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Cubans Commemorate Castro Revolution, Protest U.S. Embargo in Massive Havana MarchAired July 26, 2000 - 1:26 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The Cuban government says half the people in Havana today were not in their homes but on the street. A huge march commemorated the 1953 battle that launched Fidel Castro's revolt.
But our Havana bureau chief, Lucia Newman, tells us the focus today was on another enemy.
LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): A virtual sea of humanity lined Havana's Malecon oceanfront drive in what may have been the biggest government-organized march in Cuba's history.
President Fidel Castro, who led the way, called for a million people to take part. The city was literally paralyzed as buses and trucks, even from nearby provinces, were used to bring out the crowd to march in front of the American diplomatic mission. The slogan: end to the U.S. economic embargo. This on the anniversary of the start of the revolution that brought Castro and his rebels to power 41 years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It's an important national holiday, but we're also here fighting against the blockade, which, after so many years, is an anachronism.
NEWMAN: Although the Cuban government has always denounced and condemned the U.S. economic embargo, one of the longest running in history, the sanctions theme has now replaced Elian Gonzalez as a national priority.
(on camera): This enormous march is part of an ideological offensive launched by the government of the Communist Party eight months ago -- an offensive on a scale never seen before, even according to Cubans who've more than four decades of revolution.
The idea, says Cuba's leadership, is to educate and unite the people, to inject fresh revolutionary fervor into society and to focus on what Havana calls the "genocidal U.S. aggression," which it blames for most of Cuba's ills.
"That's why we, the Cuban people, are here," says this man, "to bring down the inhuman attitude and the arrogance of the Yankees." This just as unprecedented moves are under way in the U.S. Congress to ease the embargo, moves Cuba dismisses as noble but insufficient.
Leaders here, meanwhile, hope their campaign for the total lifting of the embargo will be as effective in rallying the people as was their push for the return of Elian Gonzalez.
Lucia Newman, CNN, Havana.
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