CUBA: Dozens of people have been arrested in Cuba after thousands of Cubans took to the streets on Sunday to protest against the island’s Communist government, media and opposition sources say.
Cubans have been angered by the economic crisis, food and medicine shortages, price hikes, the government’s handling of Covid-19 and U.S. sanctions.
While the island’s president Miguel Diaz-Canel called for his supporters to “fight” the protestors, countrymen chanted for “freedom” and “down with the dictatorship.” On Sunday, one of the protestors, Alejandro told BBC: “There is no food, no medicine, there is no freedom. They do not let us live.”
Anti-government protesters were arrested by security forces who were assisted by plain clothes officers, Reuters news agency reported. Images of security forces detaining, beating and pepper-spraying some of the protestors were doing rounds on social media. There were internet blackouts across the island. A photographer with Associated Press (AP) was also injured after a confrontation with security forces.
On the other hand, protestors turned over police cars, threw rocks at officers and looted some state-owned shops which price their goods in foreign currencies. For many Cubans, these shops are the only way they can buy basic necessities, the prices of which are high.
Amid Cuban unrest, US-Cuban at the war of words
In response to the turmoil in the Caribbean country, the Cuban president addressed the nation in a TV broadcast, blaming the U.S. for the unrest. He called its tight sanctions on Cuba – which have been in place in various forms since 1962 – a “policy of economic suffocation,” BBC reported.
Díaz-Canel added that the protesters were mercenaries hired by the U.S. to destabilise the country. “The order to fight has been given – into the street, revolutionaries!” he announced.
The U.S. – which has a decades-old history of strained relationships with Cuba – has said it stands with Cubans.
“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,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement on Monday.
The Trump administration during its rule had enacted some of the toughest economic measures against Cuba in decades, and so far, the Biden administration seems reluctant to lift them.