As many as 500,000 Cubans marched through Havana this weekend to show support for Fidel Castro and to protest the U.S. trade embargo against the Caribbean nation.
“Look with what force” the socialist government has remained in power despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, Castro told the marchers late Saturday. “This revolution is not crumbling.”
His comments were reported by Cuba’s official Prensa Latina news agency and by Mexico’s Notimex agency.
No independent estimates of the crowd were available, but Prensa Latina said as many as 500,000 people marched in the rain.
The march was held partly to mark the anniversary of a crackdown on rioting apparently set off by a failed attempt to hijack a Havana harbor ferry and take it to the United States.
The riots, an unprecedented show of discontent with Cuba’s socialist regime, led Castro to say he no longer would stop Cubans who wanted to flee to the United States. Some 30,000 people then left Cuba on rickety rafts.
After leading the last leg of Saturday’s march, Castro spoke briefly to marchers. He said conservatives in Washington are threatening to thwart efforts to lift the embargo, in effect for more than three decades.
“We cannot fool ourselves when extremist elements are dictating policy in the United States,” Castro said, referring to the increased congressional power of the Republican Party.
Castro announced 10 days ago that Cuba’s economy has begun to creep upward after years of decline. He said growth was 2 percent in the first half of the year.