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Cubans seek to draw attention to embargo
Updated: 2004-10-24 11:02

Cuba's parliament speaker blasted America's four-decade embargo against the island nation as "genocide" on Saturday, as thousands gathered to draw attention to the upcoming U.N. vote to condemn the sanctions.

Ricardo Alarcon noted that 70 percent of Cuba's 11.2 million citizens were born after the United States imposed trade sanctions in the early 1960s in an effort to undermine Fidel Castro's government.

"It's a policy of genocide ... aimed at causing suffering and hunger," Alarcon said.

The rally was the first major political gathering in Cuba since the 78-year-old president tripped and fell after a graduation ceremony speech in the central city of Santa Clara 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 73-year-old Defense Minister Raul Castro, 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 the embargo.

Last year, the nonbinding 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 traveling to the Caribbean island nation except with a U.S. government waiver.

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