The streets of Cuba filled themselves with protesters on Sunday, July 11, demanding freedom and the end of dictatorship. President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s response to Cuban protests was a countermarch as he called on government sympathizers to prepare to show up in support of the revolution.“The order of combat is given to the streets, the revolutionaries” stated Miguel Díaz-Canel in a televised special.
The next day, social media platforms were filled with videos and images representing the anti government protests as crowds shouted, “libertad,” “abajo la dictadura” and “patria y vida.”
What began as a demonstration in the city of San Antonio de los Baños, southwest of Havana, spread across the country as thousands of Cubans took to the streets in more than 20 towns throughout the island. This was the largest protest to have occurred in Cuba in the last 60 years. On Monday, July 12, around midday major internet sources connecting mobile devices were powered out.
Major confrontations between protesters and pro government groups took place in front of the Capital in the center of Parque de la Fraternidad. The presence of military and police forces was established in the area leading to violent confrontations and arrests of protestors.
The Inter American Commission on Human Rights (OAS) stated that they received reports of the violence and aggressions against protesters.
“LIBERTAD” means “FREEDOM”, not bread. That’s what they’re asking for peacefully. Please, STOP putting words on their mouths. Protests have nothing to do with the US-Embargo??? #SOSCuba
— Yusnaby Pérez (@Yusnaby) July 14, 2021
The demonstrations are taking place at the worst moment of the pandemic in the country, with reports of collapsed health centers and after months of shortages of food, medicine and practically all basic necessities. Economic difficulties have also led authorities to apply power shut-offs of up to six hours a day in large areas of the country.
The root of the protests can be traced to the impact of coronavirus and economic measures taken by the government that made life increasingly difficult in Cuba. The pandemic nearly paralyzed tourism, an economic lifeline for the island. This problem has been compounded by the emergence of rising inflation, blackouts, shortages of food, medicine and basic products.
BBC Mundo spoke in previous days with several Cubans who said that their relatives died at home without receiving medical care or in hospitals due to lack of medicine.
In its defense, the Cuban government points to the US embargo, “a policy of economic suffocation to provoke social outbreaks in the country.”
Díaz-Canel continued,“What do you want with these situations? To provoke social outbreaks, to provoke misunderstandings among Cubans?” the Cuban president denounced.
Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez turned to twitter to question President Biden’s intentions.
“If President Biden was really interested or preoccupied with the Cuban people, he would stop applying policies like the Helms Burton law and eliminate blocks to acquiring medicine and medical equipment.”
Si el Presidente Biden tuviera algún interés o preocupación sincera por el pueblo cubano podría recuperar alguna de sus prerrogativas soberanas y suspender la aplicación del título III de la Ley Helms Burton y eliminar los impedimentos para adquirir equipos e insumos médicos. pic.twitter.com/lGa6jOJDmg
— Bruno Rodríguez P (@BrunoRguezP) July 14, 2021
He continued, “If President Biden were interested at all or sincerely preoccupied he would take executive action and significantly modify aspects of the blockade, especially those that cause humanitarian pain and that prevents us from confronting the pandemic.”
Si el Presidente Biden tuviera algún interés o preocupación sincera por el pueblo cubano podría tomar decisiones ejecutivas y modificar significativamente aspectos del bloqueo, incluido aquellos que más daño humanitario provocan y los que afectan el enfrentamiento a la pandemia. pic.twitter.com/OgtB5F9fmH
— Bruno Rodríguez P (@BrunoRguezP) July 14, 2021
Moscow, one of the main supporters of the Cuban authorities, warned on Monday against any external interference in the crisis.
“We consider unacceptable any external interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign State and any destructive action that favors the destabilization of the situation on the island,” the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zajárova, said in a statement.
The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador also rejected interventionist policies of the situation in Cuba while offering to send humanitarian aid.
Mexico could “help with medicines, with vaccines (against COVID-19), with whatever is required and with food, because health and food are fundamental human rights,” said the president in his morning conference.
La posición de México sobre Cuba es clara y valiente:
1. No al intervencionismo, sí a la ayuda humanitaria
2. Respeto a la autodeterminación del pueblo cubano
3. Llamado a la resolución pacífica de conflictos
4. Fin del embargo
5. Solidaridad con el pueblo cubano
— Antonio Martínez Velázquez ???? (@antoniomarvel) July 12, 2021
On Sunday night, the US government issued a statement in favor of freedom of assembly and the right to peacefully dissent.
The U.S. supports freedom of expression and assembly across Cuba, and would strongly condemn any violence or targeting of peaceful protesters who are exercising their universal rights. https://t.co/FjI8bUHoQE
— Jake Sullivan (@JakeSullivan46) July 12, 2021
Bruno Rodríguez responded with the following statement:
“The White House National Security Advisor lacks the political and moral authority to speak about #Cuba,” he expressed on Twitter last Monday. “His government has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars for subversion in our country and imposes a genocidal blockade, which is mainly responsible for economic deficiencies,” he added.
In Washington., U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a statement in reaction to the massive protests in cities and towns across Cuba:
“In an historic day of protests, the world is bearing witness as thousands of Cubans take to the streets to call for an end to dictatorship in their country. Despite ongoing persecution on the island, Cubans are bravely joining to demand nothing more than the ability to live safely and speak their minds, freely, openly, and without fear.
For decades, Cuba’s dictatorship has used violence and repression to silence its people, rather than permit the free exercise of democracy and their basic social rights. This must end. The world’s eyes are on Cuba tonight and the dictatorship must understand we will not tolerate the use of brute force to silence the aspirations of the Cuban people.
As I’ve said over the years, no one wishes that the reality in Cuba was more different than the Cuban people and Cuban-Americans that have fled the island in search of freedom. Let us hear their voices. Listen to their cries of desperation. Support their demands by ensuring we do not perpetuate the regime’s decades of repression.
I will continue to use the strength of my voice and power of my office to ensure the United States stands in solidarity with the brave people of Cuba that are risking their lives today for change in their country and a future of Patria y Vida.”
We stand with the Cuban people as they bravely assert their fundamental and universal rights, and as they all call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering. https://t.co/KGY3MFfsw0
— President Biden (@POTUS) July 12, 2021
My name is Nancy Ortega and I am a current undergraduate student at UC Davis majoring in Animal Science and Spanish, but began my studies at Rio Hondo College. I am the proud daughter of two immigrants and the sister of a Dreamer. My interest in Latin America emerged due to the passion from my high school Spanish teacher. I became interested in the variety of cultures, the unique people, and the history still to be uncovered from underrepresented countries. In Latina Republic, I want to expand the beauty and complexity of Latin America and enrich my mind, as well as that of the readers, throughout this new experience. I look forward to meeting interesting individuals, hearing new stories, and coming out with a fresh mind set.