Plaza de la Revolucion, no one seemed worried about the potential job cuts.

"No, no," one Cuban teacher said. "No we're not worried about that. "

What will not change in the country is single-party rule. Cuba is defiantly resisting the democratic change sweeping the Middle East.

The Bay of Pigs anniversary couldn't be better timed, giving the government of Raul Castro a chance to cultivate the David vs. Goliath story, and direct Cubans' anger away from the government and toward that familiar enemy to the north.