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Cuba hit with “biggest protests for decades”

Posted: Monday, July 12, 2021. 12:27 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: For various reasons, impatient Cubans have taken to the streets in recent days, protesting economic conditions, restrictions on civil liberties and the authorities’ handling of the pandemic, the BBC reports.

In what some describe as the biggest protest in the Communist island nation in decades, thousands marched in cities including the capital Havana, shouting, “Down with the dictatorship!” Images on social media showed what appear to be security forces detaining and beating some of the protesters.

Protesters demanded faster COVID-19 vaccination after a record nearly 7,000 daily infections and 47 deaths on Sunday. The island has been producing its own vaccines which await international approval. Pro-government supporters were rallied by President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who urged them to “defend the revolution” of 1959 against “a provocation by mercenaries hired by the U.S. to destabilize the country.”

Top American Latin American diplomat Julie Chung tweeted “deep concern by ‘calls to combat’ in Cuba.” In a statement, President Joe Biden described Cubans as “bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights.”

“This is the day. We can’t take it anymore. There is no food, there is no medicine, there is no freedom. They do not let us live. We are already tired,” one of the protesters, who gave his name only as Alejandro, told the BBC.

Posts on social media showed people overturning police cars and looting some state-owned shops which price their goods in foreign currencies. For many Cubans, these shops are the only way they can buy basic necessities but prices are high.

Cuba’s economy is struggling with downturns in two sectors – tourism, hard hit by travel restrictions from COVID-19, and sugar, with a poor harvest due to various factors from lack of fuel and machinery breakdowns to humidity in the fields.

As a result, the government’s reserves of foreign currency are depleted, meaning it cannot buy in imported goods to supplement shortages, as it would normally do.

Queues for food have been growing. In addition, power shortages have led to blackouts for several hours a day.

 

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