By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ | Associated Press Writer
Fidel Castro visited a mysterious new construction site outside the U.S. Interests Section on Wednesday night, but kept mum over what was being built in front of the mission — a growing flashpoint for U.S.-Cuba relations.
Dressed in his olive green uniform and surrounded by security men, Castro made the nighttime visit one day after directing a massive march past the building to protest recent U.S. actions aimed at Cuba, including a new electronic sign streaming news and human rights messages.
“If I tell you, it will ruin the surprise,” Castro told reporters who asked what workers were building. The Cuban president said he was there primarily “to greet the workers.”
Castro indicated he had no intention of breaking already limited relations between the two countries. “It is (the Americans) who will decide what happens to this Interests Section,” he said.
The American mission irked Castro last week when it installed the electronic sign on the facade of its main building with streaming text of sayings about freedom and excerpts from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Cuba is a signatory.
The American mission said in a statement that it was informed by the Cuban government after the march Tuesday that the parking lot in front of the building could no longer be used until further notice.
“The regime appears to be building a permanent structure that, we believe, seeks to obstruct Cubans’ view of the uncensored messages and information posted on our streaming billboard,” the U.S. statement said. “The regime’s reaction is not surprising: building walls to isolate Cubans from the rest of the world is what the regime knows best.
“Why cannot the regime allow Cubans to make up their own minds as to what they want to think, read and say publicly?”
The plaza includes a stage used for music concerts and political events attended by Castro and other Communist Party leaders.
Castro characterized the new U.S. messages as “provocations” and said they appeared to be aimed at breaking off the limited contact between the two governments, which have been without diplomatic relations for 45 years.
The U.S. has an interests section under the Swiss Embassy in Havana to handle consular affairs such as visa processing. Cuba has a similar office in Washington.
Cuban President Fidel Castro speaks with journalists as red luminescent messages are displayed along the fifth floor on the building of the US mission in Havana, Cuba,Wednesday,Jan. 25, 2006. Fidel Castro made a surprise stop Wednesday nigth outside the U.S. Interests Section, but would not say what he told Cuban construction workers to build outside the American mission that is increasingly serving as a flashpoint for bad relations between the countries. (AP Photo/ Javier Galeano)
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