Ken plans Trafalgar Square street party to celebrate 50 years of Castro
Ken Livingstone is planning a "massive festival" across London to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Fidel Castro's Cuban revolution.
The event, to be staged in 2009, will involve street parties, sports venues and some of London's leading museums as well as the closure of Trafalgar Square.
Although the Mayor's office refused to provide budget estimates, it could cost up to £2 million.
The festival was agreed on the Mayor's controversial trip to Cuba last month. But Mr Livingstone's lavishing of public money to honour one of the last dictatorships in Latin America was condemned today.
"Forking out to celebrate a totalitarian regime is a choice that most Londoners will find bizarre," said Angie Bray, leader of the Conservative group on the London Assembly.
"The Mayor associates himself with some of the most odious people around and it's Londoners who are being asked to pay out. Sooner or later, there will be a reckoning."
Speaking at a recent public meeting at Central Hall, Westminster, Mr Livingstone said: "We've got the backing of the Cuban government for a massive festival to celebrate 50 years of justice in Cuba."
According to human rights organisations, Cuba is one of two countries in the Americas (the other being Haiti) where political freedom is completely curtailed. The British Government singles out Cuba as one of only two Latin American states which is of "major human rights concern".
There are 33 countries in the Americas. The bi-partisan US foundation, Freedom House, classifies 22 of them as "free", nine as "partly free", and two, Cuba and Haiti, as "not free.
Political parties, other than the Communist Party, are prohibited in Cuba, as are free trade unions. Freedom of expression is banned and, according toAmnesty International, there are 70 prisoners of conscience.
There is no press freedom and Cuban citizens are not allowed to travel freely - they are also affected by a US economic blockade.
Severe racism against Cuba's black minority is reported by human rights monitors.
Mr Livingstone said: "The Cuban revolution of 1959 was an extraordinary event not just for Cuba but for the region as a whole and I have never concealed my support for this fact.
"There is no reason why Cuba should be singled out for controversy except for people coming at international issues from a very Right-wing perspective."
The Mayor pointed to Cuba's "excellent healthcare", high literacy rate and "Cuban sporting prowess" as reasons to celebrate.
Mr Castro assumed power on 1 January 1959, after a three-year military conflict between his guerrillas and the army of the then Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
London Mayor wants a party for castro
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