The Strategist

Anti-government protests erupt in Cuba amid economic crisis

07/13/2021 - 06:19

The biggest anti-government protests in nearly 30 years took place in Cuba. Cubans are frustrated by economic conditions, the pace of vaccination against COVID-19 and the authorities' neglect of their needs.

Thousands of Cubans took to the streets in cities from Havana to Santiago on Sunday. They protested against the authorities' economic policy, the neglect of people and the pace of vaccination against COVID-19, Reuters reported. 

The protests were the largest since the summer of 1994. Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who also heads the Communist Party, accused the US of instigating the unrest in a national television and radio address. He said many of the protesters were sincere but had been manipulated by US-organised social media campaigns and "mercenaries" on the ground. President warned that further "provocations" would not be tolerated. "We call on all revolutionaries in the country, all communists to take to the streets wherever there is an attempt to produce these provocations," Diaz-Canel said in a statement.

An agency reporter in Havana spotted SWAT jeeps with machine guns in the back seats. Thousands of people gathered in the centre of the capital and in parts of the coastal areas, with a strong police presence. There were arrests and clashes in the crowd. Police used tear gas canisters against protesters, some were beaten with batons. However, there was no direct confrontation with thousands of people. Later, supporters of the authorities appeared in the streets, chanting “Fidel!” 

The Cuban economy has been in crisis for the last two years, with officials blaming US sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic for the situation and their critics blaming incompetent officials and the one-party Soviet-style system of governing the country. The country has virtually shut down tourism, reduced other foreign income and depends on imports for the bulk of its food, fuel and resources for agriculture and manufacturing.