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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 December 2004, 01:03 GMT
Cubans paint US Christmas message
The eagle painted outside the US mission
Cuban drivers can now drive their cars straight over the US eagle
Cuban cartoonists and art students have painted giant caricatures outside the US mission in Havana in the latest blow in a bizarre tit-for-tat spat.

A two-storey high cartoon depicted the top US diplomat in Cuba, James Cason, as a huge Father Christmas - whose sack contains bombs, not presents.

The dispute began when the US alluded to jailed Cuban dissidents in Christmas decorations put up outside the mission.

The rival neighbours have recently stepped up their war of words.

The groups of students and cartoonists added fresh graphics to an "anti-imperialist" display that has grown outside the US mission on Havana's sea front.

In addition to the bomb-bearing Father Christmas, the artists painted a large, aggressive-looking eagle wearing a "B" on its chest on the road in front of the mission.

Ernesto Padron, a well-known cartoonist working on the painting, said the "B" represented the US trade blockade on Cuba.

The bird "will be squashed by all the cars and people who pass by here," he told AP news agency.

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