Huge crowd fills Havana square for peace concert

Sun Sep 20, 2009 9:30pm EDT
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By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of people filled Havana's Revolution Square for a "peace" concert on Sunday in which Colombian singer Juanes and other musicians sought to bridge the political divide that has separated Cubans for 50 years.

The concert was shown live on international television, including to viewers in Miami, the heart of the Cuban exile community and center of opposition to Cuba's communist-led government.

A small group of exiles, who say Juanes legitimized a government that denies its people basic human rights, staged a protest in Miami's Little Havana against the concert.

Juanes, who organized his "Peace Without Borders" concert in conjunction with the Cuban government, sang "it's time to change" in a song and told the audience "the important thing is to swap hate for love."

He had insisted the show was not political, but raised eyebrows at the end of the concert when he shouted "one Cuban family" for Cuban unity and "Cuba libre," words that have been a rallying cry in the exile community for years.

They prompted immediate speculation on Spanish-language television in Miami, but drew no response from the Cuban government.

Juanes, a 17-time Latin Grammy winner who lives in Miami, was joined on stage by 14 artists from six countries, among them Olga Tanon of the U.S. territory Puerto Rico, Miguel Bose of Spain and Jovanotti of Italy. Cuban salsa kings Los Van Van closed it out.

The huge crowd in attendance, which Juanes said numbered more than 1 million, danced and swayed under a blistering sun that caused many to faint during the five-hour event.   Continued...

<p>A man waves a Cuban flag over the crowd during the "Peace Without Borders" concert in Havana's Revolution Square September 20, 2009. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan</p>