- The Washington Times - Friday, May 14, 2004

HAVANA — Fidel Castro led a red-clad tide of Cubans past the U.S. diplomatic mission yesterday, with marchers depicting President Bush as Hitler for moving to tighten the 44-year embargo on the communist state.

The Cuban president launched the demonstration with denunciations and ridicule of Mr. Bush, saying he was fraudulently elected and trying to impose “world tyranny.”

Mr. Castro then led hundreds of thousands of Cubans, dressed in red shirts and shouting “Long live free Cuba,” and “Fascist Bush” past the mission on the oceanfront Malecon Boulevard.

A broad stream of students, workers, parents toting children on their shoulders and elderly couples filed past the mission singing, chanting and playing drums. The government-organized demonstration lasted just over six hours. As it ended, officials announced 1.2 million people had taken part.

While past state-organized demonstrations have compared other world leaders to Hitler, yesterday’s march brought the level of hostility toward Mr. Bush to a new level.

Scores of printed posters — apparently distributed by the march organizers — bore swastikas and portrayed Mr. Bush in a Nazi uniform with a mustache similar to Adolf Hitler’s.

Mr. Castro said the march was “an act of indignant protest and a denunciation of the brutal, merciless and cruel measures” announced last week by Mr. Bush to tighten the U.S. embargo on the island.

The U.S. measures included restrictions on money transfers and family visits, increased efforts to transmit anti-Castro television to Cuba and appointment of a coordinator to plan a transition from socialism to capitalism on the island.

Mr. Castro, 77, dressed in his usual green military uniform and field cap, appeared to walk with difficulty as he led the march for about 800 yards, sometimes waving a small flag before getting into a waiting car and leaving.

“This country could be exterminated … erased from the face of the Earth,” Mr. Castro told the crowd. But he said it would never fall into “the humiliating condition of a neo-colony of the United States.”

He said that if conflict comes, Mr. Bush “will be thousands of kilometers away and I will be in the first line of defense, ready to die in defense of my people.”

Mr. Castro accused the United States of fighting “wars of conquest to seize the markets and resources of the world” while Cuba, he said, was sending abroad thousands of doctors to save lives.

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