The Week Ahead: Cuba celebrates its revolution in sombre mood

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The Independent Online
CUBANS today celebrate the 40th anniversary of an abortive guerrilla attack on a provincial barracks which brought their leader, Fidel Castro, a 15-year jail sentence. The celebrations will be muted, not because the storming of the Moncada barracks failed (although Mr Castro was given an amnesty two years later), but because the revolution that followed in 1959 is today being crippled by isolation and economic collapse.

For the first time since the revolution, President Castro will deliver his 26 July speech not to a mass rally in Havana but in a modest theatre in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba. 'Our problems have grown worse,' he said recently. To the shortages, power cuts and paralysis of public transport have been added crime, black-marketeering and prostitution, and Mr Castro has acknowledged that survival comes before dogma: the ban on Cubans owning hard currency could soon be lifted to siphon dollars into the state coffers and to win back support from the escalating numbers of disaffected.

If Cuba has spent decades trying to shake off US domination, another island is actively seeking it. The Pacific island of Palau, the only remaining territory administered by the United Nations Trusteeship Council, holds a plebiscite tomorrow on a Compact of Free Association with the United States. Under the agreement, the US would ensure the island's defence security in return for being able to establish military bases there.

The fall-out continues from US military intervention in Vietnam. Tomorrow, the US National Research Council Institute of Medicine publishes a report on the effects of the use of herbicides in the Vietnam war. And a joint US-Vietnamese search for soldiers Missing in Action (MIAs) ends today. Vietnam does not have diplomatic links with the US, but the US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, said he would meet the Vietnamese Foreign Minister, Nguyen Manh Cam, in Singapore tomorrow to talk about the MIAs. It will be the highest level talks between the two countries for many years.

The former US car-worker John Demjanjuk, sentenced to hang by an Israeli court for being 'Ivan the Terrible' who tortured Jews and ran gas chambers in the Nazi death camp in Treblinka, may walk free on Thursday when the Israeli Supreme Court rules on whether Demjanjuk really was 'Ivan'.

Evidence from former Treblinka guards contradicts Jewish survivors and suggests that the real Treblinka guard was named Ivan Marchenko. And new documents indicate that Demjanjuk worked at Sobibor death camp. Since the basis of his trial and extradition from the US was that he was Ivan the Terrible, Demjanjuk's lawyers argue that if that is in doubt, he must be freed - regardless of what he may have done in Sobibor. But Nazi-hunters fear the whole saga will weaken countries' resolve to prosecute war criminals.

In Uganda, Prince Ronald Mutebi is to be crowned king of Buganda on Saturday. The Buganda people regard the monarchy as fundamental to their cultural heritage.

'Statue Park', Eastern Europe's first theme park in the post-Communist era, opens in a middle-class suburb of Budapest on Sunday: it contains statues of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Ho Chi Minh and a symbolic path which leads - nowhere.

Going somewhere is the Argentine pensioner Daniel Carpio, 83, who on Thursday attempts his fourth swim across the Strait of Gibraltar from the Spanish town of Tarifa. He first did it in 1948, then in 1977 and 1978. He is sponsored by a company making tonic for muscle cramp.