President Raul Castro was expected to speak at the ceremony in the eastern city of Santiago. Thousands were in the audience in a sun-splashed square outside the Moncada barracks, still visibly scarred with bullet holes from the doomed assault.

The July 26 holiday is sometimes used to make major announcements.

Raul Castro, Fidel’s younger brother, took up the reins of the country in 2006 and is pushing a series of social and economic reforms, including relaxed restrictions on foreign travel and a limited opening for small private businesses and cooperatives.

Several heads of state from friendly nations attended the anniversary including Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Uruguay’s Jose Mujica and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega.

There was no sign of Fidel Castro, who was forced from office seven years ago by a near-fatal intestinal ailment and rarely appears in public these days.

In speeches, the leaders vowed solidarity with Cuba, railed against U.S. “imperialism” and Washington’s 51-year-old economic embargo, eulogized the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and said the Cuban Revolution inspired armed and political uprisings in their own nations.

“The banners of rebellion from Moncada are still relevant,” said Mr. Maduro, whose nation provides billions of dollars a year in greatly subsidized oil to Cuba.

“Cuba, Fidel, Raul, the Cuban Revolution, inspiring the peoples of our Americas and in the world, lighting the inextinguishable flame of revolution,” Mr. Ortega said.

Fidel and Raul Castro and more than 100 rebels attacked the Moncada barracks on July 26, 1953, but were overwhelmed by the forces of strongman Fulgencio Batista.

The rebels were imprisoned and Fidel Castro’s argument in the trial court, later hailed as “History will absolve me,” exposed the ruling junta and the rebels were later released. Fidel’s court speech touted as one of the great speeches in defence of individual rights. After in exile for some time in Mexico, the rebels returned with more arms and resumed the rebellion that ultimately resulted in Batista’s ouster in 1959.

More In: International | News | World