Friday, October 26, 2007

Cuba's ballet legend Alonso slams U.S. embargo


Fri Oct 26, 2007 1:23pm EDT

HAVANA (Reuters) - Alicia Alonso, the nearly blind matriarch of Cuban ballet, on Friday denounced U.S. sanctions as an "inhuman and unjustifiable siege" that has hindered cultural ties between the United States and Cuba.

Alonso, 85, called on American artists and intellectuals to speak out against the U.S. embargo that has banned trade with Fidel Castro's communist government and restricted travel between the two countries since the early 1960s.

"I ask you to raise your voices to reject so unfair a measure and demand the end to this inhuman and unjustifiable siege," she said in a statement read out for her at a news conference.

U.S. President George W. Bush on Wednesday rejected any easing of the sanctions without a full transition to democracy, calling last year's transfer of power from the ailing Castro to his brother Raul an exchange of one dictator for another.

Every year since 1992, the U.N. General Assembly has told the United States to lift the embargo against Cuba. Last year's resolution was approved by a record 183-4, with one abstention. The next such vote is slated to take place next Tuesday.

Alonso, founder of the internationally renowned Cuban National Ballet, said she felt the need to publicly condemn the embargo. Echoing the government line, Alonso added that she was confident an overwhelming majority of nations would also slam it at the United Nations next week.

Bush tightened restrictions on travel by artists, musicians and athletes since Alonso last toured the United States with the Cuban National Ballet in 2003, performing "Don Quixote" to critical acclaim.

Several dancers defected from her troupe during the tour.

A ballet legend for her interpretation of "Giselle," Alonso danced with the American Ballet Theater in the 1940s and 1950s. She returned to Cuba after Castro's 1959 revolution and danced into her 70s despite failing vision.

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