ABOUT 1, 00,000 people took to the streets in Havana on Saturday to display their support to the government amid the ongoing widespread protests against President-led administration.
“Over one lakh people gathered together in the early morning, motivated by the desire to protect their country from foreign meddling as well as the turmoil that is created on the island to cause a social uproar that will lead to the political instability in the nation”, Bruno Rodriguez, the country’s Foreign Ministry tweeted.
According to Sputnik, Cuba has been witnessing protests since July 11, fueled by anger over shortage of basic needs. The protests began Sunday when thousands of Cubans marched along the Malecon and elsewhere to protest food and medicine shortages, power outages and some even calling for political change. Smaller protests continued Monday and Tuesday.
President Miguel Díaz-Canel initially responded by pointing to U.S. economic sanctions, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and a social media campaign by Cuban American groups. But he later acknowledged some responsibility by Cuba’s leaders.
President Díaz-Canel – accompanied by 90-year-old former President Raul Castro – appeared on the seafront Malecon Boulevard that had seen some of the largest protests against shortages and the political system the previous weekend.
He made an impassioned speech blaming unrest on the U.S. and its economic embargo, “the blockade, aggression and terror,” as a crowd waved Cuban flags and those of the July 26 Movement that Fidel Castro led during Cuba’s revolution. “The enemy has returned to throw all it has at destroying the sacred unity and tranquility of the citizens,” he said.
“There is political and social erosion. ... There is a lot of disgust, we must talk more, do more things, and things that were done wrong should be rectified,” said Abel Alba, a 50-year-old civil engineer, speaking Friday. “The president has tried to smooth things over a bit” but he waited “too long” to listen to the demands of the people in the streets.
With this in mind, Cuban Cabinet ministers announced a mix of measures including permits for travelers to import food and medicine without limits and allowing people to use their ration books to obtain subsidized goods outside their hometowns.
The marches turned violent with police clashing with protesters, patrol cars being destroyed, shops looted, windows broken, stones thrown and violent arrests and injuries.
“When people with weak minds let themselves be influenced, these things like what happened on Sunday occur,” said Talia Linares, a 19-year-old student who turned out for Saturday’s rally. “So we are here to show that that isn’t Cuban youth.”
On Friday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, called for release of the protesters.