HAVANA - Cuba put up several huge billboards near
the U.S. mission on Friday with pictures of abused Iraqi
prisoners and American soldiers pointing a rifle at children,
in response to a U.S. Christmas display in support of
imprisoned Cuban dissident.
Two billboards with photos of hooded and bloodied inmates
at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, a swastika and the word "fascists"
in bold red letters were erected across the street from the
U.S. diplomatic mission, where the display of Christmas lights
includes the number 75, in reference to 75 pro-democracy
activists imprisoned for lengthy terms last year.
A Cuban citizen walks past enormous posters of US soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. US officials kept their cool after Cuba used Nazi swastikas and pictures of Iraqi prisoner abuse to counter US Christmas decorations in Havana that paid tribute to jailed Cuban dissidents. (AFP/Str)
Another billboard faces the back of the building, with
large photos of U.S. soldiers searching and pointing a rifle at
children, presumably in Iraq.
A U.S. diplomat called the billboards fanatical.
"There couldn't be a better contrast: the U.S. wishing
Cubans happy holidays, Frosty waving at passers-by and an
effort to prompt discussion on human rights on the one side,
and screaming Cuban government billboards on the other," he
Cuba had demanded this week that the U.S. display at the
mission on Havana's busy sea-side drive be taken down. The
president of the National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, called it
"rubbish" and "a provocation."
In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher
said: "Any government that puts up swastikas ought to answer
its own questions about why it does that. ... We think that
remembrance of the 75 people in jail is entirely appropriate to
the season. And we intend to leave the lights up."
The U.S. diplomat in Cuba said: "The torture at Abu Ghraib
... has been investigated, reported and discussed fully and
openly in the United States. ... The Cuban government does not
allow a single word of dissent in its media and jails those who
dare espouse different ideas."
Washington broke off diplomatic relations with Havana and
imposed sanctions on Cuba after Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution,
but the two countries maintain interests sections in each
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