Thousands of Cubans marched on Havana’s Malecón and elsewhere on the island on Sunday to protest food shortages and high prices amid the coronavirus crisis, in one of the largest anti-government demonstrations in memory.
Many young people took part in the evening protest in the capital, which interrupted traffic until the police entered after several hours and broke up the march when some protesters threw stones.
Police initially fell behind when protesters chanted “Freedom,” “Enough,” and “Unite.” One motorcyclist pulled out an American flag, but others snatched it from him.
“We are fed up with the queues, the shortages. That’s why I’m here, ”a middle-aged protester told The Associated Press. He refused to identify himself for fear of being arrested later.
Cuba is going through its worst economic crisis in decades, along with a resurgence of coronavirus cases, as it suffers the consequences of sanctions imposed by the United States by the Trump administration.
A Biden administration official tweeted his support for Sunday’s demonstrations.
“Peaceful protests are growing in #Cuba as the Cuban people exercise their right to peaceful assembly to express their concern over the increase in COVID cases / deaths and drug shortages. We commend the many efforts of the Cuban people to mobilize donations to help neighbors in need, ”tweeted Julie Chung, Acting Undersecretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
Cuba’s director general of United States Affairs, Carlos F. de Cossio, dismissed his comments in his own tweet: “The United States Department of State and its officials, involved up to their necks in promoting social and political instability in # Cuba, should avoid expressing hypocritical concern about a situation in which they have been betting. Cuba is and will continue to be a peaceful country, unlike the United States ”.
The demonstration grew to a few thousand in the vicinity of Galeano Avenue and the protesters continued to move forward despite some police charges and tear gas bombardments. People standing on many balconies along the central artery of the Centro Habana neighborhood applauded the passing protesters. Others joined the march.
Although many people tried to take out their cell phones and broadcast the protest live, the Cuban authorities shut down internet service for the entire afternoon.
About 2 1/2 hours after the march, some protesters raised cobblestones and threw them at the police, at which point the officers began arresting people and the protesters dispersed.
AP journalists counted at least 20 people who were taken away in police vehicles or by individuals in plain clothes.
“People came out to express themselves freely, and they are being repressed and beaten,” said Rev. Jorge Luis Gil, a Roman Catholic priest, as he stood on a corner in Centro Habana.
About 300 people close to the government then arrived with a large Cuban flag shouting slogans in favor of the late President Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution. Some people in the group attacked an AP videojournalist, disabling his camera, while an AP photojournalist was injured by police.
Demonstrations were also held in other places on the island, including the small town of San Antonio de los Baños, where people protested over power outages and were visited by President Miguel Díaz-Canel. He went into some houses, where he answered questions from residents.
Later, however, he accused Cuban of causing trouble.
“As if pandemic outbreaks had not existed in the whole world, the Cuban-American mafia, paying very well on social networks to influencers and youtubers, has created a whole campaign … and has called demonstrations throughout the country,” said Díaz – Canel told reporters.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism