Castro's health and questions about his future have overshadowed the military display that as well as acting as a postponed celebration of his 80th brithday is also seen by some as a show of muscle to anyone who thinks communist Cuba is vulnerable.

Raul has been standing in for his brother after he underwent surgery for intestinal complications in July.

Equality call


Speaking before communist party offcials and military leaders, Raul reiterated his country's policy that Cuba would talk with the US if regarded as an equal.


He said negotiations were possible "as long as they [the US] accept that we are a country that does not tolerate any reduction of its independence, and based on the principles of equality, reciprocity, non-interference and mutual respect".

"Until that happens, after almost half a century, we are prepared to wait patiently for the moment when common sense takes root in the halls of power in Washington," added Raul.

The parade marked 50 years  of the
Cuban revolution
The policy of willingness to talk with the United States if  respected as an equal is standing Cuban policy.


Fidel Castro has not reached out to the US, much less publicly, on a regular basis.

And Raul's timing and mentioning the negotiating table could indicate some growing autonomy on his part.
 

Saturday's parade began with a standing Raul, riding on a jeep through Havana's main square after a 21-gun salute.   

Grand display

The display featured a wide array of weaponry including tanks, rocket launchers and MiG jet fighters provided by the Soviet Union, which was Cuba's biggest benefactor before its collapse in 1991.

   

The loss of Soviet aid forced the Revolutionary Armed Forces to cut its troop strength by 80 per cent. It is now believed to have no more than 60,000 active-duty soldiers

   

More than 300,000 civilians and soldiers are believed to have marched through the square.

 

A replica of the Granma, the yacht that carried Castro and his small band of rebels from Mexico to Cuba on December 2, 1956, also paraded through the streets.


The parade was attended by left-wing allies of Castro including Danial Ortega, the president of Nicaragua, and his Bolivian counterpart, Evo Morales.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies