Cubans stage caravan to protest U.S. trade embargo, sanctions

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HAVANA (Reuters) - Hundreds of Cubans took to Havana’s famous seaside drive on Sunday in a colorful caravan of cars, motorcycles and bicycles to demand the United States lift its 60-year-old embargo on the Caribbean island nation.

The caravan was part of a weekend of small protests and caravans in more than 50 cities around the world, including in the United States, supported by local authorities in hopes of influencing the Biden administration to change U.S. policy and to counter a campaign by Cuban exiles to keep the embargo in place.

Horns blared, Cuban flags fluttered and masked protesters yelled "down with the blockade" as they passed the U.S. embassy situated along the drive, known as the Malecon, in vehicles of all sizes and vintages.

"We are here for the end of the blockade, for the end of the sanctions," protester Felix Moya said.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump's administration took more than 200 initiatives to tighten the decades-old trade embargo on Cuba over four years, citing concerns about a lack of democracy and Havana’s support for Venezuela’s socialist government.

Biden, a Democrat, vowed during his 2020 presidential campaign to reverse Trump's policy shifts that "have inflicted harm on the Cuban people and done nothing to advance democracy and human rights."

The tightening of the trade embargo under Trump, a Republican, has inflicted further pain on the communist-run island's ailing state-controlled economy, contributing to worsening food and medicine shortages.

The Biden administration says it is reviewing U.S. policy on Cuba but has not indicated when it will act or what it will do, nor whether Biden will fully revert to the historic detente between Washington and Havana that was initiated by Democratic former President Barack Obama. Biden served as Obama's vice president.

"We are demanding the end of the blockade," Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, the highest-ranking official present at the protest and a member of the Communist Party's Politburo, told media.

"The opportunistic tightening of the blockade during the Trump government, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, makes it even more genocidal," he added.

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Paul Simao)