Over one million march in Havana

The Cuban capital awoke at the crack of dawn, June 12, with more than one million people marching on the embassies of Spain and Italy in condemnation of the recent European Union (EU) diplomatic sanctions against Cuba.

Carrying Cuban flags and placards reiterating, among other slogans, “We have no fear of you,” and “Cuba must be respected,” the demonstrators expressed their condemnation of the EU’s attitude, which they see as having aligned itself with the policies of the Bush administration.

The U.S. has taken a number of new aggressive actions against the small socialist, island nation. Besides continuing the 40-year economic and diplomatic embargo, the Bush administration has severely curtailed travel licenses for “people-to-people” exchanges, expelled Cuban diplomats and used the U.S. Interests Section in Havana as a counter-revolutionary organizing center.

EU and Cuban relations have deteriorated since 75 “dissidents” were found guilty of treason for working with the United States to undermine socialism. Their prison terms ranged from six to 28 years. The EU also condemned Cuba for carrying out the death penalty for three men who tried to hijack a ferry.

Cuba has warned that since the Iraq war and occupation, the White House is working overtime to isolate Cuba and provoke a military conflict. The EU is Cuba’s largest trading partner.

“What bothers us most in all this, is that those who signed on to this statement are cooperating with the U.S. government’s Nazi-fascist policy,” President Fidel Castro said, adding that he would hold the EU leaders responsible for any possible U.S. military attack on Cuba.

Recently, Secretary of State Colin Powell said that he hoped both the EU and the U.S. can forge a common front on Cuba. Powell also put Cuba on the agenda of the June Organization of American States (OAS) meeting. But according to news reports at least 17 OAS members opposed a U.S. declaration, saying it was inappropriate because Fidel Castro’s government is not in a position to defend itself. Cuba was barred from OAS membership in the 1960s.

Many individuals and organizations involved in Cuba solidarity from the U.S. are continuing to build the movement to normalize U.S. – Cuba relations and end the U.S. embargo. This summer, the U.S./Cuba Youth Exchange will send over 300 young people to visit Cuba and see for themselves, first-hand, Cuban socialism. Jessica Marshall, coordinator for the “Youth United Delegation,” one of the Youth Exchange delegations said, “Many of the young people want to go down to see things for themselves because they don’t believe what Bush is saying [about Cuba].”

Joaquin Oramas from Granma and Terrie Albano contributed to this story.