Havana (AP) – After the rare mass protests in Cuba, the government in Havana and other cities brought thousands of people to street demonstrations.
«Long live free Cuba! Free from interference and the hatred that has been incited against it,” President Miguel Díaz-Canel said Saturday morning (local time) before a crowd on the Malecón promenade in the capital. “What the world sees of Cuba right now is a lie,” he said, referring to the protests.
Raúl Castro, the 90-year-old brother of the late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, was also in attendance. Díaz-Canel had replaced Raúl Castro as president and in April as head of the only approved party, the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC). Many participants were reportedly taken to the rally in Havana on buses.
Last Sunday, thousands of Cubans spontaneously demonstrated in numerous cities for freedom, against oppression and an economy of scarcity. There had been no such protests in the Caribbean country for decades. There were also demonstrations by Cubans in exile and sympathizers abroad. The Cuban economy has been hit hard by the slump in tourism during the pandemic and from US sanctions. There is a lack of food and medicine. In addition, the corona figures have risen considerably recently.
The authoritarian government described the protests as violent unrest caused by the United States to divide the Cubans. Díaz-Canel called for the Cuban revolution of 1959 – in other words, the socialist system – to be defended in the streets. Security forces and men in civilian clothes with sticks in their hands violently broke up the demonstrations.
Hundreds of people were arrested – including numerous activists, some prominent, and at least seven journalists – and an unknown number were injured. The government reported one death. Many people were missing. According to human rights activists, the detainees did not receive legal aid. In addition, internet access on the island was largely blocked.