Cubans stage rally in support of Castro

SOME 500,000 Cubans rallied in Havana's Revolution Square on Sunday night to show support for the government of President Fidel Castro, following street clashes last week in which 35 people were injured and two policeman killed. The venue is the traditional rallying point for orchestrated gestures of support for Mr Castro's regime, which suffered a damaging blow last week when police met unprecedented resistance from anti-government demonstrators.

In Friday's disturbances, the worst outbreak of civil disorder since the revolution in 1959, groups throwing stones clashed for several hours along the Malecon, Havana's waterfront, with police and civilian vigilante brigades. Windows were smashed and shops were looted as hundreds of people marched down a main street chanting 'Freedom] Freedom]' A number of people were arrested. Later in the afternoon Mr Castro inspected the area.

At the weekend, security measures in the city were tightened, roads leading to the port were blocked and tension is reported to have increased.

The party faithful, stoical beneath a seasonal downpour, were addressed on Sunday by the Deputy Defence Minister, Ulises Rosales del Toro, who reiterated the angry allegation made by Mr Castro on Friday that the United States was behind the unrest.

Mr Castro, in a televised address on Friday, said one reason for the illegal emigration was the US embargo 'which attempted to strangle the Cuban people by starvation and lack of medicines'. He threatened to unleash a flood of Cuban refugees to the US, as he had in the 1980 Meriel boatlift which unloaded 130,000 Cubans on to the Florida shores, many of them common criminals.

Ostensibly, Sunday's rally was to honour a young policeman, Gabriel Lamoth Caballero, who was killed by hijackers who commandeered a ferry boat in Havana last Thursday to try to reach the United States. But it was also the Communist regime's fightback against the disturbances, an unwelcome indication of the potential instability of Mr Castro's 35- year-old one-party state. Divers are still searching Havana bay for the body of a second policeman killed in the hijacking.

Mr Rosales, addressing multitudes who had been mobilised block by neighbourhood block and bussed in from the surrounding countryside, repeated Mr Castro's threat to flood the US with Cuban emigrants if Washington did not halt what Havana regards as its 'malevolent' policy of encouraging illegal emigration from Cuba. Washington, he said, was only trying to cause disorder and provoke a 'bloodbath' in Cuba.

Mr Castro himself was absent from the event - on a visit to Colombia for the swearing-in of the new Colombian President. But a phalanx of senior figures in the Cuban nomenklatura, including the First Deputy President, Raul Castro, the President's brother, flanked Mr Rosales, along with a group of relatives of the dead policeman.

But Mr Rosales, chairman of Cuba's joint military chiefs and a member of the ruling Communist Party's top policy-making committee, made clear that the Cubans were keen to resolve the problem by negotiation. 'If the United States is ready to discuss serious solutions and hold honest negotiations with Cuba, we do not oppose a joint search for solutions,' he said.

Thursday's hijacking, which ended with authorities bringing the hijackers and passengers back to Havana after the vessel ran out of fuel, was the third such incident in nine days.

In Washington, US officials played down the incident, saying that Havana appeared to have calmed down and that 'Castro has backed off of his threat'. The White House chief of staff, Leon Panetta, said: 'We have made it very clear to Castro that he cannot dictate our immigration policy and we will not accept the threats he has made.'

(Photograph omitted)

(Table omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'