Cuban Vice President Raul Castro warned the United States on Tuesday not to repeat its mistakes in Vietnam and Iraq by invading Cuba, saying that next week's nationwide military maneuver will tell the US "not to underestimate our people."
The large-scale military drill, which is dubbed Bastion 2004 and will be held across Cuba from Dec. 13 to 19, will be a show ofpreparedness of the Cuban people, and "the Americans should watch closely, so that they do not commit the mistakes they made in Vietnam and are now making in Iraq, where they are bogged down," Castro told reporters.
Castro, minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the younger brother of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, reminded his people of the television images of troops and diplomats escaping from Vietnam by helicopters.
In describing the present US military occupation of Iraq, the general said that in spite of the ethnic and religious divisions prevailing in that Arab country, the might of resistance against Washington has grown so strong that the United States has bolstered its military strength to up to 150,000 soldiers.
Raul Castro, the No. 2 man in Cuba's political hierarchy, made these remarks at the end of a ceremony to honor major general Antonio Maceo on the 108th anniversary of his death.
Maceo, who fought the Spanish colonialism in the 19th century, is considered in the island as a fighter for freedom.
Bastion 2004 is the latest annual mass drill involving troop exercises with civilian involvement based on a guerrilla strategy designed to resist an invasion force. This year's operation is more extensive than last year's.
Tensions between the US and Cuba have increased under the Bush administration, which stepped up efforts to squeeze Cuba financially and undermine its one-party state by restricting visits to the island and curbing cash remittances.
Cuba's government repeatedly warns its population of the dangerof being next in line for a US invasion after Iraq. President Castro, who is currently wheelchair-bound after shattering his left knee in a fall in October, has accused the Bush administration of planning to invade Cuba.