Thousands in Cuba March in Anti-Government Protests

Thousands of Cubans participated in demonstrations Sunday (July 11), protesting food shortages and high prices amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The protestors marched on Havana’s Malecon promenade and other locations on the island in one of the country’s largest anti-government protests in decades.

The Associated Press reports that many young people took part in the afternoon protest in Havana, which disrupted traffic as protestors marched through the streets chanting “Freedom,” “Enough” and “Unite.” The demonstration grew to a few thousand marchers as they made their way down the main street in the Centro Habana neighborhood. People standing on balconies along the main street applauded the protestors, while others joined the march.

Cuba is currently going through its worst economic crisis in decades as well as a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. The country is still suffering the consequences of U.S. sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, according to AP.

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A middle-aged protestor, who did not identify himself for fear of being arrested later, told the AP, “We are fed up with the queues, the shortages. That’s why I’m here.”

Police initially trailed behind the protestors. After two and a half hours, some protestors allegedly pulled up cobblestones and threw them at the police, at which point officers began arresting people. According to the AP, at least 20 people were seen being taken away by police cars or people in civilian clothes.

“The people came out to express themselves freely, and they are repressing and beating them,” Rev. Jorge Luis Gil, a Roman Catholic priest, said to the AP. While police broke up the march, about 300 people close to the government arrived at the scene with a large Cuban flag, shouting chants in favor of the late President Fidel Castro.

In a nationally-televised speech Sunday, Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel, who also leads the Communist party, blamed social media campaigns orchestrated by the U.S. for the unrest, according to NBC News. He also warned that further “provocations” would not be tolerated.

President Biden released a statement in support of the Cuban protests Monday morning (July 12).

“We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion 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 subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime. The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights. Those rights, including the right of peaceful protest and the right to freely determine their own future, must be respected. The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves,” the statement reads.

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