Havana Waving huge placards with portraits of Abraham Lincoln, hundreds of thousands of Cubans marched Wednesday in hopes of convincing Americans that U.S. legislation will make it harder for them to visit the island.
Wearing his traditional olive green uniform with his now-familiar white athletic shoes for marching, Fidel Castro led a crowd the government estimated at 800,000 nearly half the capital's population of 2 million down Havana's Malecon coastal highway.
Cuba insists the legislation already approved by the House and passed by the Senate Wednesday evening will toughen rather than ease the nearly four-decade embargo against the island. It has been described in Washington as the first opportunity for American farmers in 38 years to sell food to Cuba, as well as the first step in the easing of trade sanctions.
But because the measure, which President Clinton has already said he will sign, bars the U.S. government and banks from financing the food sales, Cuba will have to pay cash or get credit from a third country.
"In practice, it will be totally impossible to buy food and medicine from the United States," read an editorial published Monday in state newspapers. In protest, "our country will not buy a single cent of food or medicine from the United States," it said.