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Cuba Protests 'Subversive' U.S. Radio Handouts
Fri Apr 5,10:09 PM ET

By Andrew Cawthorne

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba complained Friday of an escalation of "subversive" activities by U.S. diplomats stationed in Havana including the distribution of hundreds of short-wave radios to anti-Castro "counter-revolutionaries."


Randy Alonso, moderator of a nightly state TV program which is a mouthpiece for President Fidel Castro's government, announced on the show that Cuba's Foreign Ministry had formally complained about the radio handouts and other propaganda acts.

Alonso said that Wednesday "our country's Foreign Ministry presented its most energetic protests at the continual provocations and efforts by the U.S. Interests Section to subvert the constitutional order and carry out activities against the Cuban revolution."

Alonso and other state commentators on the "Round Table" program said American diplomats had for several months been carrying out a more aggressive policy toward Cuba at the behest of President Bush (news - web sites)'s government.

The diplomats, Alonso said, had been "going around various provinces to organize, finance and instruct little counter-revolutionary groups, and hand out clandestine publications and contraband items."

The more than 500 radios distributed by U.S. diplomats across Cuba were programmed to pick up U.S. government-funded anti-Castro station Radio Marti from Miami, they said.

Vicki Huddleston, head of the U.S. diplomatic mission or Interests Section in Havana, said that in fact American diplomats had distributed "more, quite a bit more" than the 500 radios mentioned by Cuba Friday. Her staff have also in recent months been handing out books to Cubans, including to home-based libraries being set up by anti-Castro dissidents.

Havana accuses Radio Marti of stimulating illegal migration from Cuba and inciting violence like February's break-in at the Mexican Embassy by young Cubans seeking to leave the island.


"The idea that it's subversive to distribute radios, and then to have six or seven adult men sitting round a table complaining about it seems almost ludicrous. Isn't it weird?" Huddleston told Reuters. "I couldn't see there was anything there that anyone would have any objection to in a normal society."

Huddleston has been more outspoken in recent months in her public criticism of Castro's political system and her support for local dissidents whom Havana condemns as pawns of the U.S. government or Cuban American exile groups in Florida.

Friday's program appeared to be the start of a militant Cuban response to heightened U.S. activism.

A state-run rally was scheduled for Saturday morning in Havana where, according to a statement in the ruling Communist Party's daily newspaper Granma, "130,000 of the capital's residents ... will raise their voice to condemn the provocative, subversive and meddling activity of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana."

Washington and Havana broke formal diplomatic ties since soon after Castro's 1959 revolution, but set up Interests Sections under President Jimmy Carter's 1977-1981 presidency.

Alonso said the U.S. Interests Section's heightened activism in recent months was being master-minded by the "furious terrorist" Otto Reich, an anti-Castro Cuban American recently appointed by Bush as his Latin American policy chief.

Another state commentator, Reinaldo Taladrid, said leading local dissidents Raul Rivero, Oswaldo Paya and Elizardo Sanchez were receiving thousands of dollars from the United States as "employees" of Washington.

"I'm going Monday to ask Vicki for my money because I never received it," quipped Sanchez in a telephone interview after the program. He was accused of receiving nearly $5,500 in the last few months.

"We're used to this sort of attack against which we have no right of defense," he said, calling the "Round Table" show a form of "Caribbean Taliban-ism" in which fundamentalist official views were aired with no right of reply.

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