Cuba protests: Cubans take to streets in rare demonstrations over lack of freedoms and worsening economy

Protesters complained about the lack of freedom and the deteriorating economic situation during the rare protests, according to people speaking on CNN and videos from several cities, including the capital, Havana.

Many called for “freedom” and demanded the resignation of President Miguel Díaz-Canel.

Several protesters were arrested by police who used tear gas to break up some demonstrations. In Havana, a CNN team watched protesters forcibly arrested by police officers and thrown into the back of delivery trucks. Violent clashes also erupted, in which protesters rolled over a police car and threw stones at officers.

In a national televised address, President Díaz-Canel said that US trade sanctions had created economic misery on the communist-led island.

Díaz-Canel made no concessions to the demonstrators in his speech, but asked his supporters to physically face them. “The order to fight has been given,” he said at the end of his performance, “revolutionaries must take to the streets.”

In the city of San Antonio de los Baños, just outside the province of Havana, hundreds of people braved a heavy police presence to spread their complaints.

A resident who did not want to be identified told CNN that residents had suffered power cuts for a week, which “sparked” growing outrage.

According to the Internet monitor NetBlocks, social media platforms are being restricted in Cuba.

NetBlocks tweeted on Monday that “Social media and messaging platforms in #Cuba will be restricted by the state internet service provider ETECSA starting Monday; Real-time network data confirms reports of internet disruptions amid mounting anti-government protests; Incident is in progress #CubaSOS. “

The NetBlocks website said its metrics showed WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and some Telegram servers were down.

Videos uploaded to social media showed the impromptu protest movement gathering pace, with streams of other protests occurring in a handful of cities across the island.

In some of the videos, people shouted that they were “not afraid” or wanted freedom or access to coronavirus vaccines.

President Díaz-Canel made an unscheduled stop in San Antonio de los Baños on Sunday after police evacuated protesters Cuban government officials “Employees” are to blame for the protests on Twitter.

Call for restraint

On Monday, US President Joe Biden urged the Diàz-Canel government to “listen to their people and serve their needs”.

“We stand by the side of the Cuban people and their call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been exposed by the authoritarian regime of Cuba,” Biden said in a statement.

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also tweeted on Sunday evening: “The US supports freedom of expression and assembly across Cuba and would strongly condemn any violence or attack on peaceful demonstrators who exercise their universal rights.”

Meet the new leader of the Communist Party of Cuba

Other US officials also called for restraint, saying the Cubans had the right to protest. “We are deeply concerned about the ‘calls to struggle’ in #Cuba. We stand by the right of the Cuban people to peaceful assembly. We call for calm and condemn all violence, ”Julie Chung, deputy assistant secretary, Bureau of Western, State Department Hemisphere Affairs, tweeted Sunday.

“For decades, Cuba’s dictatorship used violence and repression to silence its people instead of allowing the free exercise of democracy and their basic social rights,” said Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

“That must have an end. The eyes of the world are on Cuba tonight and the dictatorship must understand that we will not tolerate the use of brute force to silence the aspirations of the Cuban people, ”he added.

Other world leaders have also participated, with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro criticizing the socialist regimes on the continent. People took to the streets to demand “freedom” and were given “rubber bullets, beatings and jail,” he said.

Tense relations between the US and Cuba

But statements by US executives have led to angry criticism from Cuban authorities, who argue that US sanctions are the cause of Cuba’s ailing economy.

Relations between the US and Cuba are at their lowest level in years. The Trump administration has put some of the toughest economic measures against Cuba in decades, and so has the Biden administration seems reluctant to pick it up.
The already ailing Cuban economy has been badly hit as tourism and goods imports have plummeted during the pandemic. On Sunday, Cuban health officials reported a record increase in one day for new ones Covid-19 cases and deaths.

President Diàz-Canel criticized the protests, calling protesters vandals who “broke into and stole shops”. [many] Article. “He referred to” restrictive measures “by the Trump administration which” caused a very hard time in which we would have many difficulties and economic shortages. “

Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez also criticized Sullivan’s statement on Monday, saying he had “no political or moral authority to speak about Cuba”.

“His government has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to promote subversion in our country and carry out a genocidal blockade, which is the leading cause of economic scarcity,” Rodriguez added in a tweet.

The Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador also called on the US as a humanitarian gesture to suspend its trade embargo against Cuba. “No country in the world should be fenced in, blocked – that is the opposite of human rights,” he said.

When asked why Biden has not yet reversed Trump’s policy towards Cuba, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US had continued to provide humanitarian aid and medical care – but added, “I have nothing for you on a change in policy. “

In a statement on Sunday, US Secretary of State Tony Blinken rejected criticism from the Cuban government, saying: “It would be a grave mistake for the Cuban regime to interpret what is happening in dozens of cities across the island as a result.” or product of everything the United States has done. “

“This is what we hear and see in Cuba, and that is a reflection of the Cuban people, not the United States or any other outside actor,” he said.

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