Monday, September 21, 2009

CUBA ROCKS TO HUGE PEACE CONCERT !

Havana has hosted the biggest open-air concert since the 1959 revolution, featuring some 15 top Latin American, Spanish and Cuban performers.
Hundreds of thousands of people - many wearing white - attended the free event in Revolution Square, Havana.
Colombian singer Juanes, who organised the "Peace without Borders" concert, received death threats from Miami-based critics of the Cuban regime.
But he has won support from 20 high-profile jailed dissidents inside Cuba.
The BBC's Michael Voss, who was at the five-and-a-half hour concert, said there was a mood of excitement as many residents of the isolated, music-loving island had never seen anything like it before.

AT THE SCENE

Michael Voss, BBC News, Revolution Square

It's absolutely packed here. There's never been a free open-air concert like it ever before.
When Pope Jean Paul II gave his historic mass in this same place just over 10 years ago, there was about 250,000 people here. We estimate there is double that number here now.
This is the centre of power here in Cuba. Normally when I come here, it is to cover the big May Day parades and there are red flags everywhere.
Now, everyone is wearing white. There are white flags, white shirts. That's the message - Peace without Borders.

He said people had travelled from across the island to attend.
But our reporter said heat was a problem, with many people being carried away on stretchers after fainting.
Organisers said some 500,000 people were expected, but the performers claimed that as many as a million people had turned out.
"For me, to see more than a million people experiencing happiness, love and peace is incredibly powerful, because what happens in politics is people become divided," Juanes told the Associated
Press.
"With music we are all the same."

Among the other artists taking part on Sunday were Spain's Miguel Bose, Olga Tanon from Puerto Rico, the Cuban performers Silvio Rodriguez and Los Van Van.
"Together, we are going to make history," said Tanon, as she opened the concert with the love song, Es Mentiroso Ese Hombre -That Man is a Liar.
"We are going to stay as long as we have the strength," Cristina Rodriguez, a 43-year-old nurse who came with her teenage son, Felix, told AP.
While critics have complained that Juanes is endorsing the island's communist system, the dissidents say the concert is an opportunity for reconciliation.

In pictures: Cuban peace concert

Juanes said the show was about peace and tolerance, not politics, telling the audience that "the important thing is to swap hate for love."
But in Miami there were fresh protests among the Cuban-American community, with one group crushing Juanes CDs using a small steamroller.
"There has been a lot of blood spilled in Cuba and people executed by firing squad," said 77-year-old Hernan Gonzalez, who said he spent six years in a Cuban prison for his opposition to Fidel Castro in the 1960s.
"He, Juanes, is singing over dead bodies."
Our reporter notes that the location of the Havana concert is highly symbolic.
The headquarters of the communist party is in Revolution Square, along with a giant metal sculpture of Che Guevara's head.
The square was used by Fidel Castro to give five-hour speeches, and is also where Pope John Paul II held a historic open air mass in 1998.
Speaking in an interview broadcast on Sunday, US President Barack Obama said he understood Juanes to be a "terrific musician", but he was cautious about the impact of the concert.
"I certainly don't think it hurts US-Cuban relations," he said.
"These kinds of cultural exchanges - I wouldn't overstate the degree that it helps."


BBC NEWS REPORT.

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