In Havana, thousands of Cubans protest U.S. policies

Castro rebuffs measures that seek regime change

May 15, 2004|By Gary Marx | Gary Marx,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

HAVANA - Chanting "Down with Fascism!" and carrying posters depicting President Bush as Adolf Hitler, hundreds of thousands of Cubans yesterday protested the measures announced last week by the White House aimed at bringing democracy to this Communist state.

Kicking off the demonstration, Cuban President Fidel Castro read a speech directed at Bush, telling him the march was "a denunciation of the brutal, ruthless and cruel measures" that seek to tighten the four-decade trade embargo against the island.

The 77-year-old Castro, dressed in his familiar olive green military uniform and hat, charged that Bush was trying to impose "world tyranny" but said Cuba "cannot be subjugated nor put once again into the humiliating position of a neo-colony of the United States."

Castro said Bush and his allies had turned world politics into a "madhouse." The Cuban leader ended his speech by comparing himself to a Roman gladiator about to enter battle, saying he was ready to "die fighting in defense of my homeland."

Castro then briefly led the march along Havana's sweeping seafront boulevard, the Malecon, before leaving. He said the demonstration drew a million people.

The march swept past the U.S. Interests Section building, the seat of U.S. diplomacy in Havana, and continued for hours as a sea of Cubans listened to speakers bark denunciations of Bush broadcast over huge loudspeakers.

Among the measures Bush announced last week are tightened limits on the money Cubans living in the United States can legally send to relatives on the island and a sharp reduction in the number of visits they can make.

The United States is also set to spend about $58 million over the next two years helping promote democracy in Cuba, including improving Radio and TV Marti - the U.S.-funded anti-Castro broadcasts - so they can thwart Cuba's jamming.

Some experts predict that the measures will have at most a modest effect on the Cuban economy. But Cuban officials describe them in draconian terms, saying the steps will further batter the economy and set the stage for possible U.S. military action.

In response, Cuba halted the sale of products sold in dollars that many Cubans rely on to make up for the scarce supply of goods sold for Cuban pesos. The so-called dollar stores are expected to reopen in coming days with higher prices.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.