United nations to vote to condemn sanctions
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Cuban parliament speaker calls U.S. Embargo 'genocide' ahead of UN vote
10:01 PM EDT Oct 23
HAVANA (AP) - Parliament speaker Ricardo Alarcon blasted Washington's four-decade trade Embargo against Cuba as "genocide" Saturday as thousands gathered to draw attention to the upcoming UN vote to condemn the sanctions.
Alarcon noted that 70 per cent of Cuba's 11.2 million citizens were born after the United States imposed trade sanctions on the Caribbean country in the early 1960s in an effort to undermine President Fidel Castro's communist government.
"It's a policy of genocide . . . aimed at causing suffering and hunger," Alarcon said of the sanctions.
The rally was the first major political gathering in Cuba since Castro, 78, tripped and fell after a graduation ceremony speech in the central city of Santa Clara on Wednesday night.
Since then, Castro has assured the Cuban people he is well and remains firmly in control of the country he has ruled for 45 years.
Conspicuously absent from Saturday's rally was Defence Minister Raul Castro, 73, the president's younger brother and his designated successor.
Among those in the audience was Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, who will travel to New York next week for the Embargo vote scheduled for Oct. 28.
For 12 consecutive years, the United Nations General Assembly has voted to urge the United States to end its Embargo against Cuba.
Last year, the non-binding resolution passed overwhelmingly with only Israel and the Marshall Islands joining the United States in voting against it.
Cuba has been under a U.S. trade Embargo since Castro defeated the CIA-backed assault at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. Americans are barred from travelling to Cuba unless they have a U.S. government waiver.
Creating a small opening in the trade Embargo, the U.S. Congress in 2000 year legalized direct commercial sales of American food to the communist island for the first time since 1961.
© The Canadian Press, 2004