Cuba Sees Biggest Anti-Govt Protest in Decades Amid COVID Outbreak
Thousands of Cubans took to the streets on Sunday to protest against the President Miguel Diaz-Canel-led government.
Video Producer: Naman Shah
Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam
Thousands of Cubans took to the streets on Sunday, 11 July, 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.
Chanting slogans of freedom, the citizens agitated for a change in administration, in the largest anti-government demonstration that the Caribbean islandic country has witnessed in decades, as per a Washington Post report.
Why Are Cubans Protesting?
Amid a worsening economic crisis in Cuba, the Delta variant-induced outbreak situation in the country has slowed down the imports of fuel, food, and other industrial requisites that the country is heavily dependent upon, news agency Reuters reported.
The healthcare system of the country has found itself overwhelmed as the COVID-19 cases in the country have almost doubled within the last week, with Cuba observing 6,923 cases and 47 deaths on Sunday, as per Reuters.
On top of this, the recurrent and protracted power outages, as well as paucity of food and medicines in the recent times has stirred the disaffection of the Cuban citizens, who have had to wait in lines in order to purchase the deficient necessities.
What Happened During the Protests?
Thousands of protesters joined the demonstration at the Malecon esplanade in the capital city of Havana, raising slogans of freedom and marking their dissent against the prevailing administration.
According to a Washington Post report, the agitation began in the town of San Antonio de los Baños and spread to other regions as the protests gained traction on social media.
“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.
The protests continued till late in the evening, when the police broke up the gathering after a few demonstraters threw rocks and damaged an empty police car. The police detained at least 20 protesters, AP reported.
A large number of pro-government marchers arrived at the scene, raising slogans in favour of the late President Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution.
Some from the group also assaulted an AP photojournalist, disabling his camera.
How Has the Govt Reacted?
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.
"US State Department and its officials, involved to their necks in promoting social and political instability in Cuba, should avoid expressing hypocritical concern for a situation they have been betting on. Cuba is and will continue to be a peaceful country, contrary to the US," Carlos F de Cossio, the Cuban Director General for US Affairs, said in a tweet.
The president appealed to his supporters to help put an end to the protests.
"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," President Diaz-Canel said during a television broadcast, as per a Reuters report.
"If you want to have a real gesture with Cuba, if you want to be concerned with the people, open the blockade and let's see how we play. Why don't you do it? Why don't you have the courage to open the blockade?" the president said in a comment directed at the protesters, as per a tweet by a government official.
The Sunday protests had rattled the entire island nation, gaining traction in not only the capital city of Havana, but also the small towns and eastern cities of Cuba.
(With inputs from Reuters, AP, and The Washington Post)
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