January 8 , 2001
By Jim Burns. CNS News. CNS Senior Staff Writer. January 08, 2001
(CNSNews.com) - Cuba's state-run media vehemently criticized an Epiphany parade in downtown Havana on Saturday that was organized by Spain's embassy. The state run media believes the event was an "imported capitalist show dangerous for local children."
Cuban state television and the communist party official newspaper "Granma" called Spanish businessmen and diplomats who dressed up to represent the Magi as "scarecrows," "clowns," and insulting types. The costumed businessmen and diplomats threw sweets to children who gathered on the streets of downtown Havana during the parade.
The Spanish Embassy's Cultural Center in Havana organized the parade, which included the three magi riding in horse-drawn coaches. It was approved by the Castro government and had a police motorcycle escort.
Despite the official approval of the event, Cuban state television described the Three Kings as "imported monarchs" and "strange and unrecognizable clowns."
After showing footage of the scramble for the sweets, the TV commentator added, "These scenes that we have seen show the difference between the capitalist and the socialist conceptions of the respect and dignity with which children should be educated."
Asked about the criticism, a Spanish diplomat said, "There was absolutely no intention to create a situation."
"This was an activity organized for the children with the approval of the Cuban authorities," he added, saying the embassy held two similar events in Havana in past years.
Cuban journalists from Sunday's Communist Youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde were even more scathing in their criticism.
"With what right do they humiliate our children, throwing them sweets onto the pavement, or into the mud, depending on the accuracy of the aim of these scarecrows?" wrote Rosa Miriam Elizalde in an article entitled "Wise Men Bearing Trinkets." br>
"What greater cynicism can there be than to tell Cubans they should be the protagonists of an imported show?" she added, citing reaction she said the newspaper had received from members of the Cuban public.
Reports indicate the parade demonstrates a new level of official religious tolerance in Cuba that many say began after Pope John Paul II visited the communist-run nation in 1998.
Cuban Leader Fidel Castro made Christmas a "public holiday" after the Pope's visit. Although communist authorities have done nothing to encourage the celebration, last Christmas, many Catholic and Protestant churches drew worshippers to Christmas Day mass.
The Castro government for the first time in decades allowed large Christmas trees to be displayed in some Havana hotels reserved for foreign tourists. The government also allowed the trees to be sold in selected shops that operated in U.S. dollars only.
However, official government policy still banned Christmas trees and greetings from official public buildings, offices, squares and avenues.
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