Thursday, January 26, 2006

Castro Visits Construction Site at Night

Castro Visits Construction Site at Night
By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ, Associated Press WriterWed Jan 25, 10:59 PM ET

Fidel Castro visited a mysterious new construction site outside the U.S.
Interests Section on Wednesday night, but kept mum over what was being built
in front of the mission - a growing flashpoint for U.S.-Cuba relations.
Dressed in his olive green uniform and surrounded by security men, Castro
made the nighttime visit one day after directing a massive march past the
building to protest recent U.S. actions aimed at Cuba, including a new
electronic sign streaming news and human rights messages.
"If I tell you, it will ruin the surprise," Castro told reporters who asked
what workers were building. The Cuban president said he was there primarily
"to greet the workers."
Castro indicated he had no intention of breaking already limited relations
between the two countries. "It is (the Americans) who will decide what
happens to this Interests Section," he said.
The American mission irked Castro last week when it installed the electronic
sign on the facade of its main building with streaming text of sayings about
freedom and excerpts from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to
which Cuba is a signatory.
The American mission said in a statement that it was informed by the Cuban
government after the march Tuesday that the parking lot in front of the
building could no longer be used until further notice.
"The regime appears to be building a permanent structure that, we believe,
seeks to obstruct Cubans' view of the uncensored messages and information
posted on our streaming billboard," the U.S. statement said. "The regime's
reaction is not surprising: building walls to isolate Cubans from the rest
of the world is what the regime knows best.
"Why cannot the regime allow Cubans to make up their own minds as to what
they want to think, read and say publicly?"
The plaza includes a stage used for music concerts and political events
attended by Castro and other Communist Party leaders.
Castro characterized the new U.S. messages as "provocations" and said they
appeared to be aimed at breaking off the limited contact between the two
governments, which have been without diplomatic relations for 45 years.
The U.S. has an interests section under the Swiss Embassy in Havana to
handle consular affairs such as visa processing. Cuba has a similar office
in Washington.

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