Friday, January 27, 2006

Electronic signboard pisses off castro.

U.S. signboard touting rights angers Castro
Cuba leader says Bush trying to start crisis

By Gary Marx
Tribune foreign correspondent
Published January 27, 2006

HAVANA -- The top U.S. diplomat in Havana on Thursday defended the decision last week to install a huge electronic sign on the facade of the American diplomatic mission with streaming text of news and sayings about freedom.

So, its going to be like the street outside the NBC building. Only NBC won't say anything about freedom.

"What we are trying to do is communicate with the Cuban people," said Michael Parmly, chief of the U.S. Interests Section.

But Cuban President Fidel Castro denounced the sign and other U.S. measures, saying the United States is intent on sparking a diplomatic crisis.

It's only a crisis because castro wants to keep his people ignorant.

"All of the measures they have taken have the intention of provoking a rupture in these ties, these minimum links, in diplomatic relations," Castro told reporters Wednesday night as he stood outside the Interests Section.

Silly commie, you have no more interest in being diplomatic than I do.

In response, Cuban workers wielding jackhammers and other equipment have begun erecting a huge structure that observers said they believe is likely to block the sign that transmits messages from figures ranging from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to President Abraham Lincoln to President Bush.

That's the ticket, hide what you fear.

"No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent," the quote by Lincoln read.

Also passing slowly on the 5-foot high ticker, which is on the building's fifth floor and is illuminated only at night, is a quote by French philosopher Voltaire that reads, "Man is free in the moment he wishes to be free."

I wonder if they can move the sign higher on the building?

Alfredo Mesa, executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation, a powerful Miami-based exile group, said the ticker is a good way to break the Cuban government's stranglehold on information.

But Wayne Smith, the former top U.S. diplomat in Cuba during the administration of President Jimmy Carter, said the sign would only further aggravate relations between Cuba and the United States.

I would sooner believe a Cuban than a man who worked for jimmah da rabbit slayer.

"Instead of tackling real issues they are doing this," said Smith. "It's theater of the absurd."

What are the "real issues"?

Few Cubans say they have seen the ticker because island officials have blocked off traffic around the U.S. Interests Section building in recent days.

Even before that, Cuban officials prohibited vehicles from stopping in front of the Interests Section, a modernist building on the Malecon, Havana's sweeping seaside boulevard.

At least you won't have problems finding a parking space.

"You have to drive fast on the Malecon, and it was impossible to read," said Llanes, a Havana taxi driver who refused to give her last name out of fear of being identified.

Reminds me of the members of demagogues underground, only instead of believing she is going to be arrested, she knows she will be arrested.

Since taking office, Bush has tried to weaken Castro's grip on power by tightening the 4-decade-old trade embargo while increasing support to the island's small and fractured dissident movement.

Gotta start somewhere I suppose. I would rather just tell castro "Step down or be invaded".

But Bush's measures have done little to shake Cuba's one-party system, in part because Cuba is now receiving assistance from oil-rich Venezuela.

Watch what happens when the money runs out.

Undeterred, U.S. officials have resorted to what some European diplomats describe as unorthodox methods to pressure the Cuban government.

Well, people whine when we use bombs to pressure commies, so we have to do something.

James Cason, Parmly's predecessor as head of the Interests Section, placed a large, illuminated sign emblazoned with the number 75 on the front lawn of the diplomatic mission in 2004 as part of its Christmas decorations.

The 75 signified the number of opposition figures incarcerated by the Cuban government during the crackdown on dissidents in the spring of 2003.

Would those be the dissidents that amnesty international refuses to believe in?

Cuban officials responded to the sign by placing huge banners and billboards outside the Interests Section featuring swastikas and images of bloodied and tortured Iraqi prisoners in U.S. custody.

I have an idea, lets put huge banners of the tortured prisoners castro is holding.

On Tuesday, Castro led a huge government-organized march in front of the Interests Section to protest the ticker and other U.S. actions aimed at Cuba.

U.S. officials turned the ticker on just as Castro was beginning to address the crowd.

I hope the first message was something snarky.

"How brave the cockroaches are," Castro said. "It seems that Little Bush must have sent the order."

Speaking of cockroaches, have you managed to clean them out of your hospitals yet?


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