NBC News   |  April 16, 2011

Cubans mark Bay of Pigs anniversary with parade

In what many Cubans are calling the biggest show of military might in decades, a large parade in Havana is marking the 50th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs. NBC's Mark Potter reports from Cuba.

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>>> this weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the bay of pigs invasion in cuba . this massive military parade was held earlier today to commemorate that anniversary. it is a date that is celebrated in cuba and rather mourned in the united states . nbc's mark potter joins me live from havana . good morning to you. i want to hear about this parade that's under way in some level behind you. what's the mood like in cuba as we revisit that historic day?

>> reporter: good morning, alex . it's a festive mood. we're here in the plaza of the revolution in the heart of havana for a huge parade going on for the last hour, described as the biggest such event and the biggest show of military might here in dosh decades. fidel castro who is ailing is not here today. what they are celebrating is the cuban victory of the pay of pigs. 14 0 cuban exiles trained by the cia, supplied by the u.s. military made landfall in southern cuba but met fierce resistance there. when their invasion began to collapse, president john f. kennedy refused to give them air support and the invasion ended in defeat for the exiles in just three days. more than 100 killed, more than 1,000 captured. this event in the united states and particularly in the cuban exile community there is deeply mourned. for fidel castro this is a major victory , underscored the success of his revolution, changed the course of history. it is an event still felt today, still haunting today, the troubled relationship between the united states and cuba . 50 years after the event being celebrated here in havana this morning. alex , back to you.

>> on this celebratory weekend, mark, i understand there are reports cuba 's communist party will hold a meeting to discussion economic reforms this weekend. do you know much about that meeting?

>> reporter: that's right, yes. the cuban communist party convention, the congress is starting today. they haven't been together for 25 years. they are going to be talking about the economy and presumably ratifying cuban government plan to open up the socialist economy to more free enterprise . they are careful to announce that this is something that will be done slowly. they are not embracing capitalism. they realize for the future success of their socialist government, they need to allow people to make their own live vings because this is a deeply troubled economy and they are experimenting now by letting people open up businesses. they're also requiring some state businesses to lay off people, as many as a half million people may be laid off here from state businesses. it's a traumatic event and they're trying to open up jobs for those people. a big change in the cube an economy. again, of fishlsz here say not a dramatic change and not an embrace of capitalism. alex ?

>> mark, let me ask you in terms of the tenor of the folks here, is this more of a pro-cuban celebratory day or an anti- united states sentiment?

>> reporter: much more pro-cuban. there is some anti-american sentiment. that's pro form ma. that happens all the time. that's the backdrop for the event, the invasion. more than anything this is a celebration of cuban life, the revolution, and these are the people from cuba , young people , old people marching here. there are tens of thousands stretching as far as we can see. this has been going on for more than an hour. i would say this is more a pro- cuba demonstration than anti-american demonstration.