By: Marc Frank
HAVANA (Reuters) - More than 160 foreign artists and intellectuals, including Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, have come out in defense of Cuba even as many of their peers condemn recent repression on the Communist-run island, one of the campaigners said on Thursday.
Latin American Nobel laureates Garcia Marquez, Rigoberta Menchu, Aldolfo Perez Esquivel and South African writer Nadine Gordimer, also a Nobel prize winner, have signed a declaration of support, Mexican sociologist Pablo Gonzalez said.
U.S. singer Harry Belafonte and U.S. actor Danny Glover are also among the personalities who have signed the two-paragraph declaration "To the Conscience of the World" so far, Gonzalez announced to a May Day rally in Havana.
"A single power is inflicting grave damage to the norms of understanding, debate and mediation among countries," the declaration says, referring to the United States and the war in Iraq.
"At this very moment, a strong campaign of destabilization against a Latin American nation has been unleashed. The harassment against Cuba could serve as a pretext for an invasion," it continues.
President Fidel Castro's government has come under unprecedented international criticism from friends and foes after sentencing 75 dissidents to long prison terms last month, and executing three men who hijacked a ferry in a failed bid to reach the United States.
Havana has said the crackdown is in response to a U.S. plot to topple the Castro government after more than four decades of failed efforts to do so.
Fierce criticism of Cuba's moves has come not only from Western government's such as the United States, but also from disillusioned foreign writers and artists, apparently sparking the pro-Cuba drive.
Portuguese Nobel Prize winning novelist Jose Saramago, a longtime supporter of Castro, wrote last month that, "from now on, Cuba can follow its own course, and leave me out," saying Cuba had cheated his illusions.
At the Thursday rally Castro told critics, particularly on the left, that their words could be used to justify a U.S. invasion.
The intellectuals who signed the declaration defending Cuba apparently agree, though they did not specifically express support for Castro's policies.
The declaration concludes with a call to governments and others to "uphold the universal principles of national sovereignty, respect for territorial integrity and self-determination, essential to just and peaceful co-existence among nations."
Gonzalez did not say who originated the declaration but said it would continue to be circulated among cultural figures around the world.
First of all, if this doesnt prove Castro is dilusional, I don't know what does. Cuba is the very least of our worries right now, and to speak out saying that the US "is out to get them" is totally ridiculous, either that or Castro is trying to garner support among his own people against the US. I'm glad to see that Harry Belafonte decided to sign this declaration, he, like Castro, is very accepting of opinions that differ from his own. Since when do modern-day artists' voices count for anything? The average artist of today is fairly uneducated... As for the Nobel Prize winners signing it...well, I hope Yassar Arafat signs this, as well. Maybe he could convince Elian Gonzales to strap a bomb to his jacket and kill innocent civilians.