Cuban cartoonists join US Xmas lights protest

Campaign News | Wednesday, 22 December 2004

Decoration outside Interests Section causes outrage

HAVANA 22 Dec - Cuban cartoonists have added gigantic caricatures of President Bush and his top diplomat in Cuba to an array of graphics around the US mission attacking America's human rights policies.

It was the latest response in a bitter exchange which began last week over a US Christmas display that included a reference to imprisoned US-paid opponents of the Cuban revolution.

The Malecon sea-side drive in front of the US Interests Section in Havana was closed to traffic as a tattered looking eagle was painted on the road, covering all four lanes and with a big letter "B" on its chest.

"It is an imperialist eagle and the "B" is for Bush," said Ernesto Padron, one of the image's creators. "We used transit paint so it will be here for a while. Everyone will have a chance to run over this," he said.

The mission's traditional Christmas lights depicting Santa, Frosty the Snowman and candy-canes, included this year a big number 75 symbolizing a group of US-financed activists jailed for treachery last year.

The United States has ignored Cuban demands that the display be taken down.

Also on Wednesday, a two-story caricature of James Cason, the top US diplomat, appeared on an apartment building overlooking the US mission.

Cason is depicted as Santa riding a sled pulled by soldiers not reindeer, and dropping bombs not presents on the earth below.

Cuba erected huge billboards around the US mission on Friday with photographs of hooded and bloodied inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, soldiers accosting children, and bold red swastikas and the word "fascists."

Students protest outside US Cuba mission

Havana Dec. 21: More than 5,000 Cuban students have rallied outside the US mission in the capital, Havana, amid a row over US Christmas decorations.

Speakers at the protest organised by the government described US foreign policy as "fascist" and US diplomats in the capital as "subversive".

Cuba has objected to the US display, which refers to jailed alleged dissidents, and hit back with images of abuse in Iraq.

The US says their decorations will stay in place until the end of the holidays.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has said the Cuban reaction was "unwise."

He told the Associated Press news agency, that the US would "continue to stick by our troops down there, our diplomats down there and our Christmas display."


The leader of Havana University students said at Monday evening's rally: "The new fascism of the US continues harassing our revolution.

"As long as the provocations continue, we will do what is needed to fight them," vice-president Carlos Lage added.

The Cuban display includes a swastika

The Cuban government has warned the most senior US diplomat in the country, James Cason, that his choice of decorations will have serious consequences.

The display at the US interests section includes a huge white Santa Claus, an image of galloping reindeer and a flashing sign wishing Cubans a Happy Christmas.

A large figure 75 is picked out in neon, inside a large circle, in reference to the number of the paid US 'dissidents' jailed last year.

After complaining to Mr Cason, Cuban officials set up a billboard including images of abused Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, and a swastika.

The US diplomat said last week that any action taken by Cuba against US personnel or the US mission in Havana would not affect his government's determination to draw attention to human rights.

Fourteen dissidents have been freed since the arrests took place in March 2003.

Anything but diplomatic: US envoy's catalogue of provocations

James Cason, the chief diplomat at the US Interests Section in Havana, has recently made the headlines by placing an illuminated sign of the number ‘75’ in the Christmas decorations outside the Interest Section building in Havana.

This is a reference to the 75 so-called dissidents who were jailed last year after being found guilty of accepting money from the US - namely James Cason himself- in order to mount a pro-US opposition to the Cuban government.

Cason’s refusal to take the down the sign after being asked to do so by the Cuban authorities resulted in the Cuban government erecting a billboard outside the Interests Section depicting the atrocities committed by US soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison.

But this latest tit-for-tat is not the only provocation that Cason has carried out recently. Here is a list of the ways in which James Cason has been acting over the last few months.

The question that must be asked is why the Cuban government should tolerate any of this activity by a diplomat.

September 5

Cason attended an event at another diplomat’s residence wearing a shirt with the following statement in the front: “We want to help them, but they won’t let us,” and, on the back, “What an insolent man,” with Fidel’s name underneath.

September 8

Several leaders of so-called dissident groups attended a reception at Cason’s residence, where they put up signs and placards referring to the so-called dissidents sentenced last year for collaborating with the US. They also set up a supposed replica of a dreadful prison cell, which, according to them, was supposed to illustrate the way in which counterrevolutionaries’ were being held.

The so-called dissidents attending the reception left the residence with bags filled with US propaganda brochures, magazines, short wave radios and T-shirts. On the same day, Cason granted the illegal US-financed propaganda station TV Martí an interview, where he delivered a scathing anti-Cuba attack.

September 10 and 11

Kelly Keinderling, first press and culture secretary at the US Interests Section, handed out about 100 radios smuggled into the country at the entrance to her residence and in the neighbourhood surrounding it. Together with the radios, she also gave away copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and texts with selected Jose Martí quotes. More than 8,000 radios were smuggled throughout November.

September 17

Cason visited Prague in the Czech Republic to participate in a conference organised by the US-financed International Committee for Democracy in Cuba, where he shared his furious attacks on the revolutionary leadership with disgraced former Spanish premiere José María Aznar and Vaclav Havel, the former Czech president. Cason also traveled to Madrid and Brussels to participate in other anti-Castro meetings.

September 15 to 17

Alexander Lee, Cason’s assistant, and US vice-consul to Cuba Erick Limberg, travelled to Holguín and Camagüey on a consular visit. During their trip, they handed out radios and propaganda publications.

At the same time, in Havana, other Interest Section officials visited well-known counterrevolutionary leaders’ homes on several occasions to deliver similarly anti-Castro brochures. They also delivered the same literature to the so-called “independent libraries”.

From September, the Interest Section’s ‘public diplomacy’ department began to show videos recorded from the TV Martí propaganda station in its waiting room, as well as the anti-Castro video La primavera de Cuba (Cuba’s Spring). At the same time it carried out survey of it visitors to ascertain how many of them watched the station when it broadcast.

October 1

James Cason attended the Chinese Independence Day reception at the Chinese ambassador’s residence wearing a guayabera shirt decked with the grades of a U.S. corporal in a clear send up of a statement made by a revolutionary leader. The reception included comrades from the Cuban revolutionary leadership.

October 11

Colette Cristian, second press and culture secretary, told The Chicago Tribune that the distribution of radios, books, magazines, and information was in line with the policy of George Bush; that they are attempting to hand out radios to the largest number of people possible, and that they would use any means to disseminate information in Cuba.

October 11 to 21

Interest Section officials visited several anti-Castro group leaders to supply them with literature, videos, radios and other materials.

October 22

Cason attended a reception to celebrate UN Day at the Palace of the Captains General, wearing his military outfit with the corporal grade. The US Special Interests Section published a bulletin containing offensive caricatures of Fidel, Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos.

November 2

Cason organised an event at his residency to celebrate the US elections where several so-called dissidents received electoral literature, a symbolic ballot, and expressed their opinions on the future of Cuba in a poll. At this farcical event, the so-called dissidents overwhelmingly voted for “their” President George Bush.

November 8 to 10

Cason attended a conference organised at Miami University by the so-called Committee for a Free Cuba from the University of Florida Study center. Cason offered a futuristic vision of Cuba’s destiny, Bush style. Later, once again on TV Martí he delivered a scathing attack on Cuba and met with Cuban-American anti-Castro ringleaders.

November 23

The Interests Section opened a new computer room for their paid so-called “independent journalists” to send manipulated information over the Internet and via e-mail. They also set up new printers to expand the propaganda literature to be distributed in the country.

December 6

Along with the Christmas decorations, Mr. Cason unveiled in the Interests Section garden facing the Malecón seafront an illuminated circle with the number 75, in clear reference to his paid Cuban ‘dissidents’ serving prison terms for treachery

Countering US move, Cuba mounts attack via billboard

HAVANA 16 Dec -- Retaliating against the US diplomatic mission's Christmas display supporting alleged dissidents, the Cuban government put up a billboard yesterday emblazoned with photographs of American soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners and a huge swastika overlaid with a "Made in the USA" stamp.

The US mission, headed by James Cason, rejected a demand this week to remove Christmas decorations that included a reference to so-called dissidents jailed by Fidel Castro's government.

The trimmings included a Santa Claus, candy canes, and white lights wrapped around palm trees -- and a sign reading "75," a reference to the 75 Cuban paid US agents jailed last year.

Parliament Speaker Ricardo Alarcon called the display "rubbish."

Wayne Smith, who headed the US mission during the Carter and Reagan administrations and has long advocated restoring normal diplomatic relations with Cuba, said the images of prisoner abuse were appropriate. "If I were in their shoes, this is what I would do -- call attention to the fact that the United States is now guilty of torture, of massive violations of human rights," Wayne said

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