HAVANA — Thousands of Cubans marched on Havana’s Malecon promenade and throughout the island on Sunday to protest food shortages and high prices caused by the coronavirus outbreak, in one of the country’s largest anti-government protests in recent memory.
Protesters yelled “Freedom,” “Enough,” and “Unite” as police trailed behind. A U.S. flag was taken out by one biker, but it was grabbed away by others.
As a result of US sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, Cuba is experiencing its greatest economic crisis in decades, as well as a return of coronavirus infections.
The Biden administration’s official Twitter account expressed support for the protesters on Sunday.
“In #Cuba, peaceful protests are increasing as Cubans utilize their right to peaceful assembly to express their worry about mounting COVID cases/deaths and medication shortages. We applaud the Cuban people’s countless efforts to raise funds for their neighbors in need,” Julie Chung, acting assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, tweeted.
“US State Department and its personnel, invested to their necks in fostering social and political instability in #Cuba, should stop showing hypocritical concern for a scenario they have been banking on,” Cuba’s director-general for US affairs, Carlos F. de Cossio, said in a tweet. In contrast to the United States, Cuba is and will remain a peaceful country.”
Despite a few police charges and tear gas barrages, the rally expanded to a few thousand people at Galeano Avenue, and the marchers continued on. The protestors going by were hailed by others standing on several balconies along the primary artery in the Centro Habana area. Others joined the march as well.
Despite the fact that many individuals attempted to use their cellphones to live-stream the demonstration, Cuban authorities cut off internet connectivity for the whole day.
At least 20 people were carried away in police cars or by individuals dressed in civilian clothing, according to AP journalists.
While standing on a street corner in Centro Habana, Rev. Jorge Luis Gil, a Roman Catholic priest, remarked, “The people came out to express themselves freely, and they are suppressing and beating them.”
Then around 300 government supporters appeared, waving a big Cuban flag and screaming chants in support of late President Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution. An AP videojournalist was beaten by members of the gang, who disabled his camera, while an AP photographer was wounded by police.
Demonstrations were also conducted elsewhere on the island, notably in the small hamlet of San Antonio de Los Banos, where residents protested power shortages and President Miguel Daz-Canel paid them a visit. He went into a couple of homes and asked them questions.
However, afterward, he accused Cuban of inciting a ruckus.
“As if pandemic breakouts didn’t occur all over the world,” Diaz-Canel told reporters, “the Cuban-American mafia has established a complete campaign… and has called for protests around the nation, paying very much on social networks to influencers and Youtubers.”