The authorities were taken aback. Thousands of demonstrators marched Sunday in several cities of Cuba, including the capital Havana, against the government. Widely broadcast via social networks, the demonstrations began spontaneously in the morning, an extremely rare event in this country governed by the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC, single party), where the only authorized gatherings are generally those of the party. In response, Deputy Foreign Minister Gerardo Peñalver claimed on Twitter that “The Cuban revolution, we will defend it at all costs”.
In unison, President Miguel Diaz-Canel gave revolutionaries “The order to fight”, calling them to “Go out into the streets where these provocations will occur, now and in the coming days”. The US government reacted on Sunday by warning the Cuban authorities against any use of violence against “Peaceful protesters”, after this presidential call for a reply. “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”, tweeted US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
“We are hungry”
The data journalist site Inventario recorded a total of around forty events, scattered throughout the country. Most were broadcast live on social networks, in this country where the arrival of mobile internet at the end of 2018 raised the demands of civil society. From mid-day, access to 3G was also cut in a large part of the country, only to be restored in the middle of the evening.
“Cuba is not yours!”chanted a crowd gathered in front of CCP offices. At the heart of the Cubans’ demands: the economic and social crisis. “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 travel at midday to San Antonio de los Baños, a small town where the first rally 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 demonstrators were taken into custody. A large police and military system has been deployed in the capital and several provincial towns.
If he recognized “Dissatisfaction” that some Cubans may feel in the face of food and medicine shortages, combined with daily power cuts, Miguel Diaz-Canel also accused the long-standing enemy, Washington, of being in charge. “There is a group of people, counterrevolutionaries, mercenaries, paid by the US government, indirectly through US government agencies, to organize these kinds of demonstrations”, he said.
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 violations of human rights. man 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 brutal force to silence the aspirations of the Cuban people”, warned US Senator Bob Menendez in a statement.