Thousands of Cubans took to the streets in Havana to protest in one of Cuba’s largest anti-government demonstrations.
By Maryam Razzaq
Cuba is currently experiencing one of the worst economic crises since the fall of the Soviet Union, which is a direct result of the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. Cuban civilians shouted slogans and chants against their communist government, including “we want freedom”, “we are no longer afraid”, “enough”, “freedom” and “unite”.
The protests came not only at a time of economic distress, but also an increase of political tensions, and an overwhelmed healthcare system. Cuban health authorities report almost 7,000 new cases and 47 deaths, hitting a new record for Cuba.
Many believe that a bloodbath will begin in Cuba as unarmed civilians who are living below the poverty line are now rising and fighting for their freedom against a heavily armed communist regime.
Several police raids were carried out in Havana and according to the Associated Press, at least twenty individuals have been arrested. Among those arrested was popular rapper, Yomil who has since been released and has used his Twitter account to raise awareness of the distress that has crippled the nation.
“We’re so hungry that we ate our fear” said Yomil.
The Biden administration tweeted their support for the Cuban protests with the United States President, Joe Biden releasing a statement today.
“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,” said US President Joe Biden.
Though, many Cubans continue to remain critical of Biden’s statement. Alan MacLeod from the Mint Press News shared his perspective on the situation. The very conditions that Cubans are protesting against are mostly a direct result of the illegal sanctions that the US government has implemented against Cuba.
“If the US really cared about shortages in Cuba, they could simply lift their blockade and end them overnight. But they don’t; they want them [Cubans] to suffer so bad they overthrow their government,” said MacLeod on his official Twitter account.
Thousands of Cubans gathered in the area surrounding Galeano Avenue as police pressed charges against demonstrators and used tear gas barrages. People stood in their balconies and applauded the protestors as they passed by and various other individuals joined the demonstrators. Individuals tried to broadcast at the demonstrations live, but Cuban authorities repressed efforts of media coverage as they shut down internet service through the afternoon yesterday.
While the United States have been focusing on solely the Cuban fight against their communist government, the reasons behind the protests are many. Cuba is experiencing one of the worst economic crises which is being amplified by the blockades sanctioned by the US and has led to a shortage of supplies including medicine and food. This has forced many Cubans to queue up for rations of rice, chicken and bread. The rise in COVID-19 cases despite the country developed five of its own COVID-19 vaccines, with one, called Abdalla, showing a 92 percent efficiency rate.
Many protestors who took part in this past Sunday’s demonstrations shared their thoughts anonymously, in fear of being arrested as the Cuban authorities continue to target those critical of the communist government. Many videos have been released of violent altercations between police and protestors as police hit civilians with their fists and batons.
“We are fed up with the queues, the shortages. That’s why I’m here,” said a middle-aged protestor.
Many protestors reflect on the 60-year blockage on Cuba imposed by the United States, with the US stating the goal of the blockade is to “weaken the economic life of Cuba” and “decrease monetary and real wages to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of the government”.