The streets of Havana and several cities and towns of Cuba experienced this Sunday the largest demonstrations against the Government since the ‘maleconazo’ of 1994, during the so-called Special Period, when hundreds of Cubans came out to protest the precarious economic situation on the eve of the outbreak of the crisis of the rafters. Once again, the trigger for this Sunday’s sit-in, in which thousands of people participated throughout the country and resulted in hundreds of detainees, was the serious shortage and hardships suffered by the island’s inhabitants, aggravated by the effects of the pandemic. Unusual cries of “freedom” and “down with the dictatorship” could be heard in Old Havana and other parts of Cuba, amplified by social networks, which in recent months have shaken the political landscape of the country.
Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel immediately appeared on television blaming the United States and its embargo policy for the worsening economic situation and for encouraging protests: “We are calling on all revolutionaries, all communists, to that they go out into the streets and go to the places where these provocations are going to take place ”.
The spark began in the small Havana town of San Antonio de los Baños, where hundreds of people took to the streets due to long blackouts and demanding to be vaccinated, but later calling for “freedom” and political changes, a protest that in a few minutes It reached Facebook and was broadcast live, generating calls for more demonstrations on the networks. Díaz-Canel went to San Antonio de los Baños at noon and toured the town, spoke about the difficult epidemiological situation in the country and the government’s efforts to deal with it. In recent days, positive cases of covid-19 and those killed by the pandemic have multiplied exponentially, putting provinces like Matanzas on the brink of health collapse.
The Cuban president warned that if “there are people with legitimate dissatisfaction with the situation they are living, and also confused revolutionaries”, at the same time “there are opportunists, counterrevolutionaries and mercenaries paid by the US Government to organize this type of demonstrations.”
It was then that he said that “provocations will not be allowed” and uttered the famous phrase that was a mantra of Fidel Castro: “The street belongs to the revolutionaries.” “Here no worm or counterrevolutionary is going to take to the streets,” he said, and urged to stop “the media campaigns” since “the people do not allow themselves to be provoked.” In other words, the faithful take to the streets to fight the protests.
News soon came out on the Internet of simultaneous demonstrations in the eastern town of Palma Soriano, in Santiago de Cuba, in Alquízar and elsewhere, something absolutely unprecedented in Cuba, and there was also a call in front of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT) , in the Vedado neighborhood, of some members of 27-N, the group of artists who at the end of last year demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Culture asking for freedom of expression and an end to harassment against oppositional and dissident creators. The sit-in at the ICRT, in which dozens of people participated, produced a counter-demonstration that ended in an act of repudiation and the arrest of all those protesting.
At that same hour, several thousand people gathered in the Parque de la Fraternidad, near the Capitol, in Old Havana, summoned by the networks. In a short time, several thousand people, protesters, onlookers and groups of defenders of the revolution gathered there. Some shouted “Libertad” and “Patria y Vida” —the song made by a group of Cuban artists based in Miami and on the island that has challenged the government of Havana—. The others chanted “Long live the revolution” and “Patria y Fidel.”
There were more than a hundred detained by the police, obviously all from the first side, but the demonstration was not dissolved with tear gas or anything like that. Police vehicles were beaten when someone was being taken away, a Spanish Associated Press photographer was attacked by law enforcement officers in the middle of the molote, and in Cárdenas, one of the towns most affected by the current coronavirus outbreak, a police patrol. It was like the ‘maleconazo’, but bigger. In the background, the great popular discontent over the serious crisis that the country is going through, with merciless queues of hours to buy basic necessities and an extremely acute situation of shortage of medicines, and at a time when the island is experiencing the worst outbreak of coronavirus : yesterday the record of positive cases was broken, more than 6,900 in a single day, double than two days before and ten times more than just a few months ago.
After touring the streets of San Antonio de los Baños, Díaz-Canel went to Cuban television and spoke about what was happening. He affirmed that the common thread of everything, beyond the serious difficulties derived from the inefficiency of the Cuban economy, was the resurgence of the North American embargo. “They began to intensify a series of restrictive measures, a tightening of the blockade, of financial persecution against the energy sector with the aim of suffocating our economy, and that this would provoke the longed-for massive social outbreak that sows the possibilities for, with the entire campaign ideological that has been done, to be able to call for humanitarian intervention that ends in military interventions and interference ”.
He mentioned the very difficult situation that the province of Matanzas is going through, with a rate of more than 1,300 infected per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 15 days, which has led to the taking of emergency measures, such as the Government having sent members of the Henry Reeve medical brigades, which Cuba routinely sends on international missions when there are humanitarian disasters. They had never been deployed within the country before. “In a very cowardly, subtle, opportunistic and perverse way, based on the most complicated situations that we have had in provinces such as Matanzas and Ciego de Ávila, those that have always been approving the blockade and who serve as mercenaries on the streets of the Yankee blockade. , they begin to appear with doctrines of humanitarian aid and humanitarian corridor ”, he assured.
A reflection of the official concern that Sunday’s demonstrations aroused, after Díaz-Canel’s speech, Cuban television broadcast a live program in which he connected with all the country’s provinces, showing statements of support for the revolution and ensuring that everything that happened It was the product of subversion encouraged from the United States, amplified by social networks. At night, in the hottest streets of Havana, a large police operation was deployed. Just in case.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.