Cuba Eases Custom Restrictions on Food, Medicines After Massive Protests
Thousands of Cubans had come out in protest on 11 July amid food shortages and a spiralling COVID-19 outbreak.
Days after Cuba witnessed the largest anti-government demonstrations that the country had seen in decades, the Cuban government on Wednesday, 14 July, temporarily relaxed the curbs on the amount of food and medicine being brought into the country by travellers.
Thousands of Cubans had taken to the streets on Sunday to protest against the President Miguel Diaz-Canel-led Communist government, amid increasing inflation, food shortages, restraints on civil liberties, and a spiralling COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
The protesters had, among other things, demanded for an easing of the custom restrictions placed on food, medicine, and other health-related essentials that are scarce in the country amid the viral outbreak.
Prime Minister Manuel Marrero on Wednesday said that the curbs would be lifted from 19 July, till the end of the year, news agency Reuters reported.
The easing of the restrictions will enable travellers coming into the country to carry unlimited food, medicines, and hygiene products without having to pay customs duties.
"It was a demand made by many travellers and it was necessary to take this decision," he said during a television broadcast wherein the president was also present, as per a Reuters report.
The concession has come at a time when there are very few flights travelling to Cuba as the country is battling a surge in COVID-19 infections.
The decision has reportedly not been to the satisfaction of the dissenting population, some of whom consider it as a minor concession that sidesteps the major issues.
"We do not want crumbs, we want freedom, and we want it nowwwww," a Cuban journalist wrote on Twitter.
The Protests in Cuba
Chanting slogans of freedom, thousands of Cuban citizens had taken to the streets on 11 July, agitating for a change in administration amid the recurrent power outages and paucity of essentials such as food, medicine, and industrial requisites in the country.
“They are protesting the crisis, that there is no food or medicine, that you have to buy everything at the foreign currency stores, and on and on the list goes,” a local resident told Reuters.
Confronted with the massive unrest, the Cuban government blamed its Cold War rival, the US, for inciting the protests, and sought to restrain the agitation.
“As if pandemic outbreaks had not existed all over the world, the Cuban-American mafia, paying very well on social networks to influencers and YouTubers, has created a whole campaign... and has called for demonstrations across the country,” President Diaz-Canel was quoted as saying by AP.
The Cuban director general for US affairs also alleged US involvement in the unrest.
(With inputs from Reuters and AP)
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