Five thousand Cuban students rallied outside the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana on Monday, denouncing U.S. policy toward their country, Iraq and elsewhere.
It was the latest chapter in a dispute over a U.S. Christmas display.
Communist youth, university, and high school leaders blasted “U.S. imperialism” at the evening rally between anti-war and nationalist songs, as two powerful members of the Communist Party Political Bureau, Vice President Carlos Lage Davila and National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon, looked on.
“The new fascism of the United States continues harassing our revolution. ... As long as the provocations continue, we will do what is needed to fight them,” said the leader of Havana University students, Carlos Lage.
The event, celebrating the 82nd anniversary of the University Students Federation, was held in front of the U.S. mission, on Havana’s busy sea-side drive, to protest a Christmas display that has angered local authorities.
The rally was broadcast live by the state-controlled media.
The mission’s traditional Christmas lights depicting Santa, Frosty the Snow Man and candy-canes, includes this year a big number 75 symbolizing pro-democracy activists serving long prison terms.
Cuba considers the dissidents U.S. mercenaries out to subvert the country from within, a charge they deny.
On Friday, Cuba erected huge billboards around the U.S. mission.
They depicted photos of hooded and bloodied inmates at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, soldiers accosting children, and bold red swastikas and the word “fascists,” after the United States refused Cuban demands to take its display down.
The call to Monday’s protest, carried by all media, claimed the U.S. mission, and its chief, James Cason, were the “tip of the spear of the U.S. government’s aggressive and subversive plans.”
The statement said Cuban students were not against Christmas, but “hypocritical fascists who have made our world more insecure and terrible.”
Washington broke off diplomatic relations with Havana and imposed sanctions on Cuba after President Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, but the two countries maintain interests sections in each others’ capitals.