Thursday, August 6, 2009
Imagenes de los Sucesos del Malecon Habana - Cuba
Discussion subject changed to "Fidel arrived in an army jeep to quiet the disturbance (AP)" by Dan Christensen
More options Aug 6, 12:11 am
Cuban media makes unusual mention of '94 protest
By WILL WEISSERT (AP) – 3 hours ago
HAVANA — Cuba's Communist Party newspaper Granma published a front-
page story Wednesday marking the 15th anniversary of street protests
that Fidel Castro himself had to quell, an unusual public reference to
one of the few serious internal threats to his nearly half-century of
The article portrayed the event as a victory for Castro's revolution —
challenging the version of anti-Castro activists who celebrate it as a
"day of resistance" to the communist government.
In the summer of 1994, food and fuel were scarce and islanders were
sweating through hours-long blackouts that stilled fans, air
conditioners and water pumps, making sleep fitful and bathing
Some desperate Cubans invaded foreign embassies to demand asylum.
Others hijacked Havana harbor ferries and tried to take them to the
On Aug. 5 — reportedly after police tried to block a ferry hijacking —
hundreds of Cubans spilled onto Havana's seaside Malecon boulevard,
picked up rocks and debris from crumbling buildings and hurled them at
Chants of "Liberty!" rose from the crowd.
Such street protests were — and still are — unheard of in a country
where police officers are stationed on many street corners in cities
and block-level committees are assigned to watch neighbors and defend
Castro arrived in an army jeep to quiet the disturbance, and his
appearance prompted some demonstrators to drop their stones and
Granma published a photo of Castro in his trademark olive-green
fatigues listening to demonstrators, and it cast the protest as the
government prevailing over "those who, spurred by the United States,
disrupted public order in Havana's Malecon sector in a violent
"That, as Fidel said, 'wasn't a bad day for the Revolution,' but
actually a day of revolutionary reaffirmation," Granma said, referring
to the armed uprising Castro led against dictator Fulgencio Batista.
Still, the paper also called the protest "a moment of great tension."
Tensions ran so high that summer that Castro briefly opened the
island's borders, dropping efforts to halt Cubans from setting out in
flimsy boats to reach U.S. shores. Nearly 37,000 islanders attempted
to reach America in almost anything that would float.
The Granma story was not the first public acknowledgment of the 1994
unrest. Castro appeared on state television on the first anniversary,
saying Cubans should never forget it.
"I came because I had to come; it was a fundamental requirement to be
with the people in a movement in which the enemy had worked for a long
time to create a disturbance," Castro said in 1995.
But such prominent mention of the protest in state-controlled media is
Castro stepped down as president in February 2008 and has not been
seen in public for three years. He has published scores of essays in
state newspapers, though a recent drop in the pace of the articles has
sparked rumors that his health has worsened ahead of his 83rd birthday
A new column signed by Castro appeared Wednesday on the Cubadebate Web
site in which he backed his friend and ally Hugo Chavez, the president
of Venezuela, in his opposition to an impending deal to expand the
U.S. military presence in Colombia. It was Castro's first essay in 13
Cuba gradually pulled its economy out of the crisis of the early
1990s, which was prompted by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the
loss of its billions of dollars in annual subsidies.
The current global economic crisis has plunged Cuba into its worst
slowdown since that time of hardship. Authorities have imposed strict
energy conservation programs to save oil that have cut air
conditioning at state office buildings and businesses, but have yet to
affect residential sectors.
Granma concluded that the 1994 uprising was: "A great victory and a
warning to those who try to rise up against the revolution."