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[Procession of Flags]

Cuba Will Not Surrender

By Mike Fuller

May 14, Havana Malecón.-- I went in my friend's car but it almost felt like the May Day bus brigade two weeks ago. Except this was a militant call to march against George Bush's "fascist policy against Cuba." Instead of concentrating in the Plaza de la Revolución like on the first of the month, we strutted along the Malecón seaside drive, culminating in the face of the apparently impenetrable US Interests Section.

To understand Cuban protest terminology, one must explain the difference between a "march" and a "concentration." The latter, what we did on International Workers' Day, was a mere gathering in one place to express support. Today we walked over 10km under the hot sun, some bearing huge placards with images of the US war crimes in Iraq and everyone with flags. Both are impeccably organized, with buses coming in from all around the city and province of Havana, temporary street toilets, ambulances on standby and water trucks.

At the end of the demo all the signs and flag holders were neatly collected, people carefully directed out a side street, the last group of marchers took up the rear with a sea of large Cuban flags, neighborhood volunteer workers swept up and the streetcleaning trucks make the final pass.

The instigator of all this was US President George W. Bush and his "Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba," which came out a week before with some recommendations for "helping plan for the happy day when Castro's regime is no more and democracy comes to the island." The Commission also said it was for "human rights, the rule of law, creation of a free economy, modernizing infrastructure and meeting basic needs in the areas of health, education, housing, and human services."

But what it proposed was reducing US family visits to the island from once a year to once every three and seriously reducing remittances. It also decided to spend $36 million on "democracy-building activities" here, 18 million more for a "dedicated airborne platform for the transmission of Radio and Television Marti into Cuba," and 5 million more for "public diplomacy efforts" to inform the world about "Castro's record of abusing human rights." Lucky for us, the U.S. State Department's assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roger Noriega, doesn't seem to know from where all this cash will come, and said "It will have to be reprogrammed from existing sources."

Cuba has been getting ready for economic hardship for a few days now, limiting dollar shops to food and basic toiletry sales while re-pricing non-essential goods to bring in more dollars to the economy.

In one of his shortest speeches I've ever witnessed, Fidel very tidily wrapped up George Bush in his own rhetoric, questioning his dissing of the UN, fixing elections to seize power, ignoring the environment, and authorizing extra-judicial killing and torture in untold numbers around the world.

"Cuba fights for life," he said, and "you fight for death."

Even though it only lasted for the first 30 minutes, it was enough to get people riled up all day, and when I interviewed Segundo Enriques, a 66 year-old retired soldier who was wheeling his bicycle in the throngs, he said he was there to "respond to Bush's genocidal policies." The former combatant criticized US motives for war, and said "all they want is money." He said he hoped it wasn't necessary but if he had to he'd take to his rifle again, and that all Cubans have a gun in the military reserves.

The massive line of dissent was broken into different sections of marchers, with rows of enlarged images from the hideous US prison crimes in Iraq separating each group.

For certain, in a march one has to go from point A to point B more or less in a long procession. But a Cuban march has a lot of zing to it, and this one included folk music from Silvio Rodriguez and others, costumed kids on dads' shoulders, conga drums, plenty of romance and I even saw a middle aged woman playing a Game Boy. A social event with a political consciousness.

Toward the end as we passed by the sign next to the US Interests Section that says "Senores imperialistas we aren't the least bit scared of you," I spoke with 11 year-old Dailin Beloya from the Antonio Maceo school. I was very emphatic that she speak for herself, and her parents politely butted out as she explained to me that the most important thing about today was the parade itself, walking together, and the best part of that for her was when Fidel spoke.

I asked her what she liked most about the speech, and she said without hesitating "that we're not going to surrender."

Photos courtesy of Granma Diario

[Procession of Flagas]
[Procession of Flagas]
[President Fidel Castro addresses the march]
[Procession of Flagas]
[Procession of Flagas]
[Procession of Flagas]
[Procession of Flagas]
[Procession of Flagas]
[Procession of Flagas]

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