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Cuba: Pre-concert Nerves Caused Juanes Outburst

Cuba's official press said Friday that a Colombian rock star's nerves got the better of him before last weekend's historic "peace concert" in Havana, causing an outburst against authorities in which he threatened to cancel the show.

The complaint by the Grammy-winning Juanes and other singers became an overnight sensation on YouTube and Spanish-language television, and has been held up by some Cuban exiles in South Florida as evidence of the communist-run island's repressive ways.

In a confrontation with what appeared to be a member of Cuban state security at Havana's famed Hotel Nacional hours before Sunday's show, the singer complains of being followed and mistreated, and threatens to cancel the event if authorities restrict access to the concert site.

"I just realized a little while ago that since yesterday, the guy who's bringing me breakfast, the guy who is accompanying me, then I see him in the concert, and now I see him sending messages," Juanes shouts in the video, which was recorded by journalists accompanying him.

"We are very upset, very upset," Juanes yells. "We are here for the youth of Cuba ... for the future of Cuba."

At one point, Juanes and Spanish performer Miguel Bose threaten to cancel the much-anticipated show, while Puerto Rican star Olga Tanon tries to persuade the men to perform.

"We're leaving. This is finished," Juanes yells.

The videotaped exchange was an embarrassment for Cuba, which had hailed the performance as a rejection of the isolationism preached by some in South Florida. Juanes received death threats before the concert, though opposition to the concert was far from universal in the Cuban-American exile community.

An article in Friday's state-run Granma newspaper says the pop star was "clearly nervous" in the hours before the concert and was confused about a hotel employee's identity.

"Juanes apologized not only to the young man, but to all the workers who witnessed the momentary mess," Granma wrote.

Juanes' manager Fernan Martinez Maecha, who accompanied him to Havana, told The Associated Press on Friday that the singer did have pre-concert jitters, and blamed the hotel confrontation on mutual mistrust.

"There were a lot of nerves," he said. "Putting on a concert in Cuba is difficult. This isn't Disney World, but that's why we went there."

He said the hotel worker singled out by Juanes later explained that he went to a concert rehearsal Saturday because he had to work at the hotel Sunday and wouldn't be able to attend the event.

"Cubans have a million spies. They're not going to use the same spy to serve breakfast and make your bed," Martinez Maecha said. "Look, they didn't know what we were going to do. There were a million people coming. We had doubts about them, and they had doubts about us."

Hundreds of thousand of people attended Sunday's 5 1/2-hour show at sprawling Revolution Square, making it the biggest visit by an outsider to Cuba since Pope John Paul II's 1998 tour.

Juanes, who has won 17 Latin Grammy awards, more than any other artist, is known for his social activism. He and the other performers had brushed off the criticism from Miami, saying the show was about music, not politics.


Editor's Note: Associated Press reporter Laura Wides-Munoz in Miami contributed to this report.