- The Washington Times - Monday, December 3, 2001

SANTIAGO, Cuba (AP) Fidel Castro saluted his troops as MiG fighter jets zoomed overhead, just like in the old days. But Cuba's military celebrated its anniversary yesterday with a parade that reflected the diminished firepower of a country that was once on the Cold War's front lines.
Unlike its martial parades of the 1970s and 1980s, when communist Cuba was flush with Soviet weapons it pointedly displayed 90 miles from Florida, the Revolutionary Armed Forces marched on its 45th anniversary without tanks, anti-aircraft weapons, mortars or other big guns.
Instead, there were three combat jets and three helicopter gunships that buzzed by as the parade wrapped up with a crescendo from an army brass band. Fewer than half the 6,040 marchers carried rifles.
The scaled-down ceremony pointed to the shrunken military mission of a country that once supported rebel movements abroad but has been forced to turn inward and nurse its own struggling economy though its leader has lost none of his revolutionary rhetoric.
"There exists no weapon more potent than profound convictions and clear ideas of what should be done," Mr. Castro, the commander in chief, said in a speech in this southeastern city before the parade.
"For this type of weapon, you don't need fabulous sums of money, only the capacity to create and transmit just ideas and values," he said. "That will make our people more armed than ever."
Sitting next to the 75-year-old leader was his brother, Gen. Raul Castro, 70, Cuba's defense minister and the president's chosen successor. The brothers rarely appear together.
Raul Castro did not speak, but the Communist Party daily, Granma, quoted him Saturday as saying Cuba is a "peaceful nation" that does not need offensive weapons.
For that matter, he said it has acquired no new ones in recent years and has cut troop strength by tens of thousands. The defense budget has nearly halved since the mid-1980s, he said.
He said Cuba's leadership concluded that masses of heavy weapons "wouldn't do much in the case of an armed attack," and both Castro brothers emphasized the importance of civilians in the island's defense.

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