Cuban exile firework show lights up Havana horizon

Aug 12, 2012, 3:11 AM

Associated Press

HAVANA (AP) – Red, white and gold balls of light shimmered low on the horizon off Havana’s seafront Malecon boulevard Saturday night in a maritime fireworks display launched by Cuban exiles hoping to inspire protest.

The fireworks were clearly visible from the coast and lasted about an hour. People who saw it said they were mystified by its origin.

“It’s curious, because you don’t see that often on the Malecon,” said Jose Antonio Camejo, who was fishing for red snapper from the seawall along with family members.

Told it was organized by Cuban exiles from Florida, he shrugged and said, “They must be celebrating something.”

The small Florida nonprofit group the Democracy Movement said earlier that they would park their vessels 12.5 miles (20 kilometers) from Havana, safely outside the 12-mile territorial water limits.

The exiles timed the show to coincide with a summer carnival that can draw thousands to the Malecon, and they called the show a peaceful display of solidarity with their compatriots.

“When you see the lights of freedom, walk toward the seawall as a silent protest against censorship of expression,” said the Democracy Movement’s Ramon Saul Sanchez. “And when you’re there, among the people, think of freedom, murmur `freedom’ and if you deem it prudent, demand freedom.”

Cuban authorities scaled back the carnival festivities after torrential rains Saturday soaked Havana and left huge puddles on the Malecon. Several hundred people still came out to laugh and canoodle on the seawall, and families queued up for sizzling barbecue chicken.

One young girl cried out the colors of the fireworks as they exploded: “yellow!” “white!” and “green!”

Like similar previous displays, the fireworks did not elicit any discernible protest from Havana residents.

But the shows are an irritation for the Communist-run government, which considers them provocative, subversive and even potentially dangerous. Cuban officials did not respond to requests for comment, but have criticized Washington in the past for not blocking the actions.

In 1996, the Cuban military shot down two small planes carrying exile activists, killing four people. Cuba maintains the aircraft violated the country’s airspace, though the exiles deny that.

Sanchez said he had been in contact with the U.S. Coast Guard, which has patrolled previous sea missions to guard against an international incident, and given assurances that they would remain outside the 12-mile maritime limit.

U.S. officials have said they don’t encourage or condone such activities, but lack legal authority to block them.

Sanchez said a second message behind the display was to demand greater Internet access on the island, which lags the rest of the world despite the completion of an undersea fiber-optic cable last year.

“The Cuban government has just installed the cable from Venezuela that allows 3,000 times more technical capability of connection, and yet it has not translated into benefits for the Cuban people in terms of access,” he said.

Cuba blames its creaky Internet on Washington’s 50-year-old economic embargo.

Sanchez said his group has organized 26 flotillas since 1996 including a similar fireworks show last December to mark International Human Rights Day, and another one in March when Pope Benedict XVI visited the island. A second show planned for later during the pontiff’s visit was called off due to high seas.

Sanchez said the group does not accept any government money and holds fundraisers to finance its activities. A sympathetic provider let the group purchase the fireworks at cost, which came out to $3,600. The other main expense was fuel.

He said the lead vessel alone, dubbed “Democracia,” was expected to consume more than $2,100 in gasoline to make the trip across the roughly 90-mile Florida Strait and back.

___

Follow Peter Orsi on Twitter at
http://www.twitter.com/Peter_Orsi

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

World News

A fisherman watches smoke rise after Russian forces launched a missile attack on a military unit in...
Associated Press

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters hit by drone strike

An explosive device carried by a makeshift drone blew up Sunday at the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet on the Crimean Peninsula.
8 days ago
Medical syringes are seen with 'Monkeypox' sign displayed on a screen in the backgound in this illu...
Associated Press

Monkeypox declared a global emergency by UN health agency

The expanding monkeypox outbreak in more than 70 countries is an “extraordinary” situation that qualifies as a global emergency.
16 days ago
Chinese paramilitary policemen march in front of the Japanese embassy where the Japanese flag is fl...
Associated Press

Japan’s ex-leader Shinzo Abe assassinated during a speech

TOKYO (AP) — Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated Friday on a street in western Japan by a gunman who opened fire on him from behind as he delivered a campaign speech — an attack that stunned a nation with some of the strictest gun control laws anywhere. The 67-year-old Abe, who was Japan’s […]
1 month ago
Firefighters hose down a burning car after a strike hit a residential area, in Kramatorsk, Donetsk ...
Associated Press

Russia taking ‘operational pause’ in Ukraine, analysts say

Analysts say Russia may be taking an "operational pause" in eastern Ukraine to reassemble forces for a significant offensive.
1 month ago
Prime Minister Boris Johnson enters 10 Downing Street, after reading a statement in London, Thursda...
Associated Press

One scandal too many: British PM Boris Johnson resigns

LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his resignation Thursday after droves of top government officials quit over the latest scandal to engulf him, marking an end to three tumultuous years in which he tried to bluster his way through one ethical lapse after another. Months of defiance ended almost with a shrug as […]
1 month ago
Ukrainian servicemen carry the coffin with the remains of Army Col. Oleksander Makhachek during a f...
Associated Press

As Ukraine loses troops, how long can it keep up the fight?

ZHYTOMYR (AP) — As soon as they had finished burying a veteran colonel killed by Russian shelling, the cemetery workers readied the next hole. Inevitably, given how quickly death is felling Ukrainian troops on the front lines, the empty grave won’t stay that way for long. Col. Oleksandr Makhachek left behind a widow, Elena, and […]
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Cuban exile firework show lights up Havana horizon