Cuba erects giant concrete flag in front of US embassy

Biden takes first step to increase staffing at the embassy in Havana

HAVANA, April 1st (AFP)  Cuba has erected a giant concrete flag in front of the US embassy in the capital Havana in hopes of an improvement in bilateral relations under the Joe Biden administration fade on the island nation.

The 12-meter (40-foot) high flag is on a square that has been the site of many pro-government rallies, including some targeting the United States.

Neither the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, Granma, nor the official state news website Cubadebate, which usually makes such announcements to great fanfare, mentioned the flag.

State construction and maintenance company ECOM was the first official body to mention the flag on its Facebook page.

“This monumental construction is now up on our anti-imperialist stage: our flag, which has never been mercenary and on which shines a star that is brighter for being alone,” the company wrote.

The stage was built in 2000 during a legal and political battle between Cuba and the United States over the fate of a six-year-old boy, Elian Gonzalez.

His mother had died while the pair crossed the Straits of Florida from Cuba to Miami and the island nation’s authorities wanted to repatriate him to be with his father in Cuba.

In 2006, authorities planted 138 Cuban flags on the stage as a “monument against terrorism” that was inaugurated by the late Fidel Castro, Cuba’s revolutionary hero who was then president.

“Frankly I don’t know what it is. A monument, a sculpture, a parasol, a giant pulpit?” Maikel Jose Rodriguez, the editor of Artecubano, the official publication of the national plastic arts council, wrote on Facebook.

“What can this eyesore offer to Cuban monumental art? Very little. In fact, nothing, except mockery.”

Cubans seem less than enamored by the monument.

“If you look at it from behind it’s a guillotine,” wrote Whigman Montoya on Facebook, while Aristides Pestana described it as “embedded in asphalt, rigid, grey and dead.”

Relations between Havana and Washington were increasingly strained under the Donald Trump administration, which ramped up sanctions against Cuba.

But hopes that things would improve under President Biden have so far proven unfounded.

Biden has made no overtures to the island nation while remaining steadfast on the subject of human rights abuses by the Havana government.