Hundreds of thousands of marchers waving red, white and blue Cuban flags filed past the American mission in Havana Tuesday demanding an alleged terrorist remain behind bars.
In a short speech of just under 15 minutes, Cuban President Fidel Castro told protestors the Bush Administration wants to free Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles, blamed for numerous acts of violence against Cuban targets, including the deaths of at least 74 people.
Thousands of government printed wanted posters with the faces of both Mr. Bush and Posada bobbed among the protestors.
Sometime Tuesday, Homeland Security is supposed to decide what to do with Posada, who has been in immigration custody since May on charges of illegally entering the United States. He could be released, held for another 90 days or deported to a third country. However, there is no guarantee that the decision will come down today.
Venezuela filed an extradition petition supported by Cuba shortly after Posada surfaced in Miami some nine months ago. However, Immigration Judge William L. Abbott earlier ruled that Posada could not be extradited to either Cuba or Venezuela lest he be tortured.
There is no way to confirm the official crowd estimate of 1.4 million marchers, but people were still pouring down the street chanting "Bush, Fascist. Condemn the terrorist," nearly seven hours after the march kicked off. Castro watched nearly the entire protest from the sidelines before marching himself. Workers in all but essential services were given the day off and classes were cancelled for the government-organized rally. Normal public transportation was suspended, as buses transported demonstrators to the march site throughout the night.
The case of Posada, who Castro has dubbed the "Osama Bin Laden of Latin America," is just one of the many thorny issues threatening already frazzled relations between the communist island and Washington.
The U.S. government is trying "to force a break in the current minimal diplomatic relations with Cuba. The gross provocations undertaken by its Interests Section in Havana, doesn't have, nor can it have any other purpose," declared Castro to the cheering crowd filling Havana's seafront drive and adjacent thoroughfares.