In what has been described as the first of its kind in nearly five decades of communist rule, Cuban dissidents have defied a ban to hold a public meeting.
The meeting was organised by the Assembly for the Promotion of Civil Society in Cuba, hoping to promote democracy, but critics have accused the group of being too hardline. Around 200 people gathered, declaring it a ‘triumph’. But several European politicians, including Polish, Czech and German, who were planning to attend the event were refused entry or expelled from the country. International observers at the dissidents’ meeting included James Cason, the senior US diplomat in Cuba; he played a video message of support from President George W Bush. At the same time 200,000 supporters of President Fidel Castro gathered to hear the Communist leader give a speech on Cuban and US relations. Castro spoke about the intelligence on terrorism that he had shared with US President Bill Clinton in the 1990’s.