Friday, December 9, 2011

Cuban Exiles Put on Fireworks Show Near Havana

HAVANA (AP) — A coalition of Cuban exiles sailed south from Florida on Friday to protest the island's human rights record with a nighttime fireworks display, eliciting a stern rebuke from Havana officials who called it an affront to national sovereignty.
Organizers said their boats would anchor a little more than 12 miles (19 kilometers) from the Cuban capital, just outside Cuba's territorial waters, and by early evening multicolored explosions could be seen intermittently far off on the horizon from Havana.
Only a handful of people were along the Malecon oceanside promenade amid a steady wind and sporadic rain. Almost entirely missing were the masses of young Cubans who gather to socialize on a normal Friday night.
When an Associated Press crew tried to interview the few who were there, a pro-government crowd of more than 20 people ran across the wide boulevard yelling "American press!" and demanding that a video camera be turned over. Some were holding bottles of alcohol and appeared to have been drinking.
The journalists identified themselves as accredited members of the press with the right to work in Cuba. One cameraman was punched in the face, another's thumb was sprained and a video camera was broken in the melee before the crew managed to leave the scene.
Exile organizers in Miami insisted the 18th protest flotilla over the years would be peaceful and was not a provocation, though they said they were trying to coordinate the protest with actions by dissidents on the island. They called on other Havana residents to bang soup pots in solidarity during the fireworks on the eve of International Human Rights Day.

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