Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Cuba says US organizing demonstrations

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba on Wednesday accused U.S. diplomats of instigating opponents of the communist-run government to hold public protests to mark American Independence Day. "There has been an escalation of provocative actions organized and financed by the U.S. Interests Section in Havana," the Foreign Ministry said in a communique published in the Communist Party newspaper Granma.

It said the mission "is trying to organize other illegal activities and is instigating the mercenaries in Cuba to realize provocative public actions around July 4, U.S. Independence Day." It did not describe what sort of demonstrations might be planned. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Wednesday that "Cuba is one of the few places on earth where simply having a meeting is seen as a threat to the government." U.S. Interests Section officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Communist officials last month accused Michael Parmly, America's top diplomat in Havana, of carrying funds to dissidents from a Cuban-American businessman who was once convicted in the U.S. of conspiring to collect military-style weapons to overthrow Cuba's government.

Parmly, who is winding up his assignment in Havana, has declined to respond to Havana's charges. Cuba said the American mission has violated international conventions on diplomatic behavior as well as the agreement between Cuba and the United States to operate "interest sections" in each other's capitals despite having no formal diplomatic relations. Cuba said "interventionist and illegal" actions by U.S. diplomats include a recent videoconference at Parmly's house with dissidents and U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, a vocally anti-communist Cuban-American. It also complained that U.S. diplomats have given government opponents free Internet access inside the American mission, and said they were providing them with cellular phones, computers, money and "counterrevolutionary propaganda."

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