Huge crowd attends Cuba peace concert

Huge crowd attends Cuba peace concert

Hundreds of thousands of people jammed Havana's Revolution Square on Sunday for a concert by Colombian rocker Juanes and other international pop stars who hope music can do what politics has not -- bring together Cubans here and in the United States.

"Kids, we came to Cuba out of love ... it's important to swap hate for love," Juanes told the crowd of hundreds of thousands. Organizers had expected at least half a million, but concert organizer Juanes said it topped one million people.

The much-hyped event was beamed live to an international television audience, including viewers in Miami, the heart of the Cuban exile community and center of opposition to Cuba's communist-led government.

Many exiles had accused Juanes of helping to legitimize a government that they said denied its people basic human rights and stifled dissent by throwing opponents in jail.

Playing before a swaying, dancing audience dressed in white -- Cuban authorities asked people to come dressed in white as a symbol of peace -- the 37-year-old singer responded to critics by saying music was above politics or ideological enmity.

"Music should travel like air, it should reach everywhere, whatever we think," said Juanes, winner of 17 Latin Grammy awards.

The audience, which endured soaring temperatures in the huge square, chanted "Cuba, Cuba, Cuba" and "Juanes, Juanes".

Citing the case of fellow Colombians kidnapped and held by guerrillas in the Colombian jungle, Juanes dedicated a song to "all those deprived of their freedom, wherever they are".

Puerto Rican Olga Tanon, on the bill with 14 other musicians from six countries including Miguel Bose of Spain and Jovanotti of Italy, kicked off the show by shouting its central message: "It's time to change."

In Miami, across the Florida Straits, a small group of anti-communist exiles staged a protest against the concert.

Juanes has said his "Peace Without Borders" concert was not about politics but reconciliation. He believes U.S. President Barack Obama has "opened the door" to change by taking steps to improve U.S.-Cuba relations.

"This concert is one little grain of sand more in the process of improving relations through art," Juanes, who has a home in Miami, said on arrival in Cuba this weekend.

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