"That is the problem," the official added. The Bush administration, he said, "has a very strong position, so there really is some difficulty in dealing with the issue of Cuba only in relation to human rights."
But the negative vote also appeared to reflect widespread doubts about the qualifications of the American candidate, Rafael E. Martinez. Born in Cuba, Mr. Martinez is an Orlando, Fla., lawyer best known for his expertise in medical malpractice and health law. He is a brother of Melquiades R. Martinez, the secretary of housing and urban development and a leading fund-raiser for the presidential campaign of George W. Bush among Cuban-Americans in Florida. ***
Castro marched through the narrow streets of Old Havana, while his brother Raul, head of the armed forces, marched through a residential neighborhood, past the Italian embassy. Followers carried placards equating Italy's fascist past to Europe's decision to punish Cuba.
The government said it expected the crowds to swell to more than a million, as the labor ministry gave workers the day off.
Posters depicted Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar as a "puppet" and a "little fuhrer."
Italian Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi became "Benito Berlusconi," in reference to Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini.
Seventy-five dissidents were jailed in April for up to 28 years, and three men who had tried to hijack a commuter ferry to Florida were summarily executed, ending a moratorium on the death penalty.
The EU decided to review its Cuba policy and restrict political and cultural contact with the communist island and released a statement on June 5.
"It must have been written in a drunken state, if not with alcohol, in a state of Eurocentric drunkenness," Castro said late Wednesday.
He branded Aznar and Berlusconi "fascists" and "bandits" as the brains behind the EU's Cuba policy, which he called "useless ... lacking seriousness ... gross and insolent." ***