Exasperated by the economic crisis, thousands of Cubans demonstrated across the country on Sunday, shouting “Freedom!” and “Down with the dictatorship!”. The government said it was ready to defend the revolution “at all costs”.
“The Cuban revolution, we will defend it at all costs!” It is with these words that the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, Gerardo Peñalver, responded on Twitter to the historic protests that took place across the country on Sunday, July 11. Taken by surprise, President Miguel Diaz-Canel gave the revolutionaries “the order to fight”, calling on them to “go out into the streets where these provocations will occur, now and in the coming days”.
“Cuba is not yours!” Cried a crowd gathered in front of the offices of the Communist Party (PCC), the only political formation authorized in Cuba.
“We are hungry”, “Freedom”, “Down with the dictatorship” were some of the other slogans chanted during this eventful day, the course of which prompted the president to go to San Antonio at midday. de los Baños, small town where the first gathering was reported, then to appear on state television.
Clashes broke out, especially in Havana where the police used tear gas, fired in the air with their weapons and used plastic pipes to hit demonstrators, noted AFP journalists.
Several police cars were overturned and damaged by angry Cubans and many people were arrested.
A large police and military system has been deployed in the capital and several provincial towns.
In total, according to the datajournalism site Inventario, around forty demonstrations, scattered throughout the territory, have been identified. From midday, access to 3G was also cut in much of the country. It was not restored until mid-evening.
While he acknowledged the “dissatisfaction” that some Cubans may feel, faced with food and drug shortages, combined with daily power cuts, Miguel Diaz-Canel also accused the longtime enemy, Washington, of being to maneuver.
“There is a group of people, counterrevolutionaries, mercenaries, paid by the US government, indirectly through US government agencies, to organize these kinds of protests,” he said.
Concern in Washington
The US government reacted on Sunday by warning the Cuban authorities against any use of violence against “peaceful demonstrators”. “The United States supports freedom of expression and assembly in Cuba, and would strongly condemn any act of violence or aimed at targeting peaceful protesters who exercise their universal rights,” said the US security adviser. National, Jake Sullivan, on Twitter.
Diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, after a brief reconciliation between 2014 and 2016, are at their lowest since the tenure of Donald Trump, which reinforced the embargo in force since 1962, denouncing human rights violations and Havana’s support for the government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.
These sanctions, as well as the absence of tourists due to the pandemic, plunged Cuba into a deep economic crisis and generated a strong social unrest, followed closely in Washington and on the American continent.
“We recognize the legitimate demand of Cuban society for medicines, food and fundamental freedoms,” tweeted Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS).
“We condemn the Cuban dictatorial regime for calling on civilians to repress and confront those who exercise their right to demonstrate,” he added.
“The dictatorship must understand that we will not tolerate the use of brute force to silence the aspirations of the Cuban people,” US Senator Bob Menendez warned in a statement.