Cuban exile firework show lights up Havana horizon

Associated Press Published: August 11, 2012
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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.

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