Thousands took to the streets in Cuba on Sunday to protest against the lack of freedom, the communist regime and worsening economic conditions in the country. As per reports, power outages for a week triggered massive protests where hundreds of people defied a heavy police presence to get to the streets.
Protest in #Tampa in solidarity with the thousands who took to the streets of #Cuba calling for an end to the communist dictatorship amid the country’s worst economic crisis in decades and a resurgence of coronavirus cases. https://t.co/7fKwjSDtqI pic.twitter.com/hyz91IQk6r— Justin Schecker (@WFLAJustin) July 11, 2021
This comes in the backdrop of the government’s failure to tackle the pandemic, with Cuba experiencing its toughest phase of the coronavirus crisis. Reportedly, the long food lines and a critical shortage of medicines since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic have resulted in public anger with them demanding an end to the communist regime.
The protestors, mainly young people, hurled insults at President Miguel Diaz-Canel who turned up at the event. In the videos posted online, demonstrators could be heard saying “We are not afraid” of the Covid-19 virus and chanting ‘freedom’ while defying all the protocols.
Something big could finally be happening Cuba, as tens of thousands have taken to the streets to protest the communist regime saying, “We are not afraid!” 🇨🇺 🙏 pic.twitter.com/2O90dvjtmF— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) July 11, 2021
The protests that first broke out in San Antonio de los Banos municipality in Artemisa Province, bordering Havana, videos on social media showed hundreds of residents chanting anti-government slogans and demanding everything from coronavirus vaccines to an end of daily blackouts.
“They are protesting blackouts, that there is no medicine,” commented a local resident.
Protests have erupted all over #Cuba 🇨🇺 today as anger is growing with the government’s mishandling of the pandemic.— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) July 11, 2021
Thousands of protesters are marching in the major cities like #Havana, but also in smaller towns. #SOSCuba #PatriaYVida pic.twitter.com/jxdYZ1k9Rr
Additionally, a social media campaign under the hashtag #SOSCuba has multiplied on social media with citizens and even some rap stars urging the government to make it possible for much-needed foreign donations to enter the country.
The already struggling Cuban economy has been hit hard with tourism and imports witnessing a steep decline due to the pandemic. As per reports, the communist country is having its worst economic crisis in over 30 years.
Cuban President blames the US
President Diaz-Canel, who is also the head of the Communist Party, while addressing the nation through a television broadcast, blamed the United States for the unrest.
The Cuban president claimed that while many protesters were sincere, they have been allegedly manipulated by U.S.-orchestrated social media campaigns and “mercenaries” on the ground. He also warned that further “provocations” would not be tolerated.
“We are calling on all the revolutionaries in the country, all the Communists, to hit the streets wherever there is an effort to produce these provocations,” announced Diaz-Canel in response.
Police use batons and pepper sprays
As per reports, a Reuters journalist witnessed the police pepper spray a few protesters and hit others with batons. A few arrests were made and scuffles were witnessed as thousands of people gathered in downtown Havana.
Cuba on Sunday recorded 6,900 new Covid-19 cases and 47 deaths. The country currently has two vaccines and has begun a mass vaccination campaign.
The economy which is heavily dependent on tourism, and imports the bulk of its food, fuel and inputs for agriculture and manufacturing, contracted 10.9% last year, and 2% through June of 2021.